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Victoria (d. around 253 CE)

Victoria (d. around 253 ce)

Italian martyr and saint . Executed in or about 253 ce; daughter of noble Tivoli parents; sister of Anatolia; never married; no children.

Born into one of the noblest families of Tivoli, Victoria and her sister Anatolia were renowned for their beauty. Raised as Christians, the sisters had been promised in marriage by their parents to two of the region's most eligible and noble—and pagan—bachelors. Victoria, betrothed to Eugenius, eagerly anticipated her wedding, while Anatolia, pledged to Titus Aurelius, bitterly opposed the match her parents had made for her and looked for any excuse she could find to postpone the wedding. Titus Aurelius beseeched Eugenius to urge Victoria to convince her sister to proceed with plans for her marriage. Citing holy scripture, Victoria reminded Anatolia that God looked favorably upon the state of marriage, inasmuch as most of the church's patriarchs and prophets had themselves married in days gone by. Had not God smiled upon them and their descendants, Victoria asked. Anatolia responded to her sister with such a persuasive argument in favor of chastity that Victoria, once so eager to join Eugenius in wedlock, was convinced to break off her engagement. She also sold off her jewelry and donated the proceeds to the benefit of Tivoli's less fortunate citizens.

Frustrated and angry, Eugenius and Titus Aurelius sought relief from the emperor, who agreed to allow the two to carry their intended brides off to the men's country homes in the hope that there they might persuade them to renounce their faith and marry. Alternating between gentle persuasion and violent coercion, the men tried every tactic they could conceive to convince the sisters that marriage was the proper course, but neither sister showed any sign of yielding.

Finally, Titus Aurelius killed Anatolia in a fit of anger. Eugenius, however, was convinced that in time, Victoria would come around to his point of view with regard to marriage, and continued to alternate between sweetness and violence in his persuasive efforts. For a time, he allowed her only a single piece of bread each day. Years went by, but Victoria showed no sign of turning from her faith and her determination to resist marriage. In fact, so strong was her faith that she managed to convert many of those who spent time near her, including the man set to guard her.

Finally, Eugenius grew frustrated beyond control, especially when she refused to sacrifice to his gods, and prevailed upon Julian, prefect of the Capitol in Rome and count of the temples, to supply him with the services of Liliarcus, the state executioner. At the direction of Eugenius, Liliarcus stabbed Victoria through the chest with a single thrust of his sword. Legend has it that in the wake of the execution, Liliarcus developed leprosy and died six days later. Victoria was later canonized. It is generally agreed that she was a historical figure, although the exact story of her life and death that has come down to us is probably a myth. Her feast day is December 23.

sources:

Englebert, Omer. The Lives of the Saints. London: Thames and Hudson, 1951.

Don Amerman , freelance writer, Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

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