St George: The Evolution of a Saint and his Dragon

St. George then looking around about The fiery dragon soon espy'd, And like a knight of courage stout, Against him did most fiercely ride... And thus within the lady's view This mighty dragon straight he slew. An article by P.J. Hogarth. 

The conventional image of St. George is familiar to us all; the knight thrusting his lance down the gullet of a ferocious monster, or slashing at it with his sword, while the princess looks on with an expression of becoming piety. St. George and his dragon are as firmly fixed in art as in the popular imagination. What was the origin of this legend? Who was St. George, and what was the dragon?

The accepted version is based on two related main sources, one Greek, the other Latin. According to the Greek tradition, dating from the sixth century but based on earlier material, the saint was born in Cappadocia, in modern Turkey, of Christian parents. While George was still a child, his father died for his faith, and mother and child fled to Palestine. George grew up there and eventually joined the Roman army where he served, naturally, with distinction. On his mother's death he used his inheritance to establish a position at the court of the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, who ruled from AD 284-305.

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