Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September 22 - Maurice and the Theban Legion, Martyrs, Soldiers, Radicals

Maurice had accompanied his men to the place where the battle was soon to be held. His men were the Theban Legion of the Roman Army. The legion was comprised of almost entirely Christians from Northern Egypt by this point. Over the years, the life and words of the Christian soldiers had an influence on their companions in arms and many conversions were reported as the days and battles wore on. They had now been called to battle to put down a peasant revolt. The peasants had grown tired of being oppressed and abused by the Roman Empire and had begun to resist them. They were known as the bagaudae and they were the reason that the Theban legion (all 6,600 of them) had been called to Gaul.

When they arrived, they discovered two things that made them balk: (1) they were being asked to make war on peasants, and (2) they were asked to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods on the night before battle. Maurice and his legion resisted both of these requests. They continued to proclaim their faith and refuse to sacrifice even as they were threatened and coerced. Finally, the Emperor ordered the decimation of the legion. This meant that all 6,600 men were lined up and every tenth soldier was murdered. 660 men died because they refused to comply with the Emperor's orders. The remaining 5,940 men were asked again if they would make a sacrifice and spare their own lives. When the legion refused, they were decimated again. 594 more men died because they refused to submit their lives and wills to the Emperor. As they were decimated, some of the men tasked with executing them were converted by the Christians' nonviolent resistance. Even as they held weapons, they allowed themselves to be killed. Each murder made a strong statement about the inability of the Empire ever to win a single heart and will. Some were converted because, in the midst of death, they had seen true life.

The remaining 5,346 were given another chance to make sacrifice and appease the Empire. As they stood among the dead bodies of 1,254 people who had already made the sacrifice of their life for their soul, they refused again. Maurice offered some words to his superiors:
"We are your soldiers, but we are also servants of the true God. We owe you military service and obedience; but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master, and also yours, even though you reject Him. In all things which are not against His law we most willingly obey you, as we have done hitherto....We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you; you can place no confidence in our second oath if we violate the first....We confess God the Father, author of all things, and His Son, Jesus Christ. We have seen our companions slain without lamenting them, and we rejoice at their honor. Neither this nor any other provocation has tempted us to revolt. We have arms in our hands, but we do not resist because we could rather die innocent than live by any sin."
After this, the Emperor ordered the slaughter of the remaining 5,346 soldiers. They stood still and allowed their executioners to take their lives. Though it cost them their lives, they refused to sin. Though it cost them their lives, they maintained the Faith that held them to a higher calling than the Empire. Their oath to God held them stronger than any other and they laid down their lives in the proclamation of their faith and hope in God.

3 comments:

pennyyak said...

You have so many posts - ever considered a blog search gadget? For instance, I have just read about Takashi Nagai, but I don't think I'll be finding more about him unless I want to purchase a book. It is remotely possible you've posted on him, but I'd have to look through your entire archives.

It's possible to put a table of contents on blogger also, but it takes a little coding.

Anyway, something to consider. I've seen many web sites with saints and so forth, but none are quite like yours.

JHearne said...

I've never written about Takashi but find his story compelling. I might have to pick up some more information on him. Perhaps I'll add him come May 1.

I think blogger provides a search function at the top but it's not very good so I've added one in the sidebar. It's a good idea. I've been considering ways to make it easier to search for particular people.

I'd be interested in knowing, though, what precisely you mean when you say "none are quite like yours." Is that a good thing?

pennyyak said...

[I'd be interested in knowing, though, what precisely you mean when you say "none are quite like yours." Is that a good thing?]

Yes, I consider it a very good thing! First is your writing style, where you manage a fair amt. of information that still flows well - compact but fruitful, and still easy to read. Next is your variety - people who have lived in every era, including our own. And lastly, your very charitable inclusion of just about every sort of believer. It's a feast!

And I don't know anyone who does all these things on the web, but you. Oh course, there may be, and I haven't come upon it yet.