Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion (286)

Saint Maurice was the commander of a legion in the Roman Army, called the Theban Legion because it had been recruited in the Thebaid in upper Egypt. This Legion was composed of 6,666 men, every one of whom was a Catholic. They were noble, holy and devout soldiers. They were ordered by the Roman Emperor Maximian to sacrifice to pagan gods. They all refused. The Emperor first killed every tenth man. But still the Legion would not give in. Again, he killed every tenth man. But the valiant regiment held out. Finally, when asked once more to sacrifice to the gods, Maurice in the name of his soldiers, replied, “O Caesar, we are your soldiers. But we are also the soldiers of Jesus Christ. From you, we receive our pay. But from Him, we receive eternal life. To you, we owe service. But to Him, we owe obedience. We are ready to follow you against the barbarians, but we are also ready to suffer death rather than renounce our Faith.” They were then all slaughtered. Saint Maurice knelt down and was beheaded.

Martyrdom of St Maurice and the Theban Legion, by Jacopo (Carucci) da Pontormo (source)