Forty Martyrs, Ss.

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Soldiers martyred near the end of the diocletianpersecution; d. March 323. These 40 martyrs probably belonged to the famous Roman Legion XII stationed in Lesser Armenia at Sebaste, the modern Sivas, Turkey. The Eastern Roman Emperor, Licinius, ordered all soldiers to sacrifice to idols. These 40 soldiers refused. While awaiting trial before Agricola, the governor, they composed "The Testament of the Forty Holy Martyrs of Christ," which H. Delehaye considered to be an authentic and accurate historical account of the faith in the 4th century. The governor ordered them exposed naked on a frozen lake. The slow death provided time to persuade them to apostatize. One did. But another soldier declared his Christian faith and took the apostate's place.

Feast: March 10.

Bibliography: a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 1:541544. o.v. gebhardt, Acta Martyrum selecta (Berlin 1902) 166181. h. delehaye, American Catholic Quarterly Review 24 (Jan. 1899) 161171; Les Passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires (Brussels 1921) 184235. p. franchi de' cavalieri, Note agiografiche 7 (Studi e Testi 49; 1928) 155184.

[e. g. ryan]