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Theodora and Didymus

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Saints Theodora and Didymus
Martyrs
Died 304, Alexandria, Egypt
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Feast 28 April

Saints Theodora and Didymus (died 304) are Christian saints whose legend is based on a 4th century acta and the word of Saint Ambrose. This story is probably at least partially fictitious[1]

The pair were martyred in the reigns of co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximianus. Due to a decline in Italian population in Ancient Rome, they issued an edict that it was the duty of Roman women to bear children, and virginity was criminalized. The prefect of Alexandria, Proculus, became aware of Theodora's vow of celibacy and called her before him. He pointed out that she was of a noble Roman family and beautiful and could have her choice of husbands. She told him of her vow of celibacy for Christ. He reminded her that the penalty for such an action was to be taken to a brothel. She swore that, if her virginity were taken, it would not be by her choice.

Accordingly, Theodora was taken to a brothel. However, the first "customer" to her was Didymus, a Christian soldier. He had come intentionally to save her. He exchanged clothes with her, and she escaped. When a man came to despoil the virgin, Didymus revealed himself and said that he was a blessed man, for he had been given a chance to save an innocent woman and to die for his faith. Didymus was taken prisoner and brought to Proculus, where he was condemned to death. Saint Ambrose says that Theodora could not allow her savior to die alone and that she joined Didymus before Proculus.

Didymus and, according to Ambrose, Theodora were beheaded. Didymus's body was burned. They are not included in the Roman Martyrology, the official but incomplete list of saints of the Roman Catholic Church.[2] The story of Theodora and Didymus is almost identical to that of Saints Antonia and Alexander.

The theme of the story might reflect the institution of religious prostitution, prevalent in the ancient Middle East, as remembered in a highly-disapproving Christian tradition.

Pierre Corneille wrote in 1645 a tragedy Theodore, virgin and martyr, based on this story, but he transferred it to Antioch. It was a signal failure, removed after only five performances.

The oratorio Theodora composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 was based on the story of Theodora and Didymus.

Notes

  1. Catholic Online
  2. Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001, Isbn 88-209-7210-7

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