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April 25, 2011

Greek Epithets of Saint George the Great Martyr

In the Orthodox Church, we give many and various epithets to the names of our Saints, either out of reverence or for some miracle or for any other reason. More than any of our Saints, the Theotokos has the most epithets applied to her name by far by the faithful. Below are some epithets applied to one of Orthodoxy's most popular and miracle working saints - Saint George the Great Martyr.

In Ofis of Pontus they called Saint George by the name Saint Aeris (Saint Aerial). Also in Pontus the Turks called him Aerts (Saint George) and knew him as O Zanton (Of the Wheel) because he was tortured on the wheel and in turn he was believed to torture their minds and drive them crazy as a punishment.

In Thrace they knew him as Arapi (the Black) or Arakleiano (of Herakleia) because a miraculous image of his was in Herakleia in the Propontis that was carved of hard black wood that gave him a black face.

In Thissio they called Saint George Akamati (the Lazy), because the Turks allowed the church dedicated to him to only celebrate the Divine Liturgy on his feast day on April 23.

In the olden days, many Greek people would often call Saint George Afenti (Master or Boss) out of respect for his position in the heavenly army and over their lives as a protector.

In Kastoria and other places they would call him Gorgos (Speedy) because he was a speedy helper, a speedy visitor and a speedy protector.

In Crete Saint George is widely known as Diasoritis which is believed to derive from his association with Zeus, who is known in Greek as Dia, or the association of the name "God" with Dia, thus meaning "Priest of Zeus". However, this epithet is probably of toponymic character and derives from the ancient name of Ortaköy (the traditional birth place of St. George in Cappadocia), or, according to another version, from the name of the monastery on Amorgos Island within the Cyclades. The expression Diasoritis is usually linked to the composition modelled on the image from the monastery, where the Saint is presented frontally, from the waist up, with a lance in his right hand and a round shield in his left (read more here).

Another epithet for Saint George is Disouritis (of Dysuria), because he is known to heal people with dysuria. In the Monastery of Xenophontos on Mount Athos there is a fresco of Saint George known as Disouritis.

In Imvros they call Saint George Zouros, because he heals zoura, tuberculosis and withering, for those who leave their rags in the chapel.

St. George is often called Wonderworker, Trophy-bearer, or the Great. He is called the first from his numerous miracles which he works for those who call upon him in faith. The second because he won many trophies, in other words victories and triumphs in the Roman Empire as an officer. But chiefly in the Church of Christ he triumphs against every evil and conqueres the devil. And he is called “the Great” because he is perceived as the greatest and chief of the champions and martyrs.

In Kaso he is named St. Kallaris, and elsewhere St. Kavalaris (the Horseman), because he is a Saint that rides a horse.

Others call St. George the Cappadocian, because Cappadocia was the home of his father and his place of origin. He is also called the Palestinian, after his mother's homeland of Palestine and the place of his tomb.

In Chios and Limne there is a church of St. George with the name Katadoti (the Snitch). In this church the Christians gathered to plan for the revolution against the Genoans. Someone, however, betrayed them and they were all slaughtered.

In the Princes' Islands he is called Koudounas (the Bell), because on his icon people hang bells, symbols of insanity, which all believe he will heal them of. And there if one wants to say that someone is not well, he says: “He is for the Bell”.

On his feast on November 3rd [the dedication of the church of the Saint in Lydda] he is named tou Krasa (of the Wine), or tou Methysti (of the Drunk), because on that day they open the new bottles of wine.

In Cyprus he is called St. George tou Sporou, or elsewhere tou Sporari, because from his feast day begins the sowing of seeds by the farmers.

In Psomathia of Constantinople there is a church of the Saint, and in the outer courtyard there is a great cypress which burned in 1782. From this they called the Saint Kyparissa (the Cypress). In 1882, because of this story, Patriarch Constantios planted a new cypress.

In many areas the Saint is perceived as the protector of fishermen and they continually call on him to help them in fishing. And if it doesn't go well, they call him Paximadoklefti [Dry Bread Stealer].

In an area of Messenia called Giannitsa, near the Saint's church it appears that there are traces of horse footprints which people believe are from his horse, and because of this they call him Petaloti (the Horseshoe).

In various places he is called St. Stratego (St. Soldier) for the position which it appears he had.

In Crete, when at one point they built a church to him, some went to fish to pay the workers. They caught so many fish that they named his church St. George tou Psaropiasti (the Fish-Catcher).

On Mount Athos there is a monastic cell named St. George tou Phaneromenou (the Revealed One). It is a cell far from Karyes. 200 years ago, one night, pirates went to rob the two old monks who were staying there. A young man opened to them in kindness and was brought to the leader, and he said that he would call the Elder. The robbers waited for a while, and because they didn't see anyone they began to steal. However, then they felt that they were invisibly bound. They shouted, and they awoke the fathers who saw them bound. When they learned what had occurred, they brought the icon of St. George from the church and the thieves recognized the young man. Immediately they fell down and venerated the Saint in repentance. One of them went and lived in asceticism in Karoulia, where he built a chapel dedicated to St. George. After this miracle the cell took the name: St. George Phaneromenos.

Many times they give the Saint the name of the founders of the church, e.g. St. George O Machairas, or St. George O Trachys, and both of these churches are in Naxos. The one was opened by the Machairadon family, the other by a family named Trachy. In Constantinople there is a church of St. George O Agridianos, while in Chios they call him Pezostrato or Ketoktono.

These are just a sampling of the many epithets of Saint George, which the Greek people have called him over the years.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As the liberator of captives, and the defender of the poor, physician of the sick and champion of kings, O Trophy-bearer, Great Martyr George, intercede with Christ God to save our souls.

Source: Translated and edited by John Sanidopoulos.