Theodora and Didymus

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Saints Theodora and Didymus
Martyrs
Died 304
Alexandria, Egypt
Honored 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. The pair were martyred in the reigns of co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximianus. This story may be partially fictitious.

Legend[edit]

Theodora was a young noblewoman of Alexandria who had refused to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods.[1] Standing trial before the prefect Eustratius, she bravely confessed herself a Christian. The prefect asked why she had not married, pointing out that she was of a noble family and beautiful and could have her choice of husbands. She replied that she had dedicated herself to God, and had resolved to remain a virgin for the name of Christ.[2]

Eustratius had her imprisoned, giving her time to reconsider, and he threatened to have her taken to a brothel if she persisted in her disobedience. Three days later, Theodora was brought again to trial, but remained resolute.[2]

Accordingly, Theodora was taken to a brothel. Dissolute youths began to argue which of them should be the first to have her. when the Christian Didymus, dressed in soldier’s garb, entered and chased the profligates out. Didymus exchanged clothes with her, and she escaped.[2] When a man came to despoil the virgin, Didymus revealed himself. Didymus was taken prisoner and brought to the prefect, where he was condemned to death.[1] 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 list of saints of the Roman Catholic Church.[3] 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[edit]