Dagon - Small Fish

Pantheon: Canaanite
Element: Water
Sphere of Influence: Fertility and Plant-growth
Preferred colors: Green
Associated symbol: Fish, Plow
Animals associated with: Fish
Associated Planet: Moon

Dagon is the plant-growth, fertility, and soil-god that was father of Baal. Dagon is depicted as half-man and half-fish. He is the inventor of the plow and known as the god of the Philistines.

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=The ancient god Dagon==
Dagon was a major northwest Semitic god, the god of grain and agriculture according the few sources to speak of the matter, worshipped by the early Amorites, by the people of Elba, by the people of Ugarit and a chief god (perhaps the chief god) of the Biblical Philistines. His name appears in Hebrew language|Hebrew as דגון (in Standard Hebrew|modern transcription Dagon, Tiberian Hebrew Dāḡôn), in Ugaritic as dgn (probably vocalized as Dagnu), and in Akkadian language|Akkadian as Dagana, Daguna usually rendered in English translations as Dagan.

In Ugaritic the word dgn also means grain. Similarly in Hebrew dāgān, Samaritan dīgan is an archaic word for grain, perhaps related to Middle Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic language|Aramaic word dgnʾ be cut open or to Arabic language|Arabic dagn rain-(cloud). 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.

Another theory relating the name to Hebrew dāg/dâg fish is discussed in a later section of this article called Fish-god tradition.

===Non-Biblical sources===
The god Dagon first appears in extant records about 2500 BC|2500 BCE in the Mari texts and in personal Amorite names in which the gods Ilu ( El (god)|Ēl), Dagan, and Adad are especially common.

At Ebla (Tell Mardikh), from at least 2300 BC|2300 BCE, 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 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, 1900s BC|18th century BCE 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-Lims failure to subude the King of the Yaminites upon Zimri-Lims failure to bring 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 cooked on a fishermans spit, and I will lay them before you."

In Ugarit around 1300 BC|1300 BCE Dagon had a large temple and was listed third in the pantheon following a father-god and Ēl, and preceding Baal|Baīl Ṣapān (that is the god Haddu or Hadad/Adad). But in the Ugaritic mythological texts Dagon is mentioned solely in passing as the father of the god Hadad. According to Sanchuniathon Dagon, the brother of Ēl/Cronus and like him son of Sky/Uranus (god)|Uranus and Earth, was not truly Hadads 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 Hadads stepfather. Otherwise Dagon has practically no surviving mythology.

Dagan is mentioned occasionally in early Sumerian language|Sumerian texts but becomes prominent only in later Akkadian inscriptions as a powerful and warlike protector, sometimes equated with Enlil. Dagans wife was in some sources the goddes Shala (also named as wife of Adad and sometimes identified with Ninlil). In other texts is wife is Ishara. In the preface to Hammurabis 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 kindgon." The stele of Ashurnasirpal II (ANET, p. 558) refers to Ashurnasirpal as the favorite of An (mythology)| Anu and of Dagan. In an Assyrian poem Dagan appears beside Nergal and Misharu as a judge of he 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 (400s BC|5th century BCE) 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, Israel|Sharon, in accordance with the important deeds which I did."

Dagon is sometimes identified with Matsya, the fish avatar
of Krishna. A statue in Keshava Temple, Somnathpur, India depicts this.

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

=== Dagon 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 (Book of Joshua|Joshua 19.27, in Gaza (Book of Judges|Judges 16.23, which tells soon after how temple is destroyed by Samson as his last act). Another temple was in Ashdod (Books of Samuel|1 Samuel 5.2–7, 1 Maccabees 10.83;11.4). There was also a second place known as Beth- Dagon in the Tribe of Judah|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 names may have to do with grain rather than the god.)

The account in 1 Samuel 5.2–7 relates how the Ark of the Covenant|ark of Yahweh is captured by the Philistines and taken to Dagons 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 literaly "... only Dagon was left to him." (The Septuagint, Peshitta, and Targums render "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". The word miptān occurs again in Book of Zephaniah|Zephaniah 1.9 where Yahweh declares: "And on the same day I will punish all who leap over the miptān, who fill their masters house with violence and deceit."

Marcus Diaconus in the Life of Porphyry of Gaza (19) writes of the great god of Gaza, then known as Marnas (Aramaic language|Aramaic Marnā Our Lord), who was regarded as the god of rain and invoked against famine.He was identifed with Zeus Krêtagenês. That Marnas was lineally descended from Dagon is probable in every way, and it is therefore interesting to note that he gave oracles, that he had a circular temple, where he was sometimes worshipped by human sacrifices, that there were wells in the sacred circuit, and that there was also a place of adoration to him situated, as was usual, outside, the town. Certain marmora in the temple, which might not be, approached, especially by women, may perhaps be connected with the miptān which must be leapt over and not trodden upon.

===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. David Kimhi (1200s|13th century) interpreted the odd sentence 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."

John Milton uses this 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 Ashdod|Azotus, dreaded through the coast

Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon,

And Ekron|Accaron and Gazas frontier bounds.

Various 19th century scholars such as Julius Wellhausen and William Robertson Smith believed this tradition to have been validated from the occasional occurrence of a merman motif found in Assyian and Phoenician art including coins from Ashdod and Arvad. It seemed reasonable that the chief god of a coastal folk like the Philistines might be so imaged.

However no findings have ever explicitly supported the merman interpretation, though nothing actually denies it, and it is no longer generally accepted though sometimes still put forth.

===References and external links===
* ANET = Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3rd ed. with Supplement (1969). Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691035032.
* Dagon in http://www.cwru.edu/univlib/preserve/Etana/encyl_biblica_a-d/dabareh-david.pdf 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 9004131582
* 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 0340229748.
* Pettinato, Giovanni (1981). The Archives of Ebla. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0385131526

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

== Dagon in Fiction==
Dagon has also been used as a figure of the fictional Cthulhu Mythos as one of the Elder Gods. The traditional fishy Dagon seems to have inspired H. P. Lovecraft in creating his story "Shadow Over Innsmouth", first published in 1936. This story is one of Lovecrafts best known ones as it introduced the Deep Ones, a race of water-breathing humanoids, servants to Dagon and Cthulhu. Though they strongly resemble fish and frogs , they can cross-breed with mainstream humanity and produce hybrids. This story also introduced their undersea city of Yha-nthlei and the port town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts|Innsmouth, Massachusetts, United States|USA, mainly populated by these hybrids. The Deep Ones and their hybridic descendants are recurring figures in the stories of August Derleth and other of Lovecrafts "Successors". Innsmouth has often been the setting of this stories.

From H. P. Lovecrafts short story "Dagon":
Vast, Polyphemus-like, and loathsome, it darted like a stupendous monster of nightmares to the monolith, about which it flung its gigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous head and gave vent to certain measured sounds.... Once I sought out a celebrated ethnologist, and amused him with peculiar questions regarding the ancient Philistine legend of Dagon, the Fish-God; but soon perceiving that he was hopelessly conventional, I did not press my inquiries.

* Lovecraft, H. P. (1936) "Shadow Over Innsmouth"
* Dagon, a film directed by Stuart Gordon (released 2001)

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