|Legio Thebaeorum, mid-decimation|
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 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.