Tuesday, March 31, 2009

tuesday martyr: the thundering legion

The "Thundering Legion" is a name attributed to a part of the Roman army. The name is under some suspicion about whether it came from a battle or was used a hundred years previously. The story of the battle is most certainly true, but the name Thundering Legion being given in tribute to the soldiers is uncertain. I'm not debating the origin of the name, I'm simply telling the story of a group of a couple of groups of Christian soldiers who have been called the Thundering Legion.

Around 174 AD a Roman army was surrounded by enemies and trapped without water. There was little hope for survival. A group of Christians among the soldiers began praying earnestly to God for help. God answered with rain to quench the thirst of the Romans and hailstones and lightning to kill their enemy. Whether they were part of the Thundering Legion or were named after the event, it was the same battalion that was to be martyred nearly 175 years later.

Around the time that Constantine declared Christianity to be legal, a governor named Licinius increased his persecution and declared that all soldiers must make an offering to the Roman gods. Forty men from the Thundering Legion refused.

After many attempts to persuade them, by threat and promise of reward, a man named Camdidus spoke, "You offer us money that remains behind and glory that fades away. You seek to make us friends of the Emperor, but alienate us from the true King. We desire one gift, the crown of righteousness. We are anxious for one glory, the glory of the heavenly kingdom. We love honors, those of heaven. You threaten fearful torments and call our godliness a crime, but you will not find us fainthearted or attached to this life or easily stricken with terror. For the love of God, we are prepared to endure any kind of torture."

After this, Licinius ordered that the men be stripped naked and placed in the middle of a frozen lake to suffer hypothermia and die slowly. For hours they stood and encouraged one another. After a time, one of the men succumb to the torture and ran to one of the warm places the governor had set up to tempt the men.

Seeing the one man abandon the group, a soldier who was set guard to watch the troop threw off his clothes and joined the men on the ice declaring "I am a Christian."

By morning all the forty were dead.

May we live such lives as those 39 that even facing death our lives bear testimony to Christ and some might be saved.


Info gathered from Jesus Freaks, Tactical Athlete, and The New York Times. Picture from Roman Officer Art.

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