Anatolian Dragon

anatolian_dragonThe Sky God kills the Dragon Illuyanka.

I had a very strange dream this morning about researching ancient texts for information about dragons. In the dream I was in my grandfather’s workshop with a person I’ve never met and we had maps and printed articles spread out on the workbench by the doorway. As we looked at these articles the other person told me I should try to find information about “anatolian dragon”. In the dream I tried to type the term onto my iPad to do a search but I kept hitting the wrong keys. I tried again with a stylus but still couldn’t get it right. I was getting more and more frustrated but decided I would look it up on my computer once I went home from my grandfather’s place …then I woke up.

So, of course I went straight to my computer to look things up for real. 🙂 First of all I consulted the great oracle Wikipedia for the exact location of Anatolia:

Anatolia in geography is known as Asia Minor, Asian turkey, Anatolian peninsular or Anatolian plateau, and is the westernmost protrusion of Asia which makes up the majority of modern day Turkey. Human habitation in Anatolia dates back to the Paleolithic age. The earliest historical records of Anatolia stem from the southeast of the region and are from the Mesopotamian-based Akkadian Empire during the reign of Sargon of Akkad in the 24th century BC. (There’s heaps more about the history of Anatolia at Wikipedia.)

A Google search for “Anatolian Dragon” revealed the following article (click title to read):

The Dragon Motif in Anatolian Legends by Ferhat Aslan

…which reviews the dragon motif in Anatolian Turkish legends and examines the fundamental frame of the cultural background of this motif. Legend and folklore are looked at and compared to other world cultures and changes of the dragon motif from past to present are examined in parallel to Turkish civilisation. The contents of the article are outlined below:

1. Anonymous Folk Legends and Their Characteristics
2. What is a motif, motifs of legend?
A. The Dragon Motif
A.1. Etymology of the Word Dragon
A.2. Dragon Descriptions
A.3. Dragons as an Artistic Motif in Turkish Culture
A.4. Dragons in the World of Symbols
A.5. Dragons in World Mythology
B. The Dragon motif in Anatolian Legends and the cultural roots of the motif
B.1. Dragon Legends about the Sky
B1.1. The Legend of the Dragon that Came Down from the Sky
B.2. Dragon Legends about the “Mountain – Rock and Water” Cult
B.2.1. Dragon
B.3. Battle with the Dragon
B.3.1. The Dragon Lake Legend
C. Applied Folklore and the Dragon Motif

I should do further research on this as I’m sure there is a lot more information about Anatolian Dragon(s) than what is in the article above.  Over time many different peoples have inhabited the area known as Anatolia (Carians, Hattians, Hittites, Isaurians, Luwians, Lycaonians, Lycians, Lydians, Mysians, Palaics, Pamphylians, Pisidians, Sidians) so I suppose if I research the myths and legends of those people, in addition to modern Turkish folklore, I may uncover more Dragons of Anatolia. However, that will be a project for much later. 🙂 In the meantime, here’s some more information about the image I used at the top of this page.


In Hittite mythology, Illuyanka was a serpentine dragon slain by Tarhunt, the Hittite incarnation of the Hurrian god of sky and storm. It is known from Hittite cuneiform tablets found at Çorum-Boğazköy, the former Hittite capital Hattusa. The contest is a ritual of the Hattian spring festival of Puruli. The myth is found in Catalogue des Textes Hittites 321, which gives two consecutive versions.

Name: Illuyanka is probably a compound, consisting of two words for “snake”, Proto-Indo-European *h₁illu- and *h₂eng. The same compound members, inverted, appear in Latin anguilla “eel”. The *h₁illu- word is cognate to English eel, the anka- word to Sanskrit ahi. Also this dragon is known as Illujanka and Illuyankas.

Narrative: In the first version, the two gods fight and Illuyanka wins. Teshub then goes to the Hattian goddess Inaras for advice. Having promised her love to a mortal named Hupasiyas in return for his help, she devises a trap for the dragon. She goes to him with large quantities of food and drink, and entices him to drink his fill. Once drunk, the dragon is bound by Hupasiyas with a rope. Then the Sky God Teshub appears with the other gods and kills the dragon.

In the second version, after the two gods fight and Teshub loses, Illuyanka takes Teshub’s eyes and heart. To avenge himself upon the dragon, the Sky God Teshub marries the goddess Hebat, daughter of a mortal, named Arm. They have a son, Sarruma, who grows up and marries the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka. The Sky God Teshub tells his son to ask for the return of Teshub’s eyes and heart as a wedding gift, and he does so. His eyes and heart restored, Teshub goes to face the dragon Illuyanka once more. At the point of vanquishing the dragon, Sarruma finds out about the battle and realizes that he had been used for this purpose. He demands that his father take his life along with Illuyanka’s, and so Teshub kills them both with thundery rain and lightning. This version is illustrated on a relief which was discovered at Malatya (dating from 1050-850 BC) and is on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, Turkey.

Interpretation:  The Hittite texts were introduced in 1930 by W. Porzig, who first made the comparison of Teshub’s battle with Illuyankas with the sky-god Zeus’ battle with serpent-like Typhon, told in Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke (I.6.3); the Hittite-Greek parallels found few adherents at the time, the Hittite myth of the castration of the god of heaven by Kumarbi, with its clearer parallels to Greek myth, not having yet been deciphered and edited. (Wikipedia)

Carpets & Rugs

phoenix_and_dragon_carpet_anatolia_first_half_or_middle_15th_centuryActually the results of my initial Google search for “Anatolian Dragon” were predominantly references to carpets and rugs as the Dragon motif was one of many used on traditional animal carpets from the area. The image to the right (click to enlarge) shows a Dragon and Phoenix carpet from Anatolia, circa 1500. (Early Anatolian Animal Carpets)

 So, all this from a dream …not quite sure what the point of it was but maybe that “light bulb moment” is yet to come.


Update 8/12/2016: I found another interesting article (click title to read):

Symmetry, Sympathy and Sensation: Talismanic Efficacy and Slippery Iconographies in Early Thirteenth-Century Iraq, Syria and Anatolia by Persis Berlekamp

Talismans drawing on the combined iconographies of lions and dragons proliferated on the walls and doors of cities and civic institutions in early thirteenth-century Iraq, Syria, and Anatolia. This article examines them in light of three different medieval theoretical models, seeking to shed light on why intelligent people in their original milieus might have expected such talismans to have protective power.

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