Saint George (Greek: Γεώργιος Geṓrgios; Latin: Georgius; AD 275–281 to 23 April 303), according to legend, was a Roman soldier of Greek origin and officer in the Guard of Roman emperor Diocletian, 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.
In hagiography, as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and one of the most prominent military saints, he is immortalised in the myth of Saint George and the Dragon. His memorial, Saint George's Day, is traditionally celebrated on the Julian date of April 23 (currently May 6 according to the Gregorian calendar). Numerous countries, cities, professions and organisations claim Saint George as their patron.
Eastern Orthodox depictions of Saint George slaying a dragon often include the image of a young woman who looks on from a distance. The standard iconographic interpretation of the image icon is that the dragon represents both Satan (Rev. 12:9) and the monster from his life story. The young woman is the wife of Diocletian, Empress Alexandra. Thus, the image, as interpreted through the language of Byzantine iconography, is an image of the martyrdom of the saint.
The episode of George and the dragon was a legend brought back with the Crusaders and retold with the courtly appurtenances belonging to the genre of chivalric romance. The earliest known depiction of the legend is from early 11th-century Cappadocia (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 11th-century Georgian text.
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.