George was born to a Christian family during the late 3rd century. His father was from Cappadocia and served as an officer of the Roman army. His mother was from Lydda, (now Lod, Israel). She returned to her native city as a widow along with her young son, where she provided him with an education.
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 Tribune and then 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 lacerated 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 honour him as a martyr.