Author Topic: Who were the dog headed people?  (Read 2533 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Salpy

  • Section Moderator
  • Toumarches
  • *****
  • Posts: 13,747
  • Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide pray for us!
Who were the dog headed people?
« on: November 03, 2008, 12:13:35 AM »
I just got through adding prayer 93 of St. Gregory of Nareg's Book of Lamentations to the Oriental Orthodox Prayer thread.  It deals with the subject of Holy Chrism. 

Part of the way through the prayer (section L,) he mentions different groups of people who are blessed by chrism.  One of the groups is the "dog-headed giants."

This miraculous oil brings the blessing of the Light to
the Jew and the Gentile,
the Indian and the barbarian,
the Scythian and the Greek,
the cruel savage and the fearsome dog-headed giants,
the freeborn master and the slave by birth,100
making them Christians,
baptizing them in your name,
dedicating them to your Holy Spirit, and
adopting them as the true sons of your Heavenly Father.


Who were these people?  I recall reading that St. Christopher belonged to a group that was called "dog headed."  Is this the same group?  Does anyone know who they were?

Offline Salpy

  • Section Moderator
  • Toumarches
  • *****
  • Posts: 13,747
  • Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide pray for us!
Re: Who were the dog headed people?
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2008, 12:15:21 AM »

Offline John of the North

  • Protokentarchos
  • *********
  • Posts: 3,533
  • Christ is Risen!
Re: Who were the dog headed people?
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2008, 12:21:57 AM »
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Christopher

"The first hurdle is the idea that he was a dog-headed cannibal. This can be understood in the light of the practice of the time, which was to describe all people outside the "civilized" (Greco-Roman-Persian) world as cannibals, or dog-headed albeit metaphorically. A later generation could then mistake a metaphor or hyperbole for a literal statement.

The man in question is also said to have been assigned to a military unit made up of Marmaritae. The Marmaritae were the independent tribes of Marmarica (now in modern Libya), who would have been pushed to the frontier region after Roman settlement. Since he was from a frontier tribe, describing him as being from the land of dog-headed people would have been a literary convention of the day."
"Christianity is not a philosophy, not a doctrine, but life." - Elder Sophrony (Sakharov)

Offline zebu

  • Mot à ta mère!
  • Elder
  • *****
  • Posts: 338
  • aimovoroi tourkoi!
Re: Who were the dog headed people?
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2008, 03:33:12 AM »
I don't know if this is relevant, but in some ancient societies in religious rituals, people wore animal heads during the rituals themselves. For example, in ancient China, priests wore goat's heads while they were posessed by the gods.  This is the origin of the character in Chinese for "Beautiful", in fact.
Жизнь прожить не поле перейти

Offline LBK

  • No Reporting Allowed
  • Toumarches
  • ************
  • Posts: 12,779
  • Holy Father Patrick, pray for us!
  • Faith: Orthodox
Re: Who were the dog headed people?
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2008, 04:17:36 AM »
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Christopher

"The first hurdle is the idea that he was a dog-headed cannibal. This can be understood in the light of the practice of the time, which was to describe all people outside the "civilized" (Greco-Roman-Persian) world as cannibals, or dog-headed albeit metaphorically. A later generation could then mistake a metaphor or hyperbole for a literal statement.

The man in question is also said to have been assigned to a military unit made up of Marmaritae. The Marmaritae were the independent tribes of Marmarica (now in modern Libya), who would have been pushed to the frontier region after Roman settlement. Since he was from a frontier tribe, describing him as being from the land of dog-headed people would have been a literary convention of the day."

Another classic case of wikipedia getting it wrong. The word used to describe all people outside the "civilized" (Greco-Roman-Persian) world as cannibals, or dog-headed albeit metaphorically was neither of these terms, but the word barbarian, after the harshness to the ear of their speech, unlike Greek, which, to the Greco-Roman ear, sounded most beautiful and mellifluous. The word barbarian is derived from bar-bar, a sound which the Greeks used to illustrate the coarseness of foreign languages.

Re "dog-headed": How St Christopher came about to be portrayed with a dog's head is an unfortunate misunderstanding on the part of the iconographer who first painted him: St Christopher came from a region in Thessaly (northern Greece) called Kynoskephalai. This place-name means "dog-headed". Weird place names like this are common in many countries, including Greece and Russia. So poor St Christopher was painted with a dog's head, where the iconographer mistakenly thought the name "dog-headed" referred to what the saint looked like, not where he came from. Sadly, this mistake continues to be perpetuated by iconographers, even today.
Am I posting? Or is it Schroedinger's Cat?