A dragon is a large, serpent-like legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures around the world. Beliefs about dragons vary drastically by region, but dragons in western cultures since the High Middle Ages have been depicted as winged, four-legged, capable of breathing fire. Dragons in eastern cultures are depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence; the earliest attested dragons resemble giant snakes. Dragon-like creatures are first described in the mythologies of the ancient Near East and appear in ancient Mesopotamian art and literature. Stories about storm-gods slaying giant serpents occur throughout nearly all Indo-European and Near Eastern mythologies. Famous prototypical dragons include the mušḫuššu of ancient Mesopotamia; the popular western image of a dragon as winged, four-legged, capable of breathing fire is an invention of the High Middle Ages based on a conflation of earlier dragons from different traditions. In western cultures, dragons are portrayed as monsters to be tamed or overcome by saints or culture heroes, as in the popular legend of Saint George and the Dragon.
They are said to have ravenous appetites and to live in caves, where they hoard treasure. These dragons appear in western fantasy literature, including The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin; the word "dragon" has come to be applied to the Chinese lung, which are associated with good fortune and are thought to have power over rain. Dragons and their associations with rain are the source of the Chinese customs of dragon dancing and dragon boat racing. Many East Asian deities and demigods have dragons as their personal companions. Dragons were identified with the Emperor of China, during Chinese imperial history, was the only one permitted to have dragons on his house, clothing, or personal articles; the word dragon entered the English language in the early 13th century from Old French dragon, which in turn comes from Latin: draconem meaning "huge serpent, dragon", from Ancient Greek δράκων, drákōn "serpent, giant seafish".
The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpent, not mythological. The Greek word δράκων is most derived from the Greek verb δέρκομαι meaning "I see", the aorist form of, ἐδρακόμην. Dragon-like creatures appear in all cultures around the globe. Nonetheless, scholars dispute where the idea of a dragon originates from and a wide variety of theories have been proposed. In his book An Instinct for Dragons, anthropologist David E. Jones suggests a hypothesis that humans, just like monkeys, have inherited instinctive reactions to snakes, large cats, birds of prey, he cites a study which found that 39 people in a hundred are afraid of snakes and notes that fear of snakes is prominent in children in areas where snakes are rare. The earliest attested dragons all bear snakelike attributes. Jones therefore concludes that the reason why dragons appear in nearly all cultures is because of humans' innate fear of snakes and other animals that were major predators of humans' primate ancestors. Dragons are said to reside in "dank caves, deep pools, wild mountain reaches, sea bottoms, haunted forests", all places which would have been fraught with danger for early human ancestors.
In her book The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs and Myth in Greek and Roman Times, Adrienne Mayor argues that some stories of dragons may have been inspired by ancient discoveries of fossils belonging to dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. She argues that the dragon lore of northern India may have been inspired by "observations of oversized, extraordinary bones in the fossilbeds of the Siwalik Hills below the Himalayas" and that ancient Greek artistic depictions of the Monster of Troy may have been influenced by fossils of Samotherium, an extinct species of giraffe whose fossils are common in the Mediterranean region. In China, a region where fossils of large prehistoric animals are common, these remains are identified as "dragon bones" and are used in Chinese traditional medicine. Mayor, however, is careful to point out that not all stories of dragons and giants are inspired by fossils and notes that Scandinavia has many stories of dragons and sea monsters, but has long "been considered barren of large fossils."
In one of her books, she states that "Many dragon images around the world were based on folk knowledge or exaggerations of living reptiles, such as Komodo dragons, Gila monsters, alligators, or, in California, alligator lizards." Ancient peoples across the Near East believed in creatures similar to what modern people call "dragons". These ancient peoples were unaware of the existence of dinosaurs or similar creatures in the distant past. References to dragons of both benevolent and malevolent characters occur throughout ancient Mesopotamian literature. In Sumerian poetry, great kings are compared to the ušumgal, a gigantic, serpentine monster. A dragon-like creature with the foreparts of a lion and the hind-legs and wings of a bird appears in Mesopotamian artwork from the Akkadian Period until the Neo-Babylonian Period; the dragon is shown with its mouth open. It may have been known as the nā’iru, which means "roaring weather beast", may ha
Sabazios is the horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. In Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian, the -zios element in his name derives from dyeus, the common precursor of Latin deus and Greek Zeus. Though the Greeks interpreted Phrygian Sabazios as both Zeus and Dionysus, representations of him into Roman times, show him always on horseback, as a nomadic horseman god, wielding his characteristic staff of power, it seems that the migrating Phrygians brought Sabazios with them when they settled in Anatolia in the early first millennium BCE, that the god's origins are to be looked for in Macedonia and Thrace. The discovered ancient sanctuary of Perperikon in modern-day Bulgaria is believed to be that of Sabazios; the Macedonians were noted horsemen, horse-breeders and horse-worshippers up to the time of Philip II, whose name signifies "lover of horses". Possible early conflict between Sabazios and his followers and the indigenous mother goddess of Phrygia may be reflected in Homer's brief reference to the youthful feats of Priam, who aided the Phrygians in their battles with Amazons.
An aspect of the compromise religious settlement, similar to the other such mythic adjustments throughout Aegean culture, can be read in the Phrygian King Gordias' adoption "with Cybele" of Midas. One of the native religion's creatures was the Lunar Bull. Sabazios' relations with the goddess may be surmised in the way that his horse places a hoof on the head of the bull, in a Roman marble relief at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Though Roman in date, the iconic image appears to be much earlier. More "rider god" steles are in Turkey. Under the Roman Emperor Gordian III the god on horseback appears on coins minted at Tlos, in neighboring Lycia, at Istrus, in the province of Lower Moesia, between Thrace and the Danube, it is thought that the young emperor's grandfather came from an Anatolian family, because of his unusual cognomen, Gordianus. The iconic image of the god or hero on horseback battling the chthonic serpent, on which his horse tramples, appears on Celtic votive columns, with the coming of Christianity it was transformed into the image of Saint George and the Dragon, whose earliest known depictions are from tenth- and eleventh-century Cappadocia and eleventh-century Georgia and Armenia.
Among Roman inscriptions from Nicopolis ad Istrum, Sabazios is equated with Jove and mentioned alongside Mercury. In Hellenistic monuments, Sabazios is either explicitly or implicitly associated with Zeus. On a marble slab from Philippopolis, Sabazios is depicted as a curly-haired and bearded central deity among several gods and goddesses. Under his left foot is a ram's head, he holds in his left hand a sceptre tipped with a hand in the benedictio latina gesture. Sabazios is accompanied by busts on his right depicting Luna and Mercury, on his left by Sol and Daphne. According to Macrobius and Helios were worshipped among the Thracians as Sabazios. Sabazios is associated with a number of archeological finds depicting a bronze, right hand in the benedictio latina gesture; the hand may have been affixed to a sceptre. Although there are many variations, the hand of Sabazios is depicted with a pinecone on the thumb and with a serpent or pair of serpents encircling the wrist and surmounting the bent ring and pinky fingers.
Additional symbols included on the hands of Sabazios include a lightning bolt over the index and middle fingers, a turtle and lizard on the back of the hand, an eagle, a ram, a leafless branch, the thyrsos, the Mounted Heros. The ecstatic Eastern rites practiced by women in Athens were thrown together for rhetorical purposes by Demosthenes in undermining his opponent Aeschines for participating in his mother's cultic associations: On attaining manhood you abetted your mother in her initiations and the other rituals, read aloud from the cultic writings... You rubbed the fat-cheeked snakes and swung them above your head, crying Euoi saboi and hues attes, attes hues. Transference of Sabazios to the Roman world appears to have been mediated in large part through Pergamum; the syncretic approach of Greek religion blurred distinctions. Greek writers, like Strabo in the first century CE, linked Sabazios with Zagreus, among Phrygian ministers and attendants of the sacred rites of Rhea and Dionysos.
Strabo's Sicilian contemporary, Diodorus Siculus, conflated Sabazios with the secret'second' Dionysus, born of Zeus and Persephone, a connection, not borne out by surviving inscriptions, which are to Zeus Sabazios. The Christian Clement of Alexandria had been informed that the secret mysteries of Sabazius, as practiced among the Romans, involved a serpent, a chthonic creature unconnected with the mounted skygod of Phrygia: "'God in the bosom' is a countersign of the mysteries of Sabazius to the adepts". Clement reports: "This is a snake, passed through the bosom of the initiates". Much the Byzantine Greek encyclopedia, flatly states Sabazios... is the same as Dionysos. He acquired this form of address from the rite pertaining to him. Hence some of the Greeks too follow suit and call the cry "sabasmos", they used to call "saboi" those places, dedicated to him and his Bacchantes... Demosthenes "On Behalf of Ktesiphon" [menti
Orpheus is a legendary musician and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. Some ancient Greek sources note Orpheus' Thracian origins. According to Tzeztes, his home was the Odrysian city of Bisaltia; the major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and stones with his music, his attempt to retrieve his wife, from the underworld, his death at the hands of those who could not hear his divine music. As an archetype of the inspired singer, Orpheus is one of the most significant figures in the reception of classical mythology in Western culture, portrayed or alluded to in countless forms of art and popular culture including poetry, opera and painting. For the Greeks, Orpheus was a prophet of the so-called "Orphic" mysteries, he was credited with the composition of the Orphic Argonautica. Shrines containing purported relics of Orpheus were regarded as oracles. Several etymologies for the name Orpheus have been proposed. A probable suggestion is that it is derived from a hypothetical PIE root *h₃órbʰos "orphan, slave" and the verb root *h₃erbʰ- "to change allegiance, ownership".
Cognates could include Greek ὄρφνη "darkness", Greek ὀρφανός "fatherless, orphan", from which comes English "orphan" by way of Latin. Fulgentius, a mythographer of the late 5th to early 6th century AD, gave the unlikely etymology meaning "best voice," "Oraia-phonos"; the earliest literary reference to Orpheus is a two-word fragment of the sixth-century BC lyric poet Ibycus: onomaklyton Orphēn. He is not mentioned in Hesiod. Most ancient sources accept his historical existence. Pindar calls Orpheus "the father of songs" and identifies him as a son of the Thracian king Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope. Greeks of the Classical age venerated Orpheus as the greatest of all musicians. Poets such as Simonides of Ceos said that Orpheus' music and singing could charm the birds and wild beasts, coax the trees and rocks into dance, divert the course of rivers. Orpheus was one of the handful of Greek heroes to visit the return; some sources credit Orpheus with further gifts to mankind: medicine, more under the auspices of Aesculapius or Apollo.
Orpheus was an seer. Pindar and Apollonius of Rhodes place Orpheus as the harpist and companion of Jason and the Argonauts. Orpheus had a brother named Linus, who became a Theban, he is claimed by Aristophanes and Horace to have taught cannibals to subsist on fruit, to have made lions and tigers obedient to him. Horace believed, that Orpheus had only introduced order and civilization to savages. Strabo presents Orpheus as a mortal, who died in a village close to Olympus. "Some, of course, received him willingly, but others, since they suspected a plot and violence, combined against him and killed him." He made money as a musician and "wizard" – Strabo uses agurteúonta used by Sophocles in Oedipus Tyrannus to characterize Teiresias as a trickster with an excessive desire for possessions. Agúrtēs most meant charlatan and always had a negative connotation. Pausanias writes of an unnamed Egyptian who considered Orpheus a mágeuse, i. e. magician. According to Apollodorus and a fragment of Pindar, Orpheus' father was Oeagrus, a Thracian king, or, according to another version of the story, the god Apollo.
His mother was the muse Calliope, her sister Polymnia, a daughter of Pierus, son of Makednos or lastly of Menippe, daughter of Thamyris. His birthplace and place of residence was in Pimpleia close to the Olympus. Strabo mentions. According to the epic poem Argonautica, Pimpleia was the location of Oeagrus' and Calliope's wedding. While living with his mother and her eight beautiful sisters in Parnassus, he met Apollo, courting the laughing muse Thalia. Apollo, as the god of music, taught him to play it. Orpheus' mother taught him to make verses for singing, he is said to have studied in Egypt. Orpheus is said to have established the worship of Hecate in Aegina. In Laconia Orpheus is said to have brought the worship of Demeter Chthonia and that of the Kóres Sōteíras. In Taygetus a wooden image of Orpheus was said to have been kept by Pelasgians in the sanctuary of the Eleusinian Demeter. According to Diodorus Siculus, Musaeus of Athens was the son of Orpheus; the Argonautica is a Greek epic poem written by Apollonius Rhodius in the 3rd century BC.
Orpheus used his skills to aid his companions. Chiron told Jason that without the aid of Orpheus, the Argonauts would never be able to pass the Sirens—the same Sirens encountered by Odysseus in Homer's epic poem the Odyssey; the Sirens lived on three small, rocky islands called Sirenum scopuli and sang beautiful songs that enticed sailors to come to them, which resulted in the crashing of their ships into the islands. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played music, louder and more beautiful, drowning out the Sirens' bewitching songs. According to 3rd century BC Hellenistic
In Greek mythology, Persephone called Kore, is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead, she becomes the queen of the underworld through her abduction by and subsequent marriage to Hades, the god of the underworld. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis and Osiris, in Minoan Crete. Persephone as a vegetation goddess and her mother Demeter were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which promised the initiated a more enjoyable prospect after death. In some versions, Persephone is the mother of Zeus' sons Iacchus, or Zagreus; the origins of her cult are uncertain, but it was based on old agrarian cults of agricultural communities. Persephone was worshipped along with Demeter and with the same mysteries.
To her alone were dedicated the mysteries celebrated at Athens in the month of Anthesterion. In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed carrying a sheaf of grain, she may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was represented in the process of being carried off by Hades. In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina. In a Linear B Mycenaean Greek inscription on a tablet found at Pylos dated 1400–1200 BC, John Chadwick reconstructed the name of a goddess, *Preswa who could be identified with Persa, daughter of Oceanus and found speculative the further identification with the first element of Persephone. Persephonē is her name in the Ionic Greek of epic literature; the Homeric form of her name is Persephoneia. In other dialects, she was known under variant names: Persephassa, Persephatta, or Korē. Plato calls her Pherepapha in his Cratylus, "because she is wise and touches that, in motion". There are the forms Periphona and Phersephassa; the existence of so many different forms shows how difficult it was for the Greeks to pronounce the word in their own language and suggests that the name may have a Pre-Greek origin.
Persephatta is considered to mean "female thresher of grain". A popular folk etymology is from φέρειν φόνον, pherein phonon, "to bring death"; the Romans first heard of her from the Aeolian and Dorian cities of Magna Graecia, who used the dialectal variant Proserpinē. Hence, in Roman mythology she was called Proserpina, a name erroneously derived by the Romans from proserpere, "to shoot forth" and as such became an emblematic figure of the Renaissance. At Locri uniquely, Persephone was the protector of marriage, a role assumed by Hera. In a Classical period text ascribed to Empedocles, c. 490–430 BC, describing a correspondence among four deities and the classical elements, the name Nestis for water refers to Persephone: "Now hear the fourfold roots of everything: enlivening Hera, shining Zeus. And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with tears."Of the four deities of Empedocles' elements, it is the name of Persephone alone, taboo—Nestis is a euphemistic cult title—for she was the terrible Queen of the Dead, whose name was not safe to speak aloud, euphemistically named as Kore or "the Maiden", a vestige of her archaic role as the deity ruling the underworld.
The epithets of Persephone reveal her double function as vegetation goddess. The surnames given to her by the poets refer to her character as Queen of the lower world and the dead, or her symbolic meaning of the power that shoots forth and withdraws into the earth, her common name as a vegetation goddess is Kore, in Arcadia she was worshipped under the title Despoina, "the mistress", a old chthonic divinity. Plutarch identifies her with spring and Cicero calls her the seed of the fruits of the fields. In the Eleusinian mysteries, her return is the symbol of immortality and hence she was represented on sarcophagi. In the mystical theories of the Orphics and the Platonists, Kore is described as the all-pervading goddess of nature who both produces and destroys everything, she is therefore mentioned along or identified with other mystic divinities such as Isis, Rhea, Ge, Pandora and Hecate; the Orphic Persephone is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, Iacchus and the little-attested Melinoe.
As a goddess of the underworld, Persephone was given euphemistically friendly names. However it is possible that some of them were the names of original goddesses: Despoina "the mistress" in Arcadia. Hagne, "pure" a goddess of the springs in Messenia. Melindia or Melinoia, as the consort of Hades, in Hermione. Melivia Melitodes Aristi cthonia, "the best chthonic". Praxidike, the Orphic Hymn to Persephone identifies Praxidike as an epithet
Hecate or Hekate is a goddess in ancient Greek religion and mythology, most shown holding a pair of torches or a key and in periods depicted in triple form. She was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, magic, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts and sorcery, she appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and in Hesiod's Theogony, where she is promoted as a great goddess. The place of origin of her following is uncertain, but it is thought that she had popular followings in Thrace. Hecate was one of the main deities worshiped in Athenian households as a protective goddess and one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family. In the post-Christian writings of the Chaldean Oracles she was regarded with rulership over earth and sky, as well as a more universal role as Saviour, Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul. Regarding the nature of her cult, it has been remarked, "she is more at home on the fringes than in the center of Greek polytheism. Intrinsically ambivalent and polymorphous, she straddles conventional boundaries and eludes definition."
The etymology of the name Hecate is unknown. Some suggestions derive the name from a Greek root: from ἑκών "willing", or from Ἑκατός Hekatos, an obscure epithet of Apollo interpreted as "the far reaching one" or "the far-darter", whence for the feminine form "she that operates from afar" or "she that removes or drives off". R. S. P. Beekes suggested a Pre-Greek origin. A possibility for foreign origin of the name may be Heqet, name of an Egyptian goddess of fertility and childbirth. In Early Modern English, the name was pronounced disyllabically and sometimes spelled Hecat, it remained common practice in English to pronounce her name in two syllables when spelled with final e, well into the 19th century. The spelling Hecat is due to Arthur Golding's 1567 translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, this spelling without the final E appears in plays of the Elizabethan-Jacobean period. Webster's Dictionary of 1866 credits the influence of Shakespeare for the then-predominant disyllabic pronunciation of the name.
Hecate originated among the Carians of Anatolia, the region where most theophoric names invoking Hecate, such as Hecataeus or Hecatomnus, the father of Mausolus, are attested, where Hecate remained a Great Goddess into historical times, at her unrivalled cult site in Lagina. While many researchers favor the idea that she has Anatolian origins, it has been argued that "Hecate must have been a Greek goddess." The monuments to Hecate in Phrygia and Caria are numerous but of late date. William Berg observes, "Since children are not called after spooks, it is safe to assume that Carian theophoric names involving hekat- refer to a major deity free from the dark and unsavoury ties to the underworld and to witchcraft associated with the Hecate of classical Athens." In particular, there is some evidence that she might be derived from the local sun goddesses, based on similar attributes. If Hecate's cult spread from Anatolia into Greece, it is possible it presented a conflict, as her role was filled by other more prominent deities in the Greek pantheon, above all by Artemis and Selene.
This line of reasoning lies behind the accepted hypothesis that she was a foreign deity, incorporated into the Greek pantheon. Other than in the Theogony, the Greek sources do not offer a consistent story of her parentage, or of her relations in the Greek pantheon: sometimes Hecate is related as a Titaness, a mighty helper and protector of humans. Shrines to Hecate were placed at doorways to both homes and cities with the belief that it would protect from restless dead and other spirits. Shrines to Hecate at three way crossroads were created where food offerings were left at the new moon to protect those who did so from spirits and other evils. Dogs were sacred to Hecate and associated with roads, domestic spaces and spirits of the dead. Dogs were sacrificed to the road; this can be compared to Pausanias' report that in the Ionian city of Colophon in Asia Minor a sacrifice of a black female puppy was made to Hecate as "the wayside goddess", Plutarch's observation that in Boeotia dogs were killed in purificatory rites.
Dogs, with puppies mentioned, were offered to Hecate at crossroads, which were sacred to the goddess. Hecate was a popular divinity, her cult was practiced with many local variations all over Greece and Western Anatolia. However, she did not have many known sanctuaries or temples dedicated to her aside from her most famous temple in Lagina. There was a Temple of Hecate in Argolis: "Over against the sanctuary of Eilethyia is a temple of Hekate, the image is a work of Skopas; this one is of stone, while the bronze images opposite of Hekate, were made by Polykleitos and his brother Naukydes." There were a shrine to Hecate in Aigina, where she was popular: "Of the gods, the Aiginetans worship most Hekate, in whose honour every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thrakian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple, it was Alkamenes, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hekate attached to one another."Aside from her own temples, Hecate was worshipped in the sanctuaries of other gods, where she was sometimes given her own space.
There was an area sacred to Hecate in the precincts of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, where the prie
The Caucasus or Caucasia is an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and occupied by Russia, Georgia and Armenia. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus mountain range, considered a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Europe's highest mountain, Mount Elbrus, at 5,642 metres is located in the west part of the Greater Caucasus mountain range. On the southern side, the Lesser Caucasus includes the Javakheti Plateau and grows into the Armenian highlands, part of, located in Turkey; the Caucasus region is separated into northern and southern parts – the North Caucasus and Transcaucasus, respectively. The Greater Caucasus mountain range in the north is within the Russian Federation, while the Lesser Caucasus mountain range in the south is occupied by several independent states, namely Georgia, Armenia and the recognised Artsakh Republic; the region is known for its linguistic diversity: aside from Indo-European and Turkic languages, the Kartvelian, Northwest Caucasian, Northeast Caucasian families are indigenous to the area.
The term Caucasus is not only used for the mountains themselves but includes Ciscaucasia and Transcaucasia. According to Alexander Mikaberidze, Transcaucasia is a "Russo-centric" term. Pliny the Elder's Natural History derives the name of the Caucasus from Scythian kroy-khasis. German linguist Paul Kretschmer notes that the Latvian word Kruvesis means "ice". In the Tale of Past Years, it is stated that Old East Slavic Кавкасийскыѣ горы came from Ancient Greek Καύκασος ), according to M. A. Yuyukin, is a compound word that can be interpreted as the "Seagull's Mountain" According to German philologists Otto Schrader and Alfons A. Nehring, the Ancient Greek word Καύκασος is connected to Gothic Hauhs as well as Lithuanian Kaũkas and Kaukarà. British linguist Adrian Room points out that Kau- means "mountain" in Pelasgian; the Transcaucasus region and Dagestan were the furthest points of Parthian and Sasanian expansions, with areas to the north of the Greater Caucasus range impregnable. The mythological Mount Qaf, the world's highest mountain that ancient Iranian lore shrouded in mystery, was said to be situated in this region.
In Middle Persian sources of the Sasanian era, the Caucasus range was referred to as Kaf Kof. The term resurfaced in Iranian tradition on in a variant form when Ferdowsi, in his Shahnameh, referred to the Caucasus mountains as Kōh-i Kāf. "Most of the modern names of the Caucasus originate from the Greek Kaukasos and the Middle Persian Kaf Kof"."The earliest etymon" of the name Caucasus comes from Kaz-kaz, the Hittite designation of the "inhabitants of the southern coast of the Black Sea". It was noted that in Nakh Ков гас means "gateway to steppe" The modern name for the region is similar in the many languages, is between Kavkaz and Kawkaz; the North Caucasus region is known as the Ciscaucasus, whereas the South Caucasus region is known as the Transcaucasus. The Ciscaucasus contains most of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, it consists of Southern Russia the North Caucasian Federal District's autonomous republics, the northernmost parts of Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Ciscaucasus lies between the Black Sea to its west, the Caspian Sea to its east, borders the Southern Federal District to its north.
The two Federal Districts are collectively referred to as "Southern Russia." The Transcaucasus borders the Greater Caucasus range and Southern Russia to its north, the Black Sea and Turkey to its west, the Caspian Sea to its east, Iran to its south. It contains surrounding lowlands. All of Armenia and Georgia are in the South Caucasus; the watershed along the Greater Caucasus range is perceived to be the dividing line between Europe and Southwest Asia. The highest peak in the Caucasus is Mount Elbrus located in western Ciscaucasus, is considered as the highest point in Europe; the Caucasus is one of the culturally diverse regions on Earth. The nation states that comprise the Caucasus today are the post-Soviet states Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation; the Russian divisions include Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia–Alania, Kabardino–Balkaria, Karachay–Cherkessia, Krasnodar Krai and Stavropol Krai, in clockwise order. Three territories in the region claim independence but are recognized as such by only a handful entities: Artsakh and South Ossetia.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized by the world community as part of Georgia, Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan. The region has language families. There are more than 50 ethnic groups living in the region. No fewer than three language families are unique to the area. In addition, Indo-European languages, such as Armenian and Ossetian, Turkic languages, such as Azerbaijani, Kumyk language and Karachay–Balkar, are spoken in the area. Russian is used as a lingua franca most notably in the North Caucasus; the peoples of the northern and southern Caucasus tend to be either Sunni Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Armenian Christians. Twelver Shi'
Uastyrdzhi is the name of Saint George in Ossetian folklore. Uastyrdzhi is the patron of travellers as well as being a guarantor of oaths; because of his association with fertility, it is forbidden for women to pronounce his name. Instead they must refer to him as лӕгты дзуар. Uastyrdzhi is invoked in the national anthem of North Ossetia-Alania, he is depicted as a horseman with a long beard. One of his cultic centers is a place called Hetag's Grove, a wood situated three kilometres outside of Alagir, near Suadag village. According to legend, St. Hetag was the son of an Alanian king who consecrated the grove to Uastyrdzhi. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the cult of Uastyrdzhi at St. Hetag's Grove in particular has enjoyed renewed popularity in Ossetian nationalism, there have been several claims of visitations; the attitude of the local Russian Orthodox Church towards Uastyrdzhi is ambivalent. The festival of Djiorgwyba is celebrated in Uastyrdzhi's honour in November, it involves the sacrifice of a one-year-old bullock.
To indicate that the victim belongs to the god, its right horn is cut off long before, forbidding any herdsman to swear on it. St Hetag's own feast day is on the first Sunday in July. Tetri Giorgi Uatsdin Shatana Saint George and the Dragon ОСЕТИНСКИЕ ПРАЗДНИКИ "Ossetian holidays" images of Hetag's Grove The Religion of Ossetia: Uastyrdzhi and Nart Batraz in Ossetian mythology Archived 2009-03-23 at the Wayback Machine, accessed November, 2008