There are very many legends around St. George (Mor Gewargis Sohdo) and the
story of his ressurection from death is probably one of them. Very little is
known authentically of the saint beyond that he was a soldier who was
persecuted for his faith at or near Lydda before the time of Constantine
(who died in AD 337). He is perhaps referred to but not by name in Eusebius
(Eccl. History 8.5). He became very popular in Palestine and its surrounds
in the 6th century when the legends of his exploits became popular. It is
only in the late 12th cent. that he was credited with the slaying of the
dragon and the belief became popular when it appeared in the 13th century
Golden Legend. This story was most likely influenced by the myth of Perseus'
slaying of the sea monster at Arsuf or Joppa, both cities in the
neighborhood of Lydda.
The Acts of St. George written originally in Greek most likely in Cappodocia
during the early fifth cent. exists today only in fragments. The Syriac
translation from the original Greek dates to the middle of the fifth cent.
The oldest Syriac manuscript of the Acts is preserved at the British Library
and was written around 600 AD. It is the earliest complete witness to the
text since all Greek texts before this time are in fragments.
As is common with hagiographical texts, the later versions of the Acts in
Greek, Garshuni (Arabic written in Syriac script), and many languages of the
East and West add many legends to the original Acts, often bordering on
pious fantasies. This is evident in the book Acts of St. George and the
Story of His Father by George Kiraz (Bar Hebraeus Verlag, Netherlands: 1991)
which presents the textual analysis of an Arabic text (Brit. Library, Add.
7209, dt 16th cent.) comparing it with the Syriac version. The legend of the
slaying of the dragon is an example. The Greek word "drakon" means just a
snake and in the original text is an epithet used of king Dadianus. The
Syriac version calls the king the "asp-serpent Dadianus." The Syriac edition
Vatican Borg. 169 also depicts a snake (see
. The dragon, conveying
the image of a large fiery animal, appears only in later Greek forms of the
original text dating to the tenth century and later, and in Latin versions.
It became very popular in the West in the Middle Ages, most likely
influenced by the passages from Revelation 12:7. The western Christians,
joining with the Byzantine Christians in the Crusades, elaborated and
misinterpreted the Greek traditions and devised their own versions of such
Despite such corruptions of the original story, the saint and martyr
inspires many faithful who seek his intercession all over the world.
Thomas Joseph, Ph.D.
Web Master, Syrian Orthodox Resources [ sor.cua.edu ]
Tech. Editor, Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies [ syrcom.cua.edu/Hugoye ]