St. George of Cappadocia (~ of Lydda),
Georgios Γεώργιος [Gk.]; [Copt.]; Mar Jirjis مار جرجس [Arabic]; Gewergis (Giwergis) [ Syriac]; Gevorg Գէորգ [Armenian] Georgius [L.]; other lang.(Wiki)
ho drakon ὁ δράκων [Gk.]; pi-drakon [Copt.]; al-tinin االتنين [Arabic]
§ An abstract
This article discusses the less familiar early Christian form of the St. George legend. (Very different from Voragine's Latin Golden Legend version).
The tales are found in Greek manuscripts (fragment, early 5th century, etc.), whose text is edited and printed in the compilation Acta Sanctorum *1 but it is not so readily accessible (and apparently untranslated). Luckily, there are Coptic versions (5th-6th century) in a form dating as early or perhap earlier than the surviving Greek, which have been translated by Budge and can be read online*2.
Here are some of the pointers on the older legend:
* George was indeed brought up as soldier but brandished the sword only during his military career, thereafter relinquishing his accumulated wealth and station. His great deeds as a holy man consist of surviving several attempts on his life, causing wood to turn into living wood, and restoring life and sight of the needy.
* St. George is supposed to have lived during the reign of Roman emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century.
* It is crucial to remember that in addition to Diocletian, there were three co-emperors appointed by him involved in Christian persecution, and they all shared a similar background of having "Eastern European" roots and humble origins.
* The "dragon" who became St. George's adversary was no monster but a Greek nickname for the emperor / co-emperor who promulgated "Draconian laws".
* This "dragon" went by the name of Dadianus/Dacianus and can reasonably be identified with the co-emperor Galerius.
* The "maiden saved from dragon" in later St. George legends probably derives from Alexandra, the wife of Dadianus/Dacianus, who is converted to the faith, tortured, and martyred herself.
§ Upbringing of Georgios the Soldier
St. George was born into family of governors in the Middle East and lived to see Diocletian's persecution of Christians.
The Coptic synaxarion (synexarium) for his "feast day" of Baramoudah 23 (Pharmûthi 23) says flat out that St. George was born in Capadoccia, that he was the son of Anastasius and Theobste (or Theopista), and that his father died when he was aged twenty.
However, the Encomium ascribed to Theodotus, the most informative Coptic text on St. George's family background gives a differing account in which St. George is not really born in Capadoccia.
According to this encomium, George or Georgios [Copt.] styled himself as a native both "of Melitene" , a city on the far eastern reaches of Cappadocia , and "of Diospolis" (= Lydda in Palestine, see map), even though Melitene/Cappadocia were really the places where his father stemmed from, wheras Diospolis/Lydda was where George was born, grew up, and was buried*3.
George's father Anastasius was at age 25 appointed "governor (eparch[os] [Copt.]) over Melitene and the whole country of Palestine".
Then he embarked on a bride-search in his home-town of Melitene, only to be told by people there that he seek out an eligible bachelorette in Diospolis. She was named Kîra Theognôsta and after taking her for wife Anastasius "forgot Cappadocia and his parents; and he lived in Palestine until God visited him there".
Out of the union was born Giorgios, but when the boy was ten (and his sisters Kasiâ and Matôna aged six and two), the father died.
The boy was then brought up by Justus, the man who succeeded as governor and given military training, and assigned command of 5,000 men under him. He was betrothed to Justus's daughter but ended up being celibate because God had other designs for him.
§ On St. George's Adversary Dadianus "the dragon" being Galerius
The figure who persecutes and finally executes St. Georgia is "the king of Persia"*4 Dadianus/Dacianus nicknamed "the dragon" (pi-drakwn [Copt.]; δράκων [Gk.]*5, al-tinin االتنين [Arabic] *6).
It seems plain enough that the epithet "the dragon" is primarily a reference to the fact that this king issued or enforced "Draconian laws" in the manner of Drakon of Athens. Secondarily, he is probably being compared to the apocalyptic dragon.
However this "Dadianus" should not then automatically be equated with the Christian-opressing Roman emperor Diocletian [Gaius Aurelius Velerius Diocletianus] (reigned 284-305), as is commonly being bandied about. (e.g. Catholic Encyclopedia: St. George). This is because Diocletian appointed three other co-emperors who acted as regional promulgators of the Christian-purging edicts.
And as Budge points out*7, Dadianus/Dacian can be more plausibly identified with co-emperor Galerius [Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus].
Although the co-emperors come from a similar geographic area (Eastern Europe), it was Galerius who was from near Serdica [*present-day Sofia in Bulgaria] which was in Thrace but Diocletian's geopolitcal reorganization mae it become part of a territory falling within "Dacia Mediterranea." So Galerius being from Dacia would naturally be called Dacianus (corrupted to Dadianus in the Coptic redactions).
There might be a pejorative bent to this appelation, as 'Dacian' hints at someone being a slave *8, alluding to the man's humble origins (a peasant's son). This tidbit might tilt slightly in favor of Diocletian who was in fact a son of a freed slave. (grecii, dupa ce au furat tot de la noi, neam , se pare, in mare parte pelasg si ei, ne-au numit tarani/sclavi, clasic, n.a.)
But other pieces fall into place so well for Galerius that this identification as Dacian/Dadianus seems all but unshakable*9, viz.:
* Diocletian at first observed toleration of the Christian faith, but changed his policy to that of persecution apparently at the instigation of Galerius.
* Galerius was appointed Caesar*10 in charge of the Balkans and Asia Minor, thus best matching the "governor of Persia" profile.
* Galerius contracted a disfiguring disease in 310 which he came to believe was heavenly retribution for his ill-treatment of Christians. Though he grudgingly allowed tolerance of Christian practice, he died in 311. Thus in a sense he was vanquished and avenged by his martyred Christian victims.
§ A Digression: Eusebius's influence
Ample evidence notwithstanding, why have accounts failed to identify Galerius ?
It seems this has much to do with Eusebius of Caesarea, a Christian historian who was a living contemporary of the Diocletian persecutions, and is regarded as such an authority he is accorded the nickname "father of church history".
It is a point of fact that Eusebius fails to record the martyrdom of one such as St. George, or of the queen converted to Christianity by him and who suffered death as well. But so desperate have been the desire of some scholars to find record of St. George in Eusebius, that they've gone as far as try to identify the saint in an account of some unnamed soldier who tore down anti-Christian edicts.
Now, Eusebius however came up with a list of the "Ten (Great) Persecutions" suffered by the Christian of early times, naming Roman rulers as the perpetrators. In the tenth persecution, only Diocletian and co-emperor Maximian are named. This is probably why these same two get named in the late Latin Legenda Aurea version of St. George's martyrdom.
Deci, pe scurt, Galerius, imparatul dac al Romei, este simbolul raului omorat de vointa divina. De aia si este reprezentat raul ca un dragon sau dracon sau ceva asemanator. Am un sentiment ca denumirea de "drac" cam tot de acolo vine. Foarte frumos. Asta cu noi, d(r)acii, nu e noua, din anul 300, ci mai veche, cam pe la Geneza, ahriman (dracul) fiind din tara Gog, a lui Magog, aia rea, plina de fiinte gigantice si demonice, de la nord de Dunare si vecina cu Marea Neagra.
Oricum, mie mi se pare fascinant cum o zeitate tracica - Heros/Heron/Gebeleizis/Cavalerul Trac/Invictus (Nebiruitul)/Aeternus (Veşnicul)/ ΚαταχΘδνιος (Stăpânul morţilor)/ Κτvξστης - Întemeietorul de neamuri - ce era raspandita in Europa, vestul Asiei si nordul Africii, a fost transformata in Sfantul Gheorghe, cei care au dat-o umanitatii fiind transformati in lighioana impunsa cu sulita. Adevarul e ca, uneori, parca am senzatia paranoica cum ca cineva pe lumea asta ne poarta sambetele, noi fiind la capatul ascutit al sulitei...
Brusc, si asta nu mai e o senzatie, incep sa realizez de unde vin teoria cu disparitia dacilor, latinizarea si alte prostii de genul asta. Dar nu mai spun, ca poate v-ati prins si voi deja.
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25 mar. 2010
St. George and "the dragon"(Dacianus) — early biographies
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