1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/George of Laodicea
GEORGE OF LAODICEA in Syria, often called “the Cappadocian,” from 356 to 361 Arian archbishop of Alexandria, was born about the beginning of the 4th century. According to Ammianus (xxii. 11), he was a native of Epiphania, in Cilicia. Gregory Nazianzen tells us that his father was a fuller, and that he himself soon became notorious as a parasite of so mean a type that he would “sell himself for a cake.” After many wanderings, in the course of which he seems to have amassed a considerable fortune, first as an army-contractor and then as a receiver of taxes, he ultimately reached Alexandria. It is not known how or when he obtained ecclesiastical orders; but, after Athanasius had been banished in 356, George was promoted by the influence of the then prevalent Arian faction to the vacant see. His theological attitude was that known as semi-Arian or Homoiousian, and his associates were Eustathius of Sebaste and Basil of Ancyra. At George’s instigation the second Sirmian formula (promulgated by the third council of Sirmium 357), which was conciliatory towards strict Arianism, was opposed at the council of Ancyra in 358 (Harnack, Hist. of Dogma, iv. 76). His persecutions and oppressions of the orthodox ultimately raised a rebellion which compelled him to flee for his life; but his authority was restored, although with difficulty, by a military demonstration. Untaught by experience, he resumed his course of selfish tyranny over Christians and heathen alike, and raised the irritation of the populace to such a pitch that when, on the accession of Julian, his downfall was proclaimed and he was committed to prison, they dragged him thence and killed him, finally casting his body into the sea (24th of December 361). With much that was sordid and brutal in his character George combined a highly cultivated literary taste, and in the course of his chequered career he had found the means of collecting a splendid library, which Julian ordered to be conveyed to Antioch for his own use. An anonymous work against the Manicheans discovered by Lagarde in 1859 in a MS. of Titus of Bostra has been attributed to him.
The original sources for the facts of the life of George of Laodicea are Ammianus, Gregory Nazianzen, Epiphanius and Athanasius. His character has been drawn with graphic fidelity by Gibbon in the 23rd chapter of the Decline and Fall; but the theory, accepted by Gibbon, which identifies him with the patron saint of England is now rejected (see George, Saint). See C. S. Hulst, St George of Cappadocia in Legend and History (1910).