"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.