The region of Umbria is rich in legends, myths, tales and stories that have been passed down for centuries and are part of the traditions, the history and the culture, also significantly determining the region’s identity. These legends include one very well-known tale about the city of Terni.
This is the legend of the dragon of Terni which also explains why the city’s emblem depicts a dragon.
The legend of the dragon of Terni
This legend is set in the very distant past and tells the story of a dragon who lived in the area of Terni and terrified the local population. In fact, anyone leaving their house was at the risk of encountering the terrible creature, which would attack and kill anyone in its path. Its pestilent breath was especially dangerous, as its terrible stench could suffocate and kill.
Essentially this monster was the bane that needed to be eliminated. The city’s Council of Elders therefore decided to recruit a few men who had the reputation for being particularly brave and valiant and asked them to kill the beast. But each one of these men found reasons or excuses not to show up. It seemed there was no hope until one day a young knight of the Cittadini family showed up: this boy offered to face the dragon, determined to free the city of this terrible menace. Confident, he started covering the area around the walls of Terni searching for his formidable rival. Legend has it he found the dragon asleep and decided to take this chance to strike, but just as he was about to kill it, the dragon woke up. As he charged towards the young man, however, something unexpected happened: a ray of light shone on the knight’s armour, blinding the dragon. The boy didn’t hesitate and slayed the beast. Finally Terni was free and the inhabitants held a long celebration for the young knight.
The meaning of the legend
Legends are often metaphors or creative explanations of real facts and events. It seems probable that this also applies to the dragon of Terni. The deaths caused by the dragon could be seen as the loss of lives caused by malaria, which was once very common in the marshy areas of the Terni area, which is coincidentally where, according to legend, the dragon lived. The brave knight who killed the beast would seem to represent the bonification of the land to fight the frequent epidemics.