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by John palliser the welsh dragon made up of things he associats with wales Welsh Dragon (Welsh: Y Ddraig Goch “the red dragon”, pronounced [ə ˈðraiɡ ˈɡɔχ]) appears on the national flag of Wales (the flag itself is also called “Y Ddraig Goch”). The oldest recorded use of the dragon to Original oil on canvass by John palliser the welsh dragon made up of things he associats with wales symbolise Wales is from the Historia Brittonum, written around 820, but it is popularly supposed to have been the battle standard of King Arthur and other ancient Celtic leaders.The Welsh flag has two equal horizontal stripes, white above green, and a large red dragon passant. The dragon standard was perhaps first seen in Britain in the shape of the “draco” a standard carried by the cohorts of the Roman legion. The Romans appear to have been inspired by the dragon standard carried by their Dacian and Parthian enemies and had adopted this device by the third century. Carl Lofmark (see below) argues that the dragon of the cohort was more familiar to the British than was the eagle standard of the legions. As Roman legions withdrew at the end of the fourth century and the British were left alone to face Saxon attacks, the dragon would have been a natural symbol for those who wished to preserve their Romanised way of life against the barbarian invader.

The ancient poets Aneirin and Taliesin use the Welsh word for dragon “draig” in the sense of “warrior” or “leader” and this usage remained to the Middle Ages. In the Historia Brittonum (ascribed to Nennius) of around 800 A.D. the dragon is seen as a symbol of national independence in the story of the red dragon battling with the white dragon of the Saxon enemy.

At the time of the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the dragon symbol seems to have been used by both sides. The Bayeux tapestry shows king Harold close to a dragon standard as he falls and the dragon also appears on the pennant of one of duke William’s messengers. (There is a drawing of this on our page about pedigrees and coats of arms in Wales.)

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