Behind the name, another hero [Letter]

January 15, 2014

You missed a teachable moment in your front-page report on the St. Maurice Award of Merit conferred on Maryland's "vanishing warriors" ("Honoring World War II foot soldiers," Jan. 13).

Nowhere was there any reference to the individual for whom the award was originally named. He was a remarkable African general who did not bow to the will of the Romans and was featured in the 2012 Walters Art Museum exhibition "Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe." The exhibit was an overwhelming success among Baltimoreans and regional visitors.

Maurice was a black officer of the Theban Legion of Emperor Maximian Herculius, which was composed of Christians from Upper Egypt. He and his fellow legionnaires refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods as ordered by the emperor and instead withdrew from the army encamped near modern-day Lake Geneva.

In reprisal, Maximian had the entire legion of over 6,000 men put to death. To the end they were encouraged in the constancy of their faith by Maurice, who later was named the first black Christian saint for the martyrdom he and his fellow officers suffered.

Rosemary Eck

The writer is a docent at the Walters Art Museum.

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