The youth followed his father's example by joining the army soon after coming of age. He proved to be a good soldier and consequently rose through the military ranks of the time. By his late twenties he had gained the title of Tribunus (Tribune) and then Comes (Count), at which time George was stationed in Nicomedia as a member of the personal guard attached to Roman Emperor Diocletian.
According to the hagiography, in 303 Diocletian issued an edict authorizing the systematic persecution of Christians across the Empire. The emperor Galerius was supposedly responsible for this decision and would continue the persecution during his own reign (305–311). George was ordered to take part in the persecution but instead confessed to being a Christian himself and criticized the imperial decision. An enraged Diocletian ordered the torture of this apparent traitor, and his execution.
After various tortures, beginning with being lascerated on a wheel of swords, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia's defensive wall on April 23, 303. The witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honor him as a martyr.
Veneration As A SaintA church built in Lydda during the reign of Constantine I (reigned 306–337), was consecrated to "a man of the highest distinction", according to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea; the name of the patron was not disclosed, but later he was asserted to have been George. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.
Saint George and the Dragon
The episode of St George and the Dragon was Eastern in origin, brought back with the Crusaders and retold with the courtly appurtenances belonging to the genre of Romance (Loomis; Whatley). The earliest known depiction of the mytheme is from early eleventh-century Cappadocia (Whately), (in the iconography of the Eastern Orthodox Church, George had been depicted as a soldier since at least the seventh century); the earliest known surviving narrative text is an eleventh-century Georgian text (Whatley)