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Dieudonné de Gozon and the Dragon of Rhodes

  • F. W. Hasluck

The story of the Rhodian knight Dieudonné de Gozon and the slaying of the great dragon of Malpasso is, largely owing to Schiller's adoption of the theme in a ballad, one of the best-known legends of its type. It is one of several instances in which an historical personage figures as the hero of this quite mythical adventure.

Dieudonné de Gozon, a member of the Provençal langue, was the third Grand Master of the Knights of S. John at Rhodes, ruling from 1346 to 1353. He is represented as a simple knight at the time of his great adventure. As might be expected, no contemporary or nearly contemporary authority mentions the dragon-fight of de Gozon. But so early as Mandeville and Schiltberger we find anonymous Rhodian knights figuring as the heroes of current folk-tales of the chivalric type.

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page 70 note 1 Der Kampf mit dem Drachen (1799).

page 70 note 2 For dragon-legends in folk-literature see Hartland's Perseus, Cosquin's, Contes de Lorraine, i. 61 ff. and Frazer's note on Pausanias, ix. 26. 7.

page 70 note 3 Other historical personages credited with dragon-fights are Sire Gilles de Chin (d. 1127), and one of the Counts of Mansfeld (Hartland, Perseus, iii. 46).

page 70 note 4 On this point see Raybaud, , Hist. des Grands Prieurs de S. Gilles, ii. 300.

page 70 note 5 So in Mandeville (ed. Wright, 139) a Rhodian knight has adventures with the enchanted daughter of Ypocras in Cos, in Schiltberger (ed. Hakluyt Society, 42) a Rhodian knight attempts the enchanted ‘Castle of the Sparrow-Hawk,’ and later in Rhodes itself a Rhodian knight takes the castle of Phileremo by one of the regular strategies of folk-lore (Röhricht and Meissner, Deutsche Pilgerreisen, 371; Torr, , Modern Rhodes, 91). All these are well-known folk-stories to which local colour has been given by the characterization of the heroes.

page 71 note 1 Pfalzgraf Ottheinreich in Röhricht, and Meissner's, Deutsche Pilgerreisen (Berlin, 1880), 392–4. The learned editors recognize in this the earliest record of the de Gozon legend.

page 71 note 2 This rather unconvincing stratagem, much elaborated in the canonized version, may have been suggested by the local legend of Phileremo alluded to above, in which the castle is taken by a similar trick, the hero and his companions disguising themselves in ox-skins (Deutsche Pilgerreisen, 371; Torr, , Modern Rhodes, 91).

page 71 note 3 The episode of the false claim, discarded in the later canonized version of the story, is a feature common to many folk-tales of this type (Hartland, , Perseus, iii. 47; Cosquin, , Contes de Lorraine, i. 61); in the Near East it figures in the Bulgarian legend of S. Elias (Shishmanova, L., Légendes religieuses Bulgares, 87 ff.) and in the Turkish of the saint Sari Saltik (Effendi, Evliya, Travels, tr. von Hammer, , ii. 70).

page 71 note 4 Buondelmonti, Liber Insularum, §45; non diu est quod serpens maximus devorans apparuit armenta, et territi omnes fugam arripiebant. Tunc strenuus vir pro salute populi duellum inceptat, dum inter bestias ruere vellet. Quod cum hoc serpens percepisset, equum morsibus illico in terram prostratum occidit; iuvenis autem, acriter pugnans, tandem viperam interfecit. Folk-legends of fights with dragons in Greek lands, sometimes dated more or less exactly, are given by Biliotti, Rhodes, 154 (Rhodes, ‘110 years ago’), and Polites, Παραδόσεις 375 (Mykonos), 381 (Skopelos), 383 (1509, Cephalonia, cf. Ansted, , Ionian Islands, 342), 387 (1891, Rapsani). With these it is interesting to compare the crocodile story from Egypt told by Lucas, (Voyage au Levant (1705), 83 ff.).

page 72 note 1 Mandeville, ed. Wright 138: for the obscure connection between this dragon and the devastating monster mentioned above see note in Warner's edition.

page 72 note 2 Bosio, G., Historia della S. Religione di S. Giovanni, i. (1594), pt. ii. 45 ff.

page 73 note 1 Histoire de l'Ordre de Sainct Jean (Lyon, 1612), 120 ff.

page 73 note 2 Vite de' Gran Maestri della S. Religione di S. Giovanni (1636), 300 ff.

page 73 note 3 Codice Diplomatico del Ordine Gerosolimitana (1733–37) ii. 464: Paoli is the first to associate the legend of de Gozon with that of Phorbas, as does in our own times Torr, C. (Rhodes in Modern Times, 94).

page 73 note 4 Histoire des Chevaliers de S. Jean (1726) ii. 22.

page 73 note 5 Voyages (1628), 18: this is curiously paralleled by a western type of dragon-legend in which the hero is a condemned criminal or a deserter (cf. Salverte, , Sciences Occultes, 3 ed.377).

page 73 note 6 Liégeois, C., Gilles de Chin, l'histoire et la légende (1903), 108. Supernatural dogs are introduced in some folk-stories of the dragon-fight (cf. Hartland, , Perseus, i. 29 f.) as assistants of the hero, but their setting and importance are wholly different.

page 73 note 7 Michaud, , Correspondance d'Orient, iv. 20; Berg., A.Die Insel Rhodus, 80; Biliotti, , Rhodes, 152; Belabre, , Rhodes of the Knights, 185.

page 73 note 8 Viaggio (1413) of d'Este, Niccolò (Coll. di Opere della R. Commissione per Testi di Lingua, i. (Bologna, 1861) 115, cf. 142. ‘Il Dracone’ was in all probability identical with Dragonetto Clavelli, a Rhodian gentleman who acted as procuratore for the Grand Master in 1392 and held lands from the Order (Bosio, ii. 145 (1392), 161 (1402)).

page 74 note 1 Pérégrinations (1606), 347.

page 74 note 2 Travels (1759), i. 277.

page 74 note 3 Op. cit. 55.

page 74 note 4 Op. cit. ii. 54: the same epitaph is given by Paoli.

page 74 note 5 Monuments de Rhodes (1828), 340 and Pl. LII.

page 74 note 6 Catalogue du Musée des Thermes, p. 40, N0. 422: the sarcophagus is illustrated in L'Illustration, 1878 (lxxi), No. 1826 (Feb. 23). The drawing of de Gozon's tomb in de Villeneuve-Bargemont's Monuments des Grands Maîtres (i. Pl. XXVI.) is of course quite fanciful.

page 75 note 1 Monuments de Rhodes, 239 f. Pl. XXVII.

page 75 note 2 Op. cit. 372 Pl. LXII.

page 75 note 3 The whole seems to form a pendant to another fresco in the same series representing an attack by a saint on a dragon in a cave surmounted by an owl.

page 75 note 4 A fourteenth century Lapidaire, bearing the name of de Mandeville, tells us (p. 113) that the ‘pierre de serpent’ or Dreconcides ‘est engendrée de plusieurs serpents qui joignent leurs têtes et soufflent; elle est noire et porte à son chef une partie de blancheur pâle au milieu de laquelle est une image de serpent; elle vaut contre vénin, et garde celui qui la porte de morsure de serpent et de bêtes vénimeuses en telle manière, qu'on peut les prendre en sa main toute nue sans se blesser.’ The dragon-stone must be taken from the brain of the monster while it still lived (von Megenberg, Conrad, Buch der Natur, ed. Pfeiffer, , 444, § 29).

page 75 note 5 The question of the authenticity of ‘dragon-stones’ or escarboucles is seriously discussed by Panthot, J. B., Traité des dragons, Lyon, 1691.

page 75 note 6 Bosio, op. cit. 55.

page 75 note 7 Travels, 117; cf. Veryard, , Choice Remarks (1701), 331.

page 76 note 1 Biliotti, , Rhodes, 150 ff. Cf. Rottiers, 235; Michaud, , Correspondance d'Orient, iv. 20; Berg, , Rhodus, 90.

page 76 note 2 A well-known instance is that of the crocodile of Seville (Elworthy, , Evil Eye, 214). Others are cited from Marseilles, Lyon, Cimiez, and Ragusa by Salverte, (Sciences Occultes, 482) and from Verona by Berg (op. cit. 90).

page 76 note 3 For the protection of gates by talismans see Quiclet, Voyages, 111 (‘Giant's bones’ at gate of Belgrade); Hobhouse, , Travels, ii. 946 (Whale's bones at Seraglio gate, Constantinople); Evliya, , Travels, ii. 230 (Whale's bones and old arms at gate of Angora); Texier, , Asie Mineure, Pl. XCVII, (stone balls at gate of Konia); Evliya, op. cit. ii. 201 (Mace and bow at gate of Kemakh); Belon, , Observations, xlii. (‘Sword of Roland’ at gate of Brusa); Lucas, , Voyage au Levant (1705), ii. 129 (Gigantic boots and weapons in gateways of khans at Brusa); Stephani, L., Reise durch einige Gegenden des nördlichen Griechenlandes, 16 (Giant's boot at gate of Chalcis); Gerlach, , Tagebuch, 337, Covel, , Diaries, 217 f. (various charms on gates of Constantinople). The gate of the Knights' Castle at Budrum was protected by the charm-text Nisi Dominus, etc. Ali Pasha protected the main-gate of his island-citadel at Yannina by building in the head of an ‘Arab’ still to be seen there, carved in stone and painted black, and the gate of the fort at Prevesa, taken by the Greeks in the last war, has been similarly protected by a number of painted crosses. For the analogous protection of gates by saints' tombs see Frazer's, Pausanias, iii. 468. There are excellent Turkish examples at Nicaea, and at Candia in the ‘New Gate.’ The existence of such saints is doubtless often inferred from that of their supposed bones, arms, or other relics, originally suspended as talismans.

page 76 note 4 Biliotti, , Rhodes, 153, from whom Torr, , Rhodes in Modern Times, 94; for the stratagem we may compare that of the eponymous hero of Cracow, who gave the local dragon food mixed with sulphur, pitch, and wax till it eventually died (Münister's, Cosmographie, ed. Belleforest, , ii. 1781), and the History of Bel and the Dragon (vv. 23 ff.) in the Apocrypha. A somewhat similar stratagem occurs in the Shahnameh of Firdaousi, where Isfendiar begins operations on a dragon by inducing it to swallow a cart loaded with daggers and other weapons.

page 77 note 1 For the widespread vogue of these festivals see Salverte, , Sciences Occultes, 475 ff.; and, for legends of dragon-slaying saints in Western Europe, Douhet, Dict, des Légendes, s.v. Tarasque, and Cahier, Charactéristiques des Saints, s.v. Dragon.

page 77 note 2 For the world-wide connection of dragons with springs and water see Frazer's, Pausanias, v. 44.

page 78 note 1 The ‘tarasque’ used in the modern procession is shewn in Pl. IX.

page 78 note 2 See especially Porte, J. B. in Mem. de l'Acad. d'Aix, iv. (1840), 261308.

page 78 note 3 Gissac, De in Congr. Archéol. de France, xxx (18631864) 6570; cf. d'Estourmel, , Voyage en Orient, i. 165.

page 78 note 4 It occurs in modern provincial French (Lorraine) as gosse (stomach of fatted beasts) with the verb gosser (to fatten for market).

page 78 note 5 The processional dragon of Poitiers was named ‘Grand'Gueule’ (Salverte, , Sciences Occultes, 477), that of Rheims ‘le Bailla’ (ibid. 475). Similarly the name of Rabelais' giant Gargantua (originally a folklore figure), as also that of his father ‘Grangousier’ correspond exactly in sense to Gozzone (cf. testa, testone, etc.) A stream in the department of Aveyron, which flows through a narrow gorge, is called Gouzon. Gozon may have personified its river as a dragon, as Grenoble does the river Drac (Salverte, op. cit. 463).

page 79 note 1 So Torr, (Rhodes in Modern Times, 93, and Class. Rev. i. 79), who suggests that these legends are due to the Greek lions’ heads built into the castle, probably as talismans, by the Knights. The dogs are mentioned fairly regularly by fifteenth century pilgrims, e.g. William Wey (1458, Itinerary, 94), Joos van Ghistele (1486, 'T Voyage, 334) and later located at Rhodes (Veryard, op. cit 331).

page 79 note 2 Raybaud, , Hist. des Grands Prieurs de S. Gilles, ii. 112; he became Grand Prior in 1558.

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Annual of the British School at Athens
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