Definitions

Dagon

Dagon

[dey-gon]
Dagon, god of fertility, widely worshiped in the Middle East, particularly in Canaan. In the Bible he is mentioned as one of the chief deities of the Philistines.

West Semitic god of crop fertility, father of Baal. He was the mythical inventor of the plow. He had an important temple at Ras Shamra and at sanctuaries in Palestine, where he was known as a god of the Philistines. At Ras Shamra he was second only to El, though Baal assumed his functions as vegetation god by circa 1500 BC.

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Dagon was a major northwest Semitic god, reportedly of grain and agriculture. He was worshipped by the early Amorites and by the inhabitants of the cities of Ebla and Ugarit (which was an ancient city near the Mediterranean containing a large variety of ancient writings and pagan shrines). He was also a major member, or perhaps head, of the pantheon of the Biblical Philistines.

His name appears in Hebrew as דגון (in modern transcription Dagon, Tiberian Hebrew Dāḡôn), in Ugaritic as dgn (probably vocalized as Dagnu), and in Akkadian as Dagana, Daguna usually rendered in English translations as Dagan.

Etymology

In Ugaritic, the root dgn also means grain: in Hebrew dāgān, Samaritan dīgan, is an archaic word for grain, perhaps related to the Middle Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic word dgnʾ 'be cut open' or to Arabic dagn 'rain-(cloud)'. The Phoenician author Sanchuniathon also says Dagon means siton, that being the Greek word for grain. Sanchuniathon further explains: "And Dagon, after he discovered grain and the plough, was called Zeus Arotrios." The word arotrios means "ploughman", "pertaining to agriculture".

The theory relating the name to Hebrew dāg/dâg, fish, based solely upon a reading of 1 Samuel 5:2–7 is discussed in Fish-god tradition below.

Non-Biblical sources

The god Dagon first appears in extant records about 2500 BC in the Mari texts and in personal Amorite names in which the gods Ilu (Ēl), Dagan, and Adad are especially common.

At Ebla (Tell Mardikh), from at least 2300 BC, Dagan was the head of the city pantheon comprising some 200 deities and bore the titles BE-DINGIR-DINGIR, "Lord of the gods" and Bekalam, "Lord of the land". His consort was known only as Belatu, "Lady". Both were worshipped in a large temple complex called E-Mul, "House of the Star". One entire quarter of Ebla and one of its gates were named after Dagan. Dagan is called ti-lu ma-tim, "dew of the land" and Be-ka-na-na, possibly "Lord of Canaan". He was called lord of many cities: of Tuttul, Irim, Ma-Ne, Zarad, Uguash, Siwad, and Sipishu.

An interesting early reference to Dagan occurs in a letter to King Zimri-Lim of Mari, 18th century BC, written by Itur-Asduu an official in the court of Mari and governor of Nahur (the Biblical city of Nahor) (ANET, p. 623). It relates a dream of a "man from Shaka" in which Dagan appeared. In the dream, Dagan blamed Zimri-Lim's failure to subdue the King of the Yaminites upon Zimri-Lim's failure to bring a report of his deeds to Dagan in Terqa. Dagan promises that when Zimri-Lim has done so: "I will have the kings of the Yaminites [coo]ked on a fisherman's spit, and I will lay them before you."

In Ugarit around 1300 BC, Dagon had a large temple and was listed third in the pantheon following a father-god and Ēl, and preceding Baīl Ṣapān (that is the god Haddu or Hadad/Adad). Joseph Fontenrose first demonstrated that, whatever their deep origins, at Ugarit Dagon was identified with El, explaining why Dagan, who had an important temple at Ugarit is so neglected in the Ras Shamra mythological texts, where Dagon is mentioned solely in passing as the father of the god Hadad, but Anat, El's daughter, is Baal's sister, and why no temple of El has appeared at Ugarit.

There are differences between the Ugaritic pantheon and that of Phoenicia centuries later: according to the third-hand Greek and Christian reports of Sanchuniathon, the Phoenician mythographer would have Dagon the brother of Ēl/Cronus and like him son of Sky/Uranus and Earth, but not truly Hadad's father. Hadad was begotten by "Sky" on a concubine before Sky was castrated by his son Ēl, whereupon the pregnant concubine was given to Dagon. Accordingly, Dagon in this version is Hadad's half-brother and stepfather. The Byzantine Etymologicon Magnum says that Dagon was Cronus in Phoenicia. Otherwise, with the disappearance of Phoenician literary texts, Dagon has practically no surviving mythology.

Dagan is mentioned occasionally in early Sumerian texts but becomes prominent only in later Akkadian inscriptions as a powerful and warlike protector, sometimes equated with Enlil. Dagan's wife was in some sources the goddess Shala (also named as wife of Adad and sometimes identified with Ninlil). In other texts, his wife is Ishara. In the preface to his famous law code, King Hammurabi calls himself "the subduer of the settlements along the Euphrates with the help of Dagan, his creator". An inscription about an expedition of Naram-Sin to the Cedar Mountain relates (ANET, p. 268): "Naram-Sin slew Arman and Ibla with the 'weapon' of the god Dagan who aggrandizes his kingdom." The stele of Ashurnasirpal II (ANET, p. 558) refers to Ashurnasirpal as the favorite of Anu and of Dagan. In an Assyrian poem, Dagan appears beside Nergal and Misharu as a judge of the dead. A late Babylonian text makes him the underworld prison warder of the seven children of the god Emmesharra.

The Phoenician inscription on the sarcophagus of King Eshmunʿazar of Sidon (5th century BC) relates (ANET, p. 662): "Furthermore, the Lord of Kings gave us Dor and Joppa, the mighty lands of Dagon, which are in the Plain of Sharon, in accordance with the important deeds which I did."

Dagan was sometimes used in royal names. Two kings of the Dynasty of Isin were Iddin-Dagan (c. 1974–1954 BC) and Ishme-Dagan (c. 1953–1935 BC). The latter name was later used by two Assyrian kings: Ishme-Dagan I (c. 1782–1742 BC) and Ishme-Dagan II (c. 1610–1594 BC).

In Biblical texts and commentaries

In the Tanakh, Dagon is particularly the god of the Philistines with temples at Beth-dagon in the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19.27), in Gaza (Judges 16.23, which tells soon after how the temple is destroyed by Samson as his last act). Another temple, in Ashdod was mentioned in 1 Samuel 5.2–7 and again as late as 1 Maccabees 10.83;11.4. King Saul's head was displayed in a temple of Dagon in 1 Chronicles 10:8-10. There was also a second place known as Beth-Dagon in Judah (Joshua 15.41). Josephus (Antiquities 12.8.1; War 1.2.3) mentions a place named Dagon above Jericho. Jerome mentions Caferdago between Diospolis and Jamnia. There is also a modern Beit Dejan south-east of Nablus. Some of these toponyms may have to do with grain rather than the god.

The account in 1 Samuel 5.2–7 relates how the ark of Yahweh was captured by the Philistines and taken to Dagon's temple in Ashdod. The following morning they found the image of Dagon lying prostrate before the ark. They set the image upright, but again on the morning of the following day they found it prostrate before the ark, but this time with head and hands severed, lying on the miptān translated as "threshold" or "podium". The account continues with the puzzling words raq dāgôn nišʾar ʿālāyw, which means literally "only Dagon was left to him." (The Septuagint, Peshitta, and Targums render "Dagon" here as "trunk of Dagon" or "body of Dagon", presumably referring to the lower part of his image.) Thereafter we are told that neither the priests or anyone ever steps on the miptān of Dagon in Ashdod "unto this day". This story is depicted on the frescoes of the Dura-Europos synagogue as the opposite to a depiction of the High Priest Aaron and the Temple of Solomon.

Marnas

The vita of Porphyry of Gaza, mentions the great god of Gaza, known as Marnas (Aramaic Marnā the "Lord"), who was regarded as the god of rain and grain and invoked against famine. Marna of Gaza appears on coinage of the time of Hadrian. He was identified at Gaza with Cretan Zeus, Zeus Krētagenēs. It is likely that Marnas was the Hellenistic expression of Dagon. His temple, the Marneion — the last surviving great cult center of paganism — was burned by order of the Roman emperor in 402. Treading upon the sanctuary's paving-stones had been forbidden. Christians later used these same to pave the public marketplace.

Fish-god tradition

Rashi records a tradition that the name Dāgôn is related to Hebrew dāg/dâg 'fish' and that Dagon was imagined in the shape of a fish: compare the Babylonian fish-god Oannes. In the thirteenth century David Kimhi interpreted the odd sentence in 1 Samuel 5.2–7 that "only Dagon was left to him" to mean "only the form of a fish was left", adding: "It is said that Dagon, from his navel down, had the form of a fish (whence his name, Dagon), and from his navel up, the form of a man, as it is said, his two hands were cut off." The Septuagint text of 1 Samuel 5.2–7 says that both the arms and the legs of the image of Dagon were broken off.

H. Schmökel asserted in 1928 that Dagon was never originally a fish-god, but once he became an important god of those maritime Canaanites, the Phoenicians, the folk-etymological connection with dâg would have ineluctably affected his iconography.

Dagon is sometimes identified with Matsya, the fish avatar of Vishnu, who jumped into the ocean to fight a demon. A statue in Keshava temple in Somnathpur, India depicts Matsya as a fish from the waist down. The fish form may be considered as a phallic symbol as seen in the story of the Egyptian grain god Osiris, whose penis was eaten by (conflated with) fish in the Nile after he was attacked by the Typhonic beast Set. Likewise, in the tale depicting the origin of the constellation Capricornus, the Greek god of nature Pan became a fish from the waist down when he jumped into the same river after being attacked by Typhon.

Various 19th century scholars, such as Julius Wellhausen and William Robertson Smith, believed the tradition to have been validated from the occasional occurrence of a merman motif found in Assyrian and Phoenician art, including coins from Ashdod and Arvad.

John Milton uses the tradition in his Paradise Lost Book 1:

                                      ... Next came one
Who mourned in earnest, when the captive ark
Maimed his brute image, head and hands lopt off,
In his own temple, on the grunsel-edge,
Where he fell flat and shamed his worshippers:
Dagon his name, sea-monster, upward man
And downward fish; yet had his temple high
Reared in Azotus, dreaded through the coast
Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon,
And Accaron and Gaza's frontier bounds.

In fiction

For cultural references in the stories of H. P. Lovecraft and its subsequent derivatives in popular culture, see Dagon (short story).

  • Dagon appears in Milton's epic poem Samson Agonistes as one of the deities the Philistines worship.
  • Dagon is the name of a demon lord in the dungeons and dragons roleplaying game
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, a recurring joke involves an allusion to the vague but unpleasant fate of a "Mr. Hong", who "opened The Three Jolly Luck Takeaway Fish Bar on the site of an old temple to a fish god on Dagon Street at the time of the full moon."
  • In Conan The Destroyer, Dagon or Dagoth is the dream god that comes to life when a jewel encrusted horn is placed on the forehead of his statue.
  • In the movie Blade Trinity, a character asserts that Dracula was once known as Dagon.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Order of Dagon were the protectors of the Key. The Dagon Sphere was an orb that weakened the god Glory.
  • In the Pinky & The Brain episode "A Little off the Top", a Philistine soldier orders Samson to "bow before Dagon, our giant papier-mâché weasel god."
  • In Number 868 of the webcomic Questionable Content, Faye abandons a game of Battleship with Pintsize. Pintsize responds by shouting that the admiral has surrendered, and that all survivors of the "Faye Flotilla are sacrificed to Dagon!"
  • In the game Lost Magic, the Dagon is the greater form of the Hydra, a nautilus-like monster, only fire-type.
  • In the album The Chthonic Chronicles by the "British Cosmic War Metal" band Bal-Sagoth, there is reference to one such Dagon in the sixth track, Shackled To The Trilithon Of Kutulu.
  • In The Showdown's album A Chorus of Obliteration, the sixth track is named Dagon Undone - The Reckoning, and speaks of Israel's fight against Dagon, and the Philistines who worshiped him.
  • The 9th track on Therion's album "Sirius B" is titled "Call of Dagon".
  • In the video-game "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion", the main antagonist, the Daedric Prince of Destruction, Change, Revolution, Energy, and Ambition is named Mehrunes Dagon. Mehrunes Dagon also featured in several of the earlier Elder Scrolls games.
  • In the MMORPG "RF Online", Dagon appears as an incredibly powerful Boss. Along with him are 2 others named Dagan and Dagnu.
  • In the anime series The Big O, the robot in episode 7 is named Dagon and went by the nickname "Sea Titan". Dagon was easily destroyed by Big O's Sudden Impact.
  • In the anime series Demonbane Dagon was an old evil god brought back to life using the R'yleh text, it was easily destroyed by Demonbane but not before having a long battle
  • In the video-game "The Witcher", Dagon is a deity that lives on the bottom of a lake. With him follows destruction, and he cannot be killed.
  • In the MMORPG "Runescape", Dagonoths are large amphibious beings, that live beneath a lighthouse.
  • In the video game ""Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin", Dagon is an underwater boss, depicting a duel-bodied frog/lizard/tadpole amalgamation which can suck up the entire room filled of water, and shoot it as a weapon. The upper head lizard-like head is the vulnerable one.
  • In Devil May Cry 4, Dagon is a boss character, resembling a giant toad, that is fought by Nero and Dante.
  • H. P. Lovecraft, a horror fiction writer from the early 1900's makes many references to the South Eastern sea monster worshiped as a God. His form is huge and grotesque, his followers make live sacrifices into the sea in order to appease him so he grants them an abundance of fish and ever-lasting life once they have completely transformed into similarly hideous creatures. These highlights can be found in H. P. Lovecraft's stories Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. There is also a movie taken from both stories appropriately called Dagon Was Also featured as a cult god in the game ' Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth ''. Part of the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • The main antagonist in "Mortal Kombat Armageddon" is named Daegon.

Notes

In George RR Martin's highly acclaimed fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the iron-born pirate-like character Victarion Greyjoy commands, within his Iron Fleet, a ship by the name of Lord Dagon. (Book 4, A Feast for Crows; page 434, paragraph 3)

Dagon is the name of the lead guitarist, and lead vocals for Colombian(Now presiding in Washington state)Black metal band Inquisition. Who play a old school underground cult style of Black Metal.

References

  • ANET = Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3rd ed. with Supplement (1969). Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03503-2.
  • Dagon in Etana: Encyclopædia Bibilica Volume I A–D: Dabarah - David (PDF).
  • Feliu, Lluis (2003). The God Dagan in Bronze Age Syria, trans. Wilfred G. E. Watson. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-13158-2
  • Fleming, D. (1993). "Baal and Dagan in Ancient Syria", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie 83, pp. 88–98.
  • Matthiae, Paolo (1977). Ebla: An Empire Rediscovered. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-22974-8.
  • Pettinato, Giovanni (1981). The Archives of Ebla. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-13152-6

Some parts of the above derive from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

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