St George was actually Turkish — take that, racists!
Aren't I clever and high status for pointing this out?
Is there a lamer English tradition than the annual St George’s Day hot take about how England’s patron saint came from what is now Turkey and never even visited England? Take that, racists!
Happy St George’s Day, a day plastic patriots and racists ignore St George was a migrant worker from and in the Middle East who they’d ban from a UK he never visited anyway.
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) April 23, 2021
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It used to be a bit of a comment section slot in the 2000s, where we would be informed each year how St George — whose flag is most commonly displayed by English football fans and other untermenschen — was askshually a Middle Eastern refugee and your sort would probably vote to deport him, you grotesque proles and purple-faced golf club bigots. (I’m paraphrasing, slightly.) Then it became a tweeting tradition during the Brexit wars, which began with the rise of Ukip in 2014 and ended with Boris Johnson killing the European Super League in 2021.
As I may have written once or twice before, political beliefs act as status markers where other status markers (accents) are levelled out or freely available to too many people (cars, electronic goods, foreign holidays). Cosmopolitanism is the ultimate upper-middle-class status marker, the mark of urban elite status, along with a degree and a house; it is therefore all the more strongly emphasised by the more insecure members of that class, what Mary Harrington calls the “everywhere precariat”.
Their political beliefs are deliberately cultivated to mark them out from the class below them, the instinctively Right-wing Middle Englanders. The class above them, the actual international elite of finance, are so genuinely international they don’t care.
The problem with adopting a political view as a fashion is that fashions change and your worldview starts to look a bit, well, low-status. St George is a boring talking point because it doesn’t contradict any actual claims, and the idea that foreign influences on a national culture negates the existence of a separate national culture is a straw man. (The straw man comes from Greece, by the way.) No one believes that national cultures emerge from spontaneous generation.
Our national religion originates in the Middle East, as does our alphabet; what does that say about 21st century multicultural England? Almost nothing.
The cult of St George had had a strong association with England since the time of the crusaders, when he was adopted by Norman and English knights, although it was during the Hundred Year’s War with France that he became established as a national saint.
On this day in 1348, Edward had celebrated the great victory at Crécy by initiating the Order of the Garter, inviting 25 knights to sit with him and form an order of chivalry, with St George as patron. And as the mighty king sat down at Windsor with the bravest men in the kingdom, one noble knight turned to him and said “Assskhuallly I think you’ll find St George was from Turkey, you moron, you idiot. I am very intelligent.”
He’s also the patron saint of Georgia, and Ethiopia among others (I imagine they don’t get quite so agitated). His cross is on the badge of AC Milan, Barcelona and others.
I guess this is because throughout history people moved around and copied, coopted, stole, or paid sincere tribute to other people and their traditions.
This was a diffusive process known as ‘history’ and few people cared about it; it is now known as cultural appropriation, aka theft, and loads of people now get worked up on Twitter about it – probably while failing to even imagine where their own culture came from.
I think it was because in the Catholic culture there was (is) the ‘community of saints’ which knew no individual kingdoms, no national borders.
‘Communion of saints’? – a phrase I did not know, thank you. Maybe part of the warp and weft. ‘Furta Sacra’ is quite a fascinating little book about the theft of relics and there are many other examples in Robert Bartletts ‘Why can the dead do such great things’. Venice is a famous example – St Mark’s relics being stolen from Alexandria. For something apparently spiritual it could be quite a shady business – no surprise there.
You are aware that Georgia is predominantly an Orthodox Christian country, are you not, Judy. Ethiopian Christians are also predominantly Orthodox, although their church is not in communion with the churches of Eastern Orthodoxy, as is the Georgian Orthodox Church.
St Andrew never set foot in Scotland, and his only connection with it is a highly dubious claim that his remains were brought there 600 years after his death; St Patrick never chased a snake anywhere. The point about patron saints’ days is to give a structure for people around the world to feel pride in their country. Well, except for the English, who are lambasted for it at home and away.
Cue all the usual nonsense come 23rd April. England cannot (and does not) celebate St George (whoever he really was) because of course anything English is QED by definition racist it seems.
Of course the strongly nationlistic celebrations of Sts Patrick, Andrew, David and so on are not racist at all are they? As for St George being Turkish – that of course is utter nonsense – for a start there was nowhere called Turkey in St George’s day – it was another 600 years before the first Turkic invaders entered Asia Minor. If he came from Anatolia, he was probably Greek – or hellenized local – George being a Greek name and Anatolia being part of the Roman Empire and later Greco-Roman Byzantine Empire – the Turks came later – and called themselves Ottomans in any case.
Not that I’d mind if he was Turkish, I quite like Turks myself and the fact that the ‘English’ i.e. that happy band of all sorts of people, adopt a Greco-Roman soldier from Anatolia is proof – along with our passion for food from all over the world and our open and welcoming society – if any was needed – that the English are the least racist people.
I think Ed West is right on this one. People who point out George’s origins do it to signal to people who think patriotism is all a bit silly that they agree. And people like Ed who write articles about them doing it are signalling to people who don’t think patriotism is a bit silly. And people who write BTL comments about all this virtue signalling are virtue signalling to other people who think the whole discussion is a bit silly.
That’s pretty much as succinct a summation of journalism, social media and the British culture war as I’ve read (although that’s exactly what you’d expect from a very smart, 3rd tier virtue signaller such as me).
Is there a Ministry of Silly Saints to whom we can write to complain?
But there was an English patron saint of England before the dragon-slayer cult took off: St Edmund. And his story is a whole lot more exciting. Royalty, murderous Vikings, martyrdom, a talking wolf; it’s got the lot.
Wonderful ! Is that in Bede? Another great English saint..
Shot full of arrows by the Viking Great Army and then decapitated, Anglo Saxon warrior and king, Edmund then became the Patron Saint of England. Edward III then replaced him with St George.
Today is Saint Jordi’s day in Catalonia – Jordi being George – the day when a Book and a Rose are enchanged – the rose for Saint George (also patron saint of Catalonia, and of course Georgia), the book for Shakespeare and Cervantes as the anniversary day of each’s death. It would be a habit that would fit comfortably in England and fill a gap for a day that no-one otherwise really knows what to do with, and which mealy-mouthed commentators like to treat with hectoring disdain.
Do Catalans hector each other about Jordi really being Turkish, you know?
St George was around long before the invasion of Asia Minor by Turkish immigrants. He would have been Greek, if anything.
Turkish armies, very different…I think.
In fact, there’s incredibly little evidence St George actually existed at all. The earliest stories about him seem to come from Persia, not Turkey. Mind you, none of this stuff — which always seems to appear on this day every year from the “enlightened” middle classes who think they’re telling you things you didn’t already know — invalidates a persons right to be fond of his country.
You’ll be telling me next that the chap in his red cloak in December doesn’t exist.
Oh, we know St Nicholas certainly existed. He’s well documented, though not necessarily for the reasons most people associate with him. He is recorded as having hung a right on the heretic bishop Arius at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD. Actually, I like that image of him better.
No but England’s other Saint St.Edmond(sbury) did
I would suggest that St George might be an early Christian transfer of the Roman soldier god Mithras. His origins are in Turkey or further east in Persia, and the main iconography is Mithras slaying a bull. Mithraism would have been brought to Britain by Roman soldiers
Of course St George wasn’t Turkish or indeed from Turkey which didn’t exist. He was a Greek from Asia Minor in the Roman army. But what would I know, I’m not a TV Professor or a tabloid hack
Perhaps a bit off-topic (because I really and honestly don’t give a monkey’s about any patron saint, or their designated “days”) but there’s a new moniker for the cosmopolitan liberal elite mentioned: “Lifestyle Lefties”. Coined by the German politician Sahra Wagenknecht to describe self-styled Lefties who aren’t quite so bothered about the traditional social and economic concerns of the left as they are about virtue-signalling about their own consumption behaviour, moral stances and lifestyle choices. Related to the concept of the Champagne Socialist.
I do find a lot of Wagenknecht’s views a bit bananas, but I still like to read what she writes because it’s mostly well thought-out and she’s unafraid to annoy others, not least in her own party. Brave lady.
Since, by definition, an elite is at the top of the tree, the “Upper Middle Class” cannot be members of it, since there is an Upper Class (whether the aristocracy or the very wealthy) above them. Their situation is akin to the 600th best tennis player in the world. He is undoubtedly better than you, but he is not elite. There is, after all, nothing less elite than trying to show you are a member of it.
But Ed was specifically talking about the ‘urban elite’. Presumably the upper class or aristocracy are country folk (as in they own large chunks of it).
It might just be my own idiosyncratic definition, but I wouldn’t say a journalist for example who lives in Crouch End is really elite compared to a hedge fund manager with a townhouse in Belgravia.
I agree. I think Ed’s view of hedge fund managers is that they are a sort of planetary elite.
I’m not sure you can really separate the “planetary elite” from local elite. They do, after all, live somewhere and are, presumably, part of the elite there. Indeed, their ability to move seamlessly across borders might be another reason to see them as having a greater claim to elite status than those who cannot.
Can we please appreciate the caption to the photo?
Both of these people are Turkish
Made me chuckle
One of the joys of Unherd are the captions. Quality subbing.
Pedantry alert – ‘Turkey’ wasn’t Turkish then. Anatolia was part of the Greek (and hence, at the time, Roman) world. He might even have been of Hittite ancestry – other candidates are available.
How on earth did your nomen get past the Censor?
Do these people really think there were Turks in fourth-century Anatolia?
Well St George was not a Turk. They came later. As a Christian he could hardly be esteemed by a country that is responsible for horrendous ethnic cleansing and forcing the indigenous Greek population to leave. Not to mention vicious religious intolerance. However, those that would criticise countries like Australia and England will not mention the misdeed of those who hate us.
Not Turkish. Seljuk Turks arrived in the 11th century,and Ottoman Turks a few hundred years later. St George was Syrian. Syria was populated by Romans, Greeks, descendants of the Phoenicians and some exiled Egyptians. Syrian Christianity was one of the oldest in the world. Loved your article anyway.
It is also Shakespeare’s birthday and they used to combine the two by having an actor on to read a bit of poetry-don’t even do that now.
The whole ‘Shakespeare’s birthday’ thing always arouses my inner pedant (who lives pretty close to the surface anyway). We don’t know the date of Shakespeare’s birth; the only record is that of his baptism, which was on April 26th 1564. Since children were generally baptised within 48 hours of their birth, this would indicate that he was most probably born on April 24th or 25th. The 23rd isn’t completely impossible, just rather unlikely.
On the other hand, we do know when he died, which was April 23rd (1616). So we could legitimately celebrate St George’s Day as the day of his death. Just not the day of his birth.
Actually baptism in the 16th century usually took place on a Sunday (or Holy day) and 26th April 1564 was a Sunday, so he could well have been born on the 23rd (Thursday)
Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552, it was written that ‘The pastors and curates shall oft admonish the people that they defer not the Baptisme of Infants any longer than the Sunday, or other Holy day next after the child be borne
I am delighted to celebrate Shakespeare’s death, given that I was forced to study his drivel at school…
Of course, Ed West, as a historian, knows that St George wasn’t Turkish. He was *probably* born in the 3rd century AD in Cappadocia and the Turks first appeared in Anatolia in the 11th century. But he should have made this clear in the article as this stupid belief that St George was Turkish gets repeated frequently in the media and any discussion of St George should explicitly debunk this myth. If only from the point of view of historical accuracy about the Turks.
It’s interesting that the same people who are so keen to point this out never seem to mention that Muhammad was a peado.
No one knows where St George was born , or where he lived. The earliest reference to him is in the late 490’s by Pope Gelasius, who includes him amongst the saints who were ‘ worthy, but of whom little is known’.
The Catholic Church had a go in the last decades at delisting some of these saints for whom there is little written evidence (including Catherine of Alexandria, she of the wheel) but to small avail, they were just too rooted in the popular imagination and affection. Maybe we should be careful whom we decry? The Romans and Greeks I believe had an altar to ‘ all the (other) Gods’, just in case.
Writing as someone from Australia it could be commented that the UK’s heraldic animals have never been in Britain and one of them has never existed at all. Doesn’t faze me one bit. MY heraldic animals are awkward-looking beasts that simply don’t fit into the idea of heraldry at all: a bad-tempered flightless bird and a plague-proportion (but delicious) herd animal.
At least Ed’s only accusing “George wasn’t English” pedants of snobbery, and not of Hating Engerland (to adopt his style of orthography).
We must be grateful for small mercies.
St. George was Greek. So we was European.
So it is all good!
Completely orthogonal to the point made, but it’s actually cool he’s Turkish. Like Santa and Boris.
This would make sense IF being “Turkish” was a racial designation.
But it is not. So what’s the point?
I suppose Haggis is a British national dish. And Yorkshire Pudding, and Toad-in-the-Hole. And curry, of course.
Yes, English dish (corrected).
EU fanatics like yourself,Almost cleared out All UK Fishing grounds..They may never recover from Dutch,Spanish Factory trawlers…
The point that is always missed is that it’s not where you come from it’s where you’re at – the English adopted St George and made him their own. So for all intents and purposes St George IS English. Symbols and myths take on a life of their own, that’s the amazing thing about culture – no one owns it – but it does become a marker of how different cultures and ‘tribes’ become distinguishable from each other (and sometimes how it shows what they have in common).
So what if St George was a Turk, Ed West is a virtue signalling d**k and God is a Yorkshireman…’nuff said!
I have it on good authority that not only was St George NOT English, he wasn’t even Christian.
He came from the Middle East – so most likely Moslem :o)
Irony? I hope sp.
‘Fraid islam wasn’t invented yet at the time.
Jesus was a human born from a woman, who conceived through sexual intercourse with a man. But why let any truth stand in the way of anything you want to believe.
The decision to make Jesus into the son of God which meant he had to have been born from a Virgin (even God still needed a woman that had not herself been born with a p***s) was made by a narrow vote by men at a conference in the 4th Century convened by a Roman Emperor who did not himself believe a word of it, in a place that is now part of Turkey.
Presumably, Adrian, you’ll now go off and find a chat site frequented by practising Muslims, where you’ll pour cold water on their religious constructs. Or maybe you won’t. Hmmmm…….
What has all that to do with Saint George?
Dangerous talk Sir. You maybe condemned as a Blasphemer like ,
Deuteronomy of Gath!
Jesus was a human born from a woman, who conceived through sexual intercourse with a man. But why let any truth stand in the way of anything you want to believe.
Presumably you held the candle at said incident, and that’s how you have infallible authority on the matter.
I happened to be the midwife at your birth and i can attest with full authority that your mother was a hamster, Adrian Smith.
‘Jesus was a black man
Jesus was Batman
No, that was Bruce Wayne’
Sean Ryder, 1995
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