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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George in Tbilisi, Georgia
Could this be where Georgia got its name?

Marcel posts about Saint George, which prompts me to do a little reading, wherein I turn up some interesting tidbits:
Saint George (AD 275–281 to 23 April 303), was a Roman soldier and military officer in the Guard of Emperor Diocletian of the Roman army, who ordered his death for failing to recant his Christian faith. As a Christian martyr, he later became one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.
He failed to recant his faith? How do you do that? Did he mispronounce a couple of words in the official recantation speech? I think it is more likely that he refused to recant his faith. This is something that continues to baffle me: people who let themselves be tortured in a most horrible manner because they refuse to say a few words. Then again, we have the Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in SE Asia during the Vietnam era because they couldn't stand listening to the government's bullshit anymore. (That's the only explanation I've come across that made any sense.)

Nicomedia is just off the right edge of the map.
Saint George likely was born to a Christian noble family in Lydda, Syria Palaestina, during the late third century between about 275 and 285. He died in Nicomedia in Anatolia.
Nicomedia was the eastern and most senior capital city of the Roman Empire between 286 and 324, during the Tetrarchy introduced by Diocletian

St. Geoge didn't live very long, but he sure made a name for himself. How he got to be an Englishman escapes me. In case you didn't know, he's famous for killing the dragon and rescuing the girl. Being as this happened 1700 years ago we can't be sure of exactly what happened, but here's a good summary:
In the fully developed Western version, which developed as part of the Golden Legend, a dragon or crocodile makes its nest at the spring that provides water for the city of "Silene" (perhaps modern Cyrene, Libya or the city of Lydda in Syria Palaestina, depending on the source). Consequently, the citizens have to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, to collect water. To do so, each day they offer the dragon at first a sheep, and if no sheep can be found, then a virgin maiden is the best substitute for one. The victim is chosen by drawing lots. One day, this happens to be the princess. The monarch begs for her life to be spared, but to no avail. She is offered to the dragon, but then Saint George appears on his travels. He faces the dragon, protects himself with the sign of the cross, slays the dragon, and rescues the princess. The citizens abandon their ancestral paganism and convert to Christianity.
Christ almighty, those villagers must have been pretty damn desperate to be sacrificing people to get water. And George just happens to show up on the day that the princess was the chosen victim? What are the odds? One more day and there wouldn't have been any young women to sacrifice. And why would they be sacrificing young women? Wouldn't old folks be a more reasonable choice? I know, I know, it wouldn't make as good a story. Hollywood isn't doing anything new, evidently the monks were Hollywood-izing their stories a thousand years ago.

You know how people talk about how old books are rare and valuable and this is the only in existence? Well, there were best sellers in the good old days too. The Golden Legend is one:
The Golden Legend (Latin: Legenda aurea or Legenda sanctorum) is a collection of hagiographies by Jacobus de Voragine that became a late medieval bestseller. More than a thousand manuscripts of the text have survived. It was likely compiled around the year 1260, although the text was added to over the centuries.
Saint George of Lydda by Hans von Kulmbach, circa 1510
This looks like medieval armor, but George lived 1200 years before this. Did they even have armor back then?

Roman body armor
They did. It wasn't as fancy or all encompassing as medieval armor, but yes, they covered the body with metal plates. The plates were made of iron, which must have been gawd awful expensive back then. Just goes to show that exorbitant spending on defense is nothing new.

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

I'm sure the old men have the power and they decide who to sacrifice, they certainly wouldn't pick one of their own. And in those times , finding a VIRGIN maiden over 12 must have been pretty tough. And the princess was one of the ones drawing lots, I doubt that