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Evolution of the Dragon, by G. Elliot Smith, [1919], at


One of the most surprising features of the dragon in China, Japan and America, is the equipment of deer's horns.

In Babylonia both Ea and Marduk are intimately associated with the antelope or gazelle, and the combination of the head of the antelope (or in other cases the goat) with the body of a fish is the most characteristic manifestation of either god. In Egypt both Osiris and Horus are at times brought into relationship with the gazelle or antelope, but more often it represents their enemy Set. Hence, in some parts of Africa, especially in the west, the antelope plays the part of the dragon in Asiatic stories. 1 The cow 2 of Hathor (Tiamat) may represent the dragon also. In East Africa the antelope assumes the rôle of the hero, 3 and is the representative of Horus. In the Ægean area, Asia Minor

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and Europe the antelope, gazelle or the deer, may be associated with the Great Mother. 1

In India the god Soma's chariot is drawn by an antelope. I have already suggested that Soma is only a specialized form of the Babylonian Ea, whole evil avatar is the dragon: there is thus suggested another link between the antelope and the latter. The Ea-element explains the fish-scales and the antelope provides the horns. I shall return to the discussion of this point later.

Vayu or Pavana, the Indian god of the winds, who afterwards became merged with Indra, rides upon an antelope like the Egyptian Horus. Soma's attributes also were in large measure taken over by Indra. Hence in this complex tissue of contradictions we once more find the dragon-slayer acquiring the insignia, in this case the antelope, of his mortal enemy.

I have already referred to the fact that the early Babylonian deities could also be demons. Tiamat, the dragon whom Marduk fought, was merely the malevolent avatar of the Great Mother. The dragon acquired his covering of fish-scales from an evil form of Ea.

In his Hibbert Lectures Professor Sayce claimed that the name of Ea was expressed by an ideograph which signifies literally "the antelope" (p. 280). "Ea was called 'the antelope of the deep,' 'the antelope the creator,' 'the lusty antelope'. We should have expected the animal of Ea to have been the fish: the fact that it is not so points to the conclusion that the culture-god of Southern Babylonia was an amalgamation of two earlier deities, one the divine antelope and the other the divine fish." Ea was "originally the god of the river and was also associated with the snake". Nina was also both the fish-goddess and the divinity whose name is interchanged with that of the deep. Professor Sayce then refers to "the curious process of development which transformed the old serpent-goddess, 'the lady Nina,' into the embodiment of all that was hostile to the powers of heaven; but after all, Nina had sprung from the fish-god of the deep [who also was

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both antelope and serpent as well, see p. 282], and Tiamat is herself 'the deep' in Semitic dress" (p. 283).

"At times Ea was regarded as a gazelle rather than as an antelope." The position of the name in the list of animals shows what species of animal must be meant. Lulim, "a stag," seems to be a re-duplicated form of the same word. Both lulim and èlim are said to be equivalent to sarru, king (p. 284).

Certain Assyriologists, from whom I asked for enlightenment upon these philological matters, express some doubt as to the antiquity or to the reality of the association of the names of Ea and the word for an antelope, gazelle or stag. But whatever the value of the linguistic evidence, the archæological, at any rate as early as the time of Nebuchadnezzar I, brings both Ea and Marduk into close association with a strange creature equipped with the horns of an antelope or gazelle. The association with the antelope of the homologous deities in India and Egypt leaves the reality of the connexion in no doubt. I had hoped that Professor Sayce's evidence would have provided some explanation of the strange association of the antelope. But whether or not the philological data justify the inferences which Professor Sayce drew from them, there can be no doubt concerning the correctness of his statement that Ea was represented both by fish and antelope, for in the course of his excavations at Susa M. J. de Morgan brought to light representations of Ea's animal consisting of an antelope's head on the body of a fish. 1 He also makes the statement that the ideogram of Ea, turahu-apsu, means "antelope of the sea". I have already (p. 88) referred to the fact that this "antelope of the sea," the so-called "goat-fish," is identical with the prototype of the dragon.

If his claim that the names of Ea meant both a "fish" and an "antelope" were well founded, the pun would have solved this problem, as it has done in the case of many other puzzles in the history of early civilization. But if this is not the case, the question is still. open for solution. As Set was held to be personified in all the desert animals, the gazelle was identified with the demon of evil for this reason. In her important treatise on "The Asiatic Dionysos" Miss Gladys Davis tells us that "in his aspect of Moon 'the lord of stars'

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[paragraph continues] Soma has in this character the antelope as his symbol. In fact, one of the names given to the moon by the early Indians was 'mṛiga-piplu or marked like an antelope" (p. 202). Further she adds: "The Sanskrit name for the lunar mansion over which Soma presides is 'mṛiga-śiras' or the deer-headed." If it be admitted that Soma is merely the Aryan specialization of Ea and Osiris, as I have claimed, Sayce's association of Ea with the antelope is corroborated, even if it is not explained.

In China the dragon was sometimes called "the celestial stag" (de Groot, op. cit., p. 1143). In Mexico the deer has the same intimate celestial relations as it has in the Old World (see Seler, Zeit. f. Ethnologie, Bd. 41, p. 414). I have already referred to the remarkable Maya deer-crocodile makara in the Liverpool Museum (p. 103).

The systematic zoology of the ancients was lacking in the precision of modern times; and there are reasons for supposing that the antelope and gazelle could exchange places the one with the other in their divine rôles; the deer and the rabbit were also their surrogates. In India a spotted rabbit can take the place of the antelope in playing the part of what we call "the man in the moon". This interpretation is common, not only in India, but also in China, and is repeatedly found in the ancient Mexican codices (Seler, op. cit.). In the spread of the ideas we have just been considering from Babylonia towards the north we find that the deer takes the place of the antelope.

In view of the close resemblance between the Indian god Soma and the Phrygian Dionysus, which has been demonstrated by Miss Gladys Davis, it is of interest to note that in the service of the Greek god a man was disguised as a stag, slain and eaten. 1

Artemis also, one of the many avatars of the Great Mother, who was also related to the moon, was closely associated with the deer.

I have already referred to the fact that in Africa the dragon role of the female antelope may be assumed by the cow or buffalo. In the case of the gods Soma and Dionysus their association with the antelope or deer may be extended to the bull. Miss Davis (op. cit.) states that in the Homa Yasht the deer-headed lunar mansion over which the god presides is spoken of as "leading the Paurvas," i.e. Pleiades: "Mazda brought to thee (Homa) the star-studded spirit-fashioned girdle (the belt of Orion) leading the Paurvas. Now the Bull-Dionysus

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was especially associated with the Pleiades on ancient gems and in classical mythology which form part of the sign Taurus." The bull is a sign of Haoma (Homa) or Soma. The belt of the thunder-god Thor corroborates the fact of the diffusion of these Babylonian ideas as far as Northern Europe.


130:1 Frobenius, "The Voice of Africa," vol. ii., p. 467 inter alia.

130:2 Op. cit., p. 468.

130:3 J. F. Campbell, "The Celtic Dragon Myth," with the "Geste of Fraoch and the Dragon," translated with Introduction by George Henderson, Edinburgh, 1911, p. 136.

131:1 For example the red deer occupies the place usually taken by the goddess's lions upon a Cretan gem (Evans, "Mycenæan Tree and Pillar Cult," Fig. 32, p. 56): on the bronze plate from Heddemheim (A. B. Cook, "Zeus," vol. i., pl. xxxiv., and p. 620) Isis is represented standing on a hind: Artemis, another avatar of the same Great Mother, was intimately associated with deer.

132:1 J. de Morgan, article on "Koudourrous," Mem. Del. en Perse, t. 7, 1905. Figures on p. 143 and p. 148: see also an earlier article on the same subject in tome i. of the same series.

133:1 A. B. Cook, "Zeus," vol. i., p. 674.

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