Ten Thousand Martyrs, Legend of

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The Roman martyrology commemorates two groups of 10,000 martyrs. The first is based upon the legendary account of 10,000 soldiers supposedly crucified on Mt. Ararat with their commander Acacius; they are commemorated on June 22. This legend is based on a document supposedly translated from a Greek source by the 9thcentury Anastasius Bibliothecarius, although the martyrs are first mentioned as troops of the Emperor Hadrian in the 14th century by Bp. Peter of Equilio (d. 1371). According to the legend, these soldiers, while engaged in battle with rebels in the Euphrates region, were miraculously converted to Christ by the voice of an angel, and then won an outstanding victory for the emperor. But when they refused to sacrifice to the gods, they were crucified (Acta Sanctorum June 5:151). The historical improbabilities and inaccuracies of the tale indicate that it is apochryphal. Nevertheless, the martyrs were venerated in Denmark, Sweden, Poland, France, Spain, and Portugal. Churches in Vienne, Lisbon, and Coimbra, among others, claimed their relics.

The second group is commemorated on March 18 at Nicomedia and is probably the result of a great exaggeration of an authentic account of martyred soldiers mentioned in Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 8 ) and Lactantius (De Mortibus Persecut ).

Bibliography: f. mershman, The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 190714; Suppl. 1922) 9:746. j. p. kirsch, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche ed. m. buchberger 10:104950. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford 1957) 133031.

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