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The dragon has long been a symbol of Wales. It features (in its proper red colour) on the national flag and is often to be found marking goods of Welsh origin. How did this exotic oriental beast find its way to Wales? The dragon was perhaps first seen in Wales in Roman times. The Romans were thought to have gained knowledge of the dragon from their Parthian enemies (in lands later to become part of the great Persian Empire) and it is to be seen carved on Trajan's column. It is possible that the dragon had been seen in  the West much earlier than this, as a result of Alexander the Great's epic journey which commenced it 334 B.C. Alexander marched as far as northern India and after his death, the break up of his mighty empire  saw an increase in trade with Africa and India and for the first time commerce with China. 

The Roman draco was a figure fixed by the head to the top of a staff, with body and tail floating in the air and was the model for the dragon standard used by the Anglo Saxons. In the Bayeux Tapestry, this device is depicted as the standard of King Harold, although written records seem to disagree.  In 1190 "the terrible standard of the dragon" was borne before the army of Richard Coeur-de-Lion in an attack at Messina. 

The seventh century Welsh hero Cadwaladr carried the dragon standard and the dragon had become a recognised symbol of Wales by the time Welsh archers were serving in the English army at the battle of Crecy in 1346. It is said that a dragon banner was thrown over the Black Prince when he was unhorsed at Crecy, in protection while his enemies were beaten off. The future King Henry VII carried the dragon banner at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This battle signalled the end of the War of the Roses between Lancastrian and Yorkist factions and led to unification. Henry later decided that the red dragon should figure on the official  flag of Wales. |


 John Weston / Data Wales 2000
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