In A.D. 286 a legion of Roman soldiers (6,600 men in strength) known as the Theban Legion (as most of the men came from the Thebes region of Egypt) and under the command of a man name Mauritius (Maurice) was deployed to the Roman Province of Gaul to help put down a rebellion.
The Theban Legion's soldiers were mostly ethnic Copts and Christians and very devout in their faith, from the Commander Maurice down to the lowliest Legionnaire. After establishing their camp among the rest of the Roman Army in Gaul, the Emperor Maximian ordered the army to make sacrifice to the pagan gods and swear an oath of allegiance and swear to assist in the extirpation of Christianity in Gaul, The Theban Legion refused to do either. Again the Emperor demanded that the Thebans make sacrifice and swear the oaths, Mauritius explained to Maximian that the Thebans had no problem in fighting the enemies of the Empire and doing their duty but they would not participate in pagan idolatry or the persecution and murder of Christian non-combatants.
Maximian would not budge on his demands and ordered the Theban Legion decimated, in which the ranks are formed and every tenth man is killed where he stood. The Thebans did not resist and when the decimation was complete the Emperor again made his demands on Mauritius and his legion and again they refused, Maximian ordered another decimation to which the Thebans still did not offer any resistance and they died willingly for their God and their fellow Christians. Again and again the Emperor tried breaking the Thebans will and again they refused to submit and in the process they won over many converts in the ranks of the other legions which had been tasked with their killing as they refused to resist their lawful punishment for their principals and beliefs.
After realizing that he would be unable to make the Thebans conform to his will, the Emperor Maximian ordered the remainder of the Theban Legion destroyed and the Thebans of all ranks were cut-down where they stood thereby winning the Crown of Martyrdom in the service of their God and neighbour.
Propers for Maurice and the Theban Legion - 22 September - Soldiers and Martyrs
Grant we beseech thee, Almighty God: to keep in our memory the devotion and service of thy blessed Martyrs, Maurice and his companions; and that we may show the same love and obedience unto thee through their example, for the sake of Our Lord and Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The Lesson - Wisdom 3:1-8
The Gospel - St. Luke 6:17-23
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