This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 22 -- Feast of the Theban Legion

Legio Thebaeorum, mid-decimation
Decimation.  One in ten persons, randomly selected and killed.  It had been the standard Roman method for punishing an insubordinate military unit (or town, or tribe) for centuries, though by AD 287, it had fallen into disuse.  Scholars cite this fact to support their claim that the Legend of the Theban Legion is a fiction. 

Maybe so.  Then again, it was a well-known and time-honored tradition, and who is to say that some aristocrat from an ancient, noble Roman family, enraged a disobedient unit on the eve of embarkation for Gaul, might not threaten this ancient horror?  And once he had spoken the word, he could not back down, right? 

But maybe not.  Maybe this story, like so many other tales of saints, was the product of an active imagination and an earnest desire to inspire faith and fidelity among the Christians of a later age.  And the long-term result is that pious fictions may weaken the faith of some in this skeptical, cynical, post-rational age. 

I won't judge the value of the story to others.  I will just repeat it here and let your chips fall where they may.  Caveat lector. 

The shield of the Theban Legion
The Emperor Maximian Herculeus was faced with a rebellion near Lake Geneva.  He was concerned enough that he shifted some legions from Thebes, Egypt to help quash it.  On the night before their departure, they were expected to offer the proper sacrifices to the proper gods -- Jupiter, certainly, and probably Mars, and maybe Neptune, and how about Diana and Juno and Mithras and Sol Invictus.  All 6600 members of one particular legion declined, saying they were glad to fight for the Empire, but they could not violate the tenets of their Christian faith by sacrificing to false idols.  Their commanders, Maurice, Candidus, Innocent, and Exuperius, spoke for the rest of the men. 

The overall commander of the expedition ordered the legion decimated. Once the killing was done, he ordered the remaining troops to sacrifice.  They also declined and a second decimation followed.  Another cycle of refusal, decimation, and command followed.  At the next refusal, he decided to just kill off the whole damn legion.  The commanders are individually listed as saints, but the legion is celebrated on September 22. 

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