Where does Dacian Miron come from

Dacian Draco - Dacian Draco

Standard flag of the troops of the ancient Dacian people

The dacian draco was the standard flag of the troops of the ancient Dacian people, seen in the hands of the soldiers of Decebalus in several scenes depicted on the Trajan's Column in Rome, Italy. It is shaped like a dragon with open wolf-like jaws that contain several metal tongues. The head of the hollow dragon was mounted on a pole with a tube of fabric attached to the back. During use, the Draco held up against the wind or over the head of a rider, where it inflated with air and appeared to be alive while making a high-pitched sound as the wind rushed through its strips of material.

Name and etymology

Draco (Latin) and Dracon (Greek) mean "snake", "dragon". The root of these words means "watch" or "guard with a keen eye". It is a derivative of the Greek Drakon " Gazing ".


The origin of the standard is unknown and is still controversial among scientists. A specific and definite origin is still difficult to determine. Dacian, Thracian, Scythian, Sarmatian, or Parthian origins have been suggested in special historiography. According to Lucreţiu Mihăilescu-Bîrliba, the Draco symbol was equated with the Dacian ethnos in the Greco-Roman world in the 2nd century AD, ie after the end of the Dacian Wars. According to Jon NC Coulston, the Romans associated this standard with barbarians of the Danube from the 1st and 2nd centuries. The Roman historian Arrian wrote that the Romans denounced the Scythians Draco decreased, most likely a term used by contemporary Sarmatians. It is possible that the snake or dragon theme was the result of an early cartography of the Carpathian Mountains, resembling a dragon or a snake, with its tail pointing west towards the Black Sea.

It should be noted, however, that the symbol that the Roman Empire adopted as Draco is not that of the Dacians with the head of a wolf, but that of the Sarmatians with the head of a hooded dragon, as we can see in the discovery of the Roman cavalry Draco in Niederbieber (D). In fact, the Dacian Draco and the Sarmatian Draco differ: the Dacian Draco shows a wolf with open jaws and straight ears, while the Sarmatian is a dragon with sharp teeth, without ears, scaly, with an open mouth and a comb on its head.

The original purpose was likely to provide wind direction for archery.


Dacian Draco on Trajan's Pillar

Among the Dacians was the Draco Undoubtedly regarded by the army as a special symbol of protection, while it also played an important role in the religious life of the people.

The Draco shows a religious syncretism between the wolf and the dragon and the snake. It should encourage the Getae and frighten their enemies.

  • At the top of the standard a wolf was depicted, a symbolic animal of the Carpathian people since phase B of the Hallstatt period (10th - 8th centuries BC). The animal exhibits an aggressive demeanor similar to that of certain Hittite monsters. The religious association of the dragon with the wolf or the lion can be found for the first time around the year 1120 BC. On a stele of Nebuchadnezzar I, where an exact representation of the symbol of the Dacian dragon is found in the fourth quarter. This indicates that the Dacian Draco comes from the art of Asia Minor, in which the religious-military symbology of the dragon extended to the east as far as the Indo-Iranians and to the west as far as the Thraco-Cimmeriano-Getians / Dacians.

At the time of phase D of the Hallstatt period (8th - 6th centuries BC) the decorative pattern of a dragon's head or a snake was widespread in Dacia. In the La Tène period (3rd BC - 1st century AD) it served as the standard for the Dacians. The image of the Draco appears on a ceramic piece from the 4th century BC. It was discovered in the Budureasca municipality in the Prahova county in Romania.

The Dacians carry the Draco on Trajan's column
  • The body of the standard, which depicts a dragon-like Balaur or a large serpent, was viewed by the Dacians as a manifestation of the sky demon or "heavenly dragon". This refers to their highest god Zalmoxis, who was a sky god (cf. also Tomaschek). During the Hallstatt period, the decorative pattern of a dragon's head or a snake became quite common in Dacia. The dragon symbol is also depicted on the silver Dacian bracelets of the Classical era. The snake-shaped bracelets and other similar ornaments show not only the spread of the snake as a decorative motif, but also its importance in the Dacian material civilization.

Dacian Draco at war

Dacians marched into battle, accompanied by the howl of wolf-headed trumpets and by their sinister, multi-colored dragon head standard. As intended, they made a terrible audiovisual spectacle.

The Draco first appears on Trajan's Column in Rome, a memorial depicting the Dacian Wars of AD 101-102 and AD 105-106. German historian Conrad Cichorius notes that although Dacians wear the draco this was called the Scythian draco in Arrian's Tactica written around 136 AD. According to Ellis Minns, the Arrians' kite standards were those of the Dacians.

Representations of the Dacian Draco

Draco is carried by a Dacian cavalry crossing the Danube (Trajan's Column)
Dacian Draco on Trajan's Pillar

Trajan's Column in Rome

On Trajan's Pillar (113 AD) are Dacian soldiers in 20 scenes with one Draco depicted . One shows that Draco, carried by the Dacian cavalry who cross the Danube by swimming with their horses. In another case is the Draco planted in the middle of a Dacian citadel and surrounded by the skulls of several Roman prisoners. On Trajan's pillar, the Draco is the symbolic image of victory, although it is missing from the images on the pillar that illustrate Trajan's second war against the Dacians when the Romans conquered the Dacia territories around 18D in search of gold to pay their legions.

Roman coins from Dacia

The Draco appears on coins of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (r.138–161 AD), which indicates that he was still the characteristic emblem in the 2nd century. In 250 AD, the Roman province of Dacia holds a wolf or dog dragon standard on a coin from Decius. The same type occurs on Antoniniani coins by Claudius Gothicus (R.268–270) and Aurelian (R.270–275).

Dacia with Draco on Antoninianus by Trajan Decius, 250-251 AD

Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki

The characteristic Dacian dragon emblem is carried by a group of Dacian horsemen depicted on the arch of Galerius and the rotunda in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Funerary sculpture Chester Memorial

A Draco (considered Dacian or Sarmatian type by RP Wright in 1955) is depicted on a large stone found in 1890 at Deva Victrix (Chester, UK) in the north face (west). The dragon flag is depicted horizontally as held by the cavalryman but his head is not visible because the stone is rather deteriorated. Most scholars consider the rider to be a Sarmatian wearing a Sarmatian helmet and wearing a Sarmatian standard. According to Mihăilescu-Bîrliba (2009) the representation of the Dacian standard is safe and similar representations can be observed on the most important monuments of the Roman triumph over the Dacians. A military diploma found in Chester (dated 146 AD) mentions the name of Cohorts I Aelia Dacorum among the units of released soldiers. Hence, the rider depicted on the tombstone in Chester could be a Dacian cavalryman belonging to a vexillatio of cohorts I Aelia Dacorum. PA Holder suggests that Cohort 102 or a little earlier was formed and Dacians settled in the Empire. She was later named Aelia.

However, some authors question the assignment of the stele to a Dacian warrior. The Draco was not the exclusive symbol of the Dacians, but also of the Sarmatians. The Dacians usually wore a soft Phrygian cap, but in the stele the cavalryman wears a tall and conical helmet of the Spangenhelm-type of Sarmatian origin. Some metal helmets of Dacian origin have been found that differ significantly from those shown on the stele. The Dacians probably had long, loose hair and thick beards, but the Chester cavalryman appears beardless and with short hair. The Dacians were characterized by the curved sickle sword as a special element of armament, but the cavalryman of Chester wears a straight sword. In addition, as evidence of the Dacian presence in Britain, the Cohors I Aelia Dacorum was an infantry unit and the Dacians had no tradition as a cavalry unit. In the castrum of Deva Victrix (Chester, England), where the stele was found, no Dacian units were in use either.

Dacian Draco as adopted by the Roman army after AD 106

The first sculptural representation of one carried by a Roman soldier Draco dates from the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r.161 to 180 AD).

Scholars believe that the Draco was adopted by the Roman army after the conquest of the Dacians. Some scholars such as Osborne (1985) and Ashmore (1961) believe that the Draco was inherited from the Dacian Romans. It became the standard of the cohort, just as the Aquila or Imperial Eagle was the standard of the Roman Legion. The standard adopted in the Roman cavalry was carried by a Draconarius. Later became the Draco an imperial ensign.

The Draco was specific not only to the Roman-occupied Dacia, but also to the Sarmatian and Parthian regions. As a result, some alternative origins for the Roman army's draco has been proposed. According to Franz Altheim, the appearance of such ensigns in the Roman army coincided with the recruitment of nomadic troops from Central and South Asia, and it was from this region that the image led to Iran and subsequently to Europe. According to Altheim's theory, the Dacians and Germans would then have inherited it from the Sarmatian people.

Compared to those of the Dacians and Romans, the Sarmatian Draco was more oriental with protruding ears, dog-like teeth, and even fins. It usually did not have scales or the distinctive crest of the dragon-like gilded head of a late Roman standard found at Niederbieber, Germany. His head could have been represented by the legendary Iranian Simurgh - half wolf, half bird. It could also be a fish head based on the clan's totem. Sarmatian Roxalani riders do not carry a Draco at all on the Trajan's Column.

The heads of the Draco Dacian standards depicted on Trajan's column are also canines. But they are of a very different type, with short, round-nosed snouts, protruding eyes, erect ears, gaping, circular jaws, and fins without gills.

Mihăilescu-Bîrliba (2009) suggests that the Romans, at the end of the 1st century AD, den Draco in connection with Dacians brought . Draco was an icon who symbolized the Dacians (as well as the Dacian falx).

Votive tablets

9th century Carolingian cavalrymen with Draco standard

A Draco- The banner is carried by one of the Danube riders, indigenous Dacian deities, on a Danube tablet that is ascribed to the first two decades of the 4th century. Due to the great importance of this symbol in the religious and military life of the Dacians, some writers believe that the Draco must have been taken over and reproduced directly on the so-called Danube tables from the 3rd to 4th centuries. According to some researchers such as Dumitru Tudor, the presence of this military flag on the Danube tablets is simply explained as a coincidence - the result of a coincidental combination of equestrian and sky god themes by the imagination of local sculptors.


The only specimen that remains is a dragon-like gold-plated head of the late Roman standard that was found in Niederbieber.


The Draco was generally introduced as a Roman standard in the 4th century. When Constantine put the Christian symbol instead of the dragon on military flags, the name survived the change and the standard-bearer remained that Draconarius . Sometimes the old symbol is found associated with the new, placing the dragon under the cross. The cavalrymen of the Carolingian dynasty raised the forces previously adopted by the Roman Empire in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries Draco further on .

Draco likely continued to be used in sub-Roman and Anglo-Saxon Britain. Harold's standard bearer holds one on the Bayeux Tapestry. The legendary King Arthur and his knights may have their origins in the sarcastic heavy cavalryman stationed in Britain. The family name "Pendragon" carried by Arthur and his father Uther may refer to the Draco standard. It is also possible that the story of a battle between a red and a white dragon in the Historia Brittonum refers to two Draco standards worn by rival sub-Romanesque British factions.

The red dragon on the modern Welsh national flag may be derived from the Draco carried by Roman and presumably Roman-British cavalry units stationed in Great Britain, i.e. the Sarmatians stationed in Ribchester.

Art and literature

Michel-François Dandré-Bardon has the Dacian Draco in his Costume of the Anciens added. The Romanian artist Adam Nicolae created the sculpture Steagul Dacic 'The Dacian Flag' seen in Orăştie, Romania.

According to the Saxon ethnographer Teutsch, the Transylvanian Romanians may have inherited something from the "snake cult" of the ancient Dacians, who are known to have a dragon (or a snake) as a "banner of victory". He mentions that some door knockers are shaped like snake heads (protective in this case). In Romanian villages in the Brașov region studied by Teutsch, the vaults of certain gates bear snakes in the form of garlands, the ends of which represent the "sun wheel".


According to the historian Vasile Pârvan, the Dacian war flag, which depicts a wolf with the body of a snake, indicated the Balaur . The Balaur is not identical to the other creature of the Romanian myth, the Zmeu . The biggest difference is that the Zmeu , even if it has some lizard-like features, it is nonetheless a human-like figure, while the Balaur is the true form of the dragon. Usually the Balaur in all Romanian myths, legends and fairy tales there are always three, five, seven, nine or twelve heads. The Balaur is sometimes a vicious figure, but most of the time he's a neutral figure guarding various places, objects, or knowledge. In various myths and traditions there will also be a number of dragons that must be defeated in order to get the precious objects or access to the guarded places, usually three dragons, with scales made of iron, silver or gold or silver, gold or diamond, each stronger than the previous one, the number of their heads increasing with difficulty. Some motifs developed in folk tradition that define the snake as protection of the household correspond to some extent to the interpretation of a protective Dacian "dragon" symbol.

See also




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further reading

  • Gelu Florea - Dragonul dacic , in Archeologica et Historica, Nicolae Gudea dicata, Zalău, 2001, p. 195-201;
  • Augustin Muresan - Cu privire la cea mai veche reprezentare aa stindardului geto-dacilor , in Adevărul omeneşte posibil pentru rânduirea binelui , Oradea, 2001, p. 455-459;
  • Liviu Marghitan, Stindardul dacic flutura la Tapae , in Revista de istorie militara, 2001, 1, p. 52-55.
  • Liviu Mărghitan, Mioara Turcu - Mărturii arheologice referitoare la stindardul geto-dacilor , în Thraco-dacica, 2001, 22, no. 1-2, p. 213-221.
  • Mioara Alecu-Călușiță, Steagul geto-dacilor , in Noi Traci . Centro Europeo di Studii Traci, Roma, 1992, pp. 14-22;
  • Traian Herseni - Le dragon dace , în Ethnologica, 1979, no. 1, pp. 13-22.

External links