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European Dragon slayer myths may have Roman origins.

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Found on a UPI news services website. For those who like to delve into mythology and Dragons. One of the oldest fairy tale themes is that of the dragonslayer. A tale that has influenced countless writers from J.R.R. Tolkien to present day video games.

Don Beistle of the University of Georgia has been interpreting Germanic legends, such as Siegfried. He theorizes that the Siegfried and other Germanic folk tales may have been influenced by Mithras religious rites from Roman soldiers stationed in the Rhine. Mithras was a popular religious cult with Roman soldiers stationed around the empire.

The news URL can be found here:


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First of all, good work Anon. This is the kind of stuff I like to see.

Secondly, I don't know if it's my computer or what, but I can't get to the site. :P

As to the Germans getting this particular myth from the Romans, that I have some problems with. According to what I've read (mainly Bruce Lincoln's Priests, Cattle, and Kings, part of the source material for my 'Werewolves of Indra' article) the dragonslayer is a universal figure in Indo-European myth. It goes at least as far back as the Indo-Iranian maryannu warriors who invaded India about 1600 BC or so, and shows up among the early Greeks, the Hittites, and the very earliest Germanic/Teutnoic myths (you can find more on all this in Mircea Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion).

As for Mithras the Dragonslayer, the Roman Mithras (borrowed from Persian Mithra; archaeologists found an altar dedicated to him in the mounatins of Kurdistan that dates to about 1600-1400BC) never slew a dragon. According to my readings in the book Persian Mythology, he slew the Bull of Heaven. The Persian dragon figure, Azhi Dahak/Zahak, was slain by the Iranian primal king Keresaspa.

Anon, please don't take my words here as a criticism of what you've done. When I get to read the article it may well nullify all my arguments; but an initial reading makes it sound to me like this Professor Beistle is just another one of those 'Classical Civilization was the source of everything, the Germans were ignorant beasts' type of scholars.

On the other hand, at least folks are reading the Classical works with some respect again.

If anyone out there has any evidence to show me wrong, please let me know.


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Thanks for the comments, Ardashire. I can still access that URL. If you need a copy (I'm not sure if the board guidelines will allow posting a copyrighted news article), I can either email it to you, or, if the guidelines permit, post it here on a followup.

I think the original Flayray summary should have stated that Beistle has claimed that Germanic folk tales incorporated (rather than copied) some visual elements from Roman Mithras rites into prexisting dragon slayer tales.

Though after a second reading of the UPI article, Beistle does seem to be one of those 'Classical Civilization as the source of everything' scholars. But an interesting story worth reading.

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Anonymous --

I did manage to get to the article today. It was kind of on the skimpy side, but that's to be expected in a regular newspaper. I've got subscriptions to a couple of archaeology mags; maybe they'll have something on it.

But thanks for the kind offer of e-mail. If you ever need my address again, it's at I hope you at least talk to me; not many folks have any interest in Germanic or even European myth in this fandom.

That said, I do have some minor niggling points to make over the article. They called Wagner's opera 'The Nibelungenlied', but that's the title of the original German romance. Wagner's _opera_ is 'Ring of the Nibelungs'. Minor at best, but they should have tried harder for accuracy.

I'd also like to see the original paper. Beistle's conclusions might have some flaws; if nothing else, I'd always read that the Romans were the ones quick to pick up on other folks' myths and ideas. The Germans of the time tended to be rather insular and exceedingly distrustful of the Romans (the slave raids might have had something to do with that), something Tacitus comments on in his Germania. And the Siegfried legend was more Norse than German. True, the Norse of the time (mainly tribes like the Heruli and Svear) did come into contact with the Romans, mainly around Britain, in both trade and war. But this kind of cultural interchange Beistle's supposing would have required more prolonged contact (or so I believe, from my own writing), as well as contact on a 'everyday life' level, rather than between traders and mercenaries.

Though I will say this; there's been some evidence that Runic script was cribbed from Greek letters. It hasn't convinced me, but it's not impossible. Neither is Beistle's theory. I suppose it just reads too much like another 'Classical Diffusion' theory, where the doltish Teutons sit around waiting for the elevated intellectual Greco-Romans to enlighten them.

Again, Anon, my kudos to you for finding this article. Good luck, whoeever you are.


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