According to variations of her legend, having rejected the amorous advances of a Roman prefect, she was persecuted by him for her Christian faith. Among the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts. She is therefore often depicted iconographically carrying her excised breasts on a platter.
Her scorned admirer eventually sentenced her to death by being burnt at the stake. However, she was saved from this fate by a mysterious earthquake. She later died in prison.
She is considered as patron saint of Malta since her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.
The memory of Agatha is upheld in particular by the Military Order of the Collar of Saint Agatha of Paternò.