St. Maurice and The Theban legion numbered more than six thousand men. The legion had been conscripted from the very Christian areas surrounding Thebes, Egypt hence the name of the legion. They marched from the East into Gaul, and proved their loyalty at once to their Emperor and to their God. They were encamped near the Lake of Geneva, under the Emperor Maximian, when they got orders to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods and turn their swords against the Christian population. This Christian legion refused to obey the order. In his fury Maximian ordered them to be “decimated”, meaning every tenth soldier killed as an example.
The order was executed once and again, but they endured this without a murmur or an effort to defend themselves. St. Maurice, the chief captain in this legion of martyrs, encouraged the rest to persevere and follow their comrades to heaven. “Know, O Emperor,” he said, “that we are your soldiers, but we are servants also of the true God. In all things lawful we will most readily obey, but we cannot stain our hands in this innocent blood. We, have seen our comrades slain, and we rejoice at their honor, We have arms, but we resist not, for we had rather die without shame than live by sin.” As the massacre began, these generous soldiers flung down their arms, offered their necks to the sword, and suffered themselves to be butchered in silence. When the rest of the men remained stubborn, he killed more, and finally slaughtered everyone who was left.
The name of the town of Saint-Moritz, Switzerland preserves the memory of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion.
Known members of the Legion include
Saint Alexander of Bergamo
Saint Candidus the Theban
Saint Innocent the Theban
Saint Secundus the Theban
Saint Ursus the Theban
Saint Victor of Agaunum
Saint Victor of Xanten
Saint Victor the Theban
Saint Vitalis of Agaunum
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