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St. Piama of Egypt

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Commemorated on March 3

St. Piama lived in asceticism in her mother’s home not far from Alexandria. She only ate food at the end of the day. After prayer, she spun flax.

St. Piama was granted the gift of insight. The people of a nearby village who were blinded with greed planned to destroy the small village where St. Piama lived in order to divert water to their own fields when the Nile overflowed its banks. St. Piama realized their wickedness and reported it to the village elders. The elders fell on their knees before Piama, and asked that she go to the neighboring village to stop them from their evil deeds.

St. Piama did not go to meet the villagers, as she shunned contact with people. She spent all night in prayer. The next morning, the people of the neighboring village armed themselves and set off to destroy St. Piama’s village. They suddenly froze in their tracks and were not able to proceed. The Lord revealed to them that the prayers of St. Piama were holding them back. The villagers immediately repented of their sins. They sent messengers to the village with a request for peace and said, “Thanks be to God, Who through the prayers of the maiden Piama has delivered us.”

The saint peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 337.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

An Unknown Girl in Alexandria

Commemorated on March 3

She was from a wealthy house, having a good father who suffered and had a difficult death, and an evil mother who had an easy life, died in peace and was buried with honor.

In uncertainty whether to live by the example of her father or mother, this maiden had a vision, in which the state of her father and of her mother were shown to her. She saw her father in the Kingdom of God, and her mother in darkness and torment. She decided to devote her whole life to God, and, like her father, follow the commandments without regard to any opposition or misfortune that she might have to endure.

She followed the commandments of God to the end, with His help, and was made worthy of the Kingdom of heaven, in which she was reunited with her beloved father.

From the Prologue by permission of www.abbamoses.com

St. Juliana and her brother, Paul

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Commemorated on March 4

St. Juliana and her brother Paul were executed under Emperor Aurelian in the Phoenician city of Ptolemais. The emperor was visiting Ptolemais, and among those who met him was Paul, who made the Sign of the Cross. Paul was immediately arrested and thrown into prison.

On the following day, as Paul was brought to trial, he openly and boldly confessed his faith in Christ, for which he was tortured. St. Juliana, seeing the suffering of her brother, began to denounce the emperor for his cruelty, and she was also tortured.

The martyrs were beaten, had their bodies torn with iron hooks, and were burned over red-hot grates, but they refused to denounce Christ. Three soldiers, Quadratus, Acacius and Stratonicus, who had been ordered to torture Sts. Juliana and Paul, were struck by their courage, and they came to believe in Christ. These three brave men were immediately executed.

Emperor Aurelian tried to seduce St. Juliana by promising to marry her if she were to renounce Christ, but she refused. The emperor sent her to a brothel to be defiled, but the Lord preserved her, and anyone who tried to touch the saint lost his sight.

St. Irais (Rhais) of Antinoe in Egypt

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Commemorated on March 5

St. Irais was an Egyptian martyr. She was put to death at Antinoe, Egypt during the persecutions of Christians by the Emperor Diocletian in the early fourth century.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God "Czestochowa"

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Commemorated on March 6

The wonderworking Czestochowa Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is to be found in a Roman Catholic monastery at Yasna Gora near the city of Czestochowa, Petrov Province, in present-day Poland. It is believed to be one of the seventy icons written by the holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke. Tradition says that the icon was taken from Jerusalem when the Romans conquered the city in 66 AD, and was hidden in a cave near Pella. The icon was given to St. Helen when she visited the Holy Land in 326, and she brought it back to Constantinople with her.

In the eighth century, the icon traveled to various places, including Galicia, Bavaria, and Moravia. The founder of the city of Lvov, Prince Leo, brought the icon to Russia and placed it in the Belz Fortress. Many miracles took place before the holy icon.

Prince Vladislav of Opolsk acquired the icon when the Poles captured southwestern Russia. At the time that Vladislav ruled Poland, the Tatars invaded Russia and appeared before the gates of the Belz Fortress. The prince ordered that the icon be placed atop the city walls as the Tatars began to attack. Blood began dripping from the icon where it had been struck by an arrow, and those who witnessed it were amazed at the sight. The Tatars retreated when a dark haze covered them, and many died.

Icon of the Mother of God "the Blessed Heaven"

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Commemorated on March 6

The “Blessed Heaven” Icon of the Mother of God is on the iconostasis of the Moscow Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin. Previously, this icon was at Smolensk and brought to Moscow by Sophia, the daughter of Lithuanian Prince Vitovt, when she became the wife of Prince Basil of Moscow in the fourteenth century.

On the icon, the Mother of God is depicted in full stature, with a scepter in Her right hand. On Her left arm is the Divine Infant, and both of them are crowned. Certain people also call this icon “What Shall We Call Thee?”

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Helen's Uncovering of the Precious Cross and Precious Nails in Jerusalem

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Commemorated on March 6

The Holy Empress Helen uncovered the Precious Cross and Nails of the Lord in Jerusalem in 326.

At the beginning of his reign, St. Constantine the Great (306-337), and his mother, St. Helen, decided to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. They also planned to build a church on the site of the Lord's suffering and Resurrection, in order to reconsecrate and purify the places connected with the Savior from the taint of paganism.

Empress Helen journeyed to Jerusalem with a large quantity of gold. St. Constantine wrote a letter to Patriarch Macarius asking that he assist Helen with the task of restoring the Christian holy places.

After her arrival in Jerusalem, Empress Helen ordered the destruction of the pagan temples and began to reconsecrate the places which had been defiled by the pagans.

In St. Helen’s quest for the Life-Creating Cross, she questioned several Christians and Jews, but her search remained unsuccessful. Finally, an elderly Jewish man named Jude told her that the Cross was buried beneath the temple of Venus. St. Helen ordered that the pagan temple be demolished, and that the site be excavated. Soon, they found Golgotha and the Lord's Sepulcher. Not far from the spot were three crosses, a board with the inscription written by Pilate (John 19:19), and four nails which had pierced the Lord's Body.

Icon of the Mother of God "Surety of Sinners" at Robensk

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Commemorated on March 7

This is one of the many copies of the famous “Surety of Sinners” Icon which are to be found in churches and in homes throughout Russia.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God "the Surety of Sinners"

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Commemorated on March 7 (also commemorated on May 29)

The Icon of the Mother of God “Surety of Sinners” is known by this name because of the inscription on the icon: “I am the Surety of sinners for My Son Who has entrusted Me to hear them, and those who bring Me the joy of hearing them will receive eternal joy through Me.” The Mother of God embraces Her Child, Who holds Her right hand with both His hands so that Her thumb is in His right hand, and Her small finger in His left hand. This is the gesture of one who gives surety for another.

Although it is not known when or by whom the icon was originally written, it is believed that the basis of the icon is to be found in the Akathist to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Rejoice, You Who offer Your hands in surety for us to God.”

This icon was first glorified by miracles at the St. Nicholas Odrino Monastery in the former Orlov province of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century (the “Assuage My Sorrows Icon” is also from this monastery). The “Surety of Sinners” icon of the Mother of God was in an old chapel beyond the monastery gates, and stood between two other ancient icons. Because it was so faded and covered with dust, it was impossible to read the inscription.

Icon of the Mother of God Kursk Root "Of the Sign"

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Commemorated on March 8

This is a copy of the famous “Kursk Root” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos commemorated on November 27.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise

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Commemorated on March 9

The Church reminds us of Adam’s expulsion from Paradise as the Orthodox faithful begin Great Lent. God commanded Adam to fast (Gen. 2:16), but he did not obey. Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden and lost the life of blessedness, knowledge of God, and communion with Him, for which they were created. Both they and their descendents became heirs of death and corruption.

Let us consider the benefits of fasting, the consequences of disobedience, and recall our fallen state. Today, we are invited to cleanse ourselves of evil through fasting and obedience to God. Our fasting should not be a negative thing nor a mere abstention from certain foods. It is an opportunity to free ourselves from the sinful desires and urges of our fallen nature, and to nourish our souls with prayer, repentance, to participate in church services, and partake of the life-giving Mysteries of Christ.

At Forgiveness Vespers we sing: “Let us begin the time of fasting in light, preparing ourselves for spiritual efforts. Let us purify our soul, let us purify our body. As we abstain from food, let us abstain from all passion and enjoy the virtues of the spirit….”

Kontakion (Tone 6) –

Master, Teacher of wisdom,

Bestower of virtue,

you teach the thoughtless and protect the poor:

Strengthen and enlighten my heart.

Word of the Father,

let me not restrain my mouth from crying to you:

Icon of the Mother of God "The Word Made Flesh"

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Commemorated on March 9

The Albazin Icon of the Mother of God “the Word made Flesh” is of great religious significance in the Amur River region of Russia. It received its name from the Russian fortress of Albazin (now the village of Albazino) along the Amur River, which was founded in 1650 on the site of a former settlement by the famous Russian frontiersman, Hierotheus Khabarov.

This fortress eventually became an object of hostility to China’s emperor, who dreamt of expanding his influence over Russian Siberia.

On March 24, 1652, the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, the first battle between the Russians and the Chinese occurred at the Amur. Through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos, the pagans were defeated and were pushed back. The victory seemed like a good omen for the Russians, but the struggle had only just begun. Many Holy Russian soldiers died during the battle for the Amur and for the ultimate victory of Orthodoxy in the Far East.

In June 1658, an Albazin military detachment of 270 Cossacks under the leadership of Onuphrius Stepanov fell into an ambush and were completely annihilated by the Chinese. The Chinese burned Albazin, overran the Russian territory, and carried off the local population to China. Their goal was to turn the fertile cultivated area back into wilderness.

St. Anastasia the Patrician of Alexandria

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Commemorated on March 10

St. Anastasia the Patrician of Alexandria lived in Constantinople and was descended from an aristocratic family. She was an image of virtue and enjoyed the respect of Emperor Justinian. Widowed at a young age, Anastasia decided to leave the world and save her soul. She secretly left Constantinople and went to Alexandria. She founded a small monastery not far from the city, and devoted herself entirely to God.

Several years later, Emperor Justinian was widowed and decided to search for Anastasia and marry her. As soon as she learned of this, St. Anastasia journeyed to a remote skete to ask Abba Daniel for help.

In order to safeguard Anastasia, the Elder dressed her in a man’s monastic garb and called her the eunuch Anastasius. Having settled her in a very remote cave, the Elder gave her a rule of prayer and ordered her never to leave the cave and to receive no one. Only one monk knew of this place. His obedience was to deliver a small portion of bread and a pitcher of water to the cave once a week, leaving it at the entrance. Anastasia dwelt in seclusion for twenty-eight years.

St. Galina and those with her at Corinth

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Commemorated on March 10

During the persecution against Christians in the third century, a certain pious woman named Rufina fled from Corinth to a mountain to escape from her pursuers. There she gave birth to a son, Quadratus, and died soon afterward. By the Providence of God, the infant remained alive and was nourished in a miraculous manner: a cloud appeared over him, dropping a sweet dew into his mouth.

The childhood and youth of St. Quadratus were spent in the wilderness. When he was a young man, he met some Christians, who enlightened him with the light of the true Faith. Quadratus studied grammar, and later learned the physician’s art and attained great success in it. But most of all, Quadratus loved the solitude of the wilderness, and he spent the greater part of his time in the hills, in prayer and meditation of God. Many years passed, and his friends and followers frequently visited the saint to hear his teachings. Among them were Cyprian, Dionysius, Anectus, Paul, Crescens and others.

By order of Emperor Decius, a military prefect named Jason arrived at Corinth to torture and slay Christians. Since Quadratus was the eldest, he spoke for the rest. The saint bravely defended his faith in Christ the Savior, then the torture began. St. Quadratus, despite inhuman suffering, encouraged the others, urging them not to be afraid and to stand firmly for the Faith.

St. Chariessa, Nunechia, Basilissa and those martyred with them at Corinth

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Commemorated on March 10

During the persecution against Christians in the third century, a certain pious woman named Rufina fled from Corinth to a mountain to escape from her pursuers. There she gave birth to a son, Quadratus, and died soon afterward. By the Providence of God, the infant remained alive and was nourished in a miraculous manner: a cloud appeared over him, dropping a sweet dew into his mouth.

The childhood and youth of St. Quadratus were spent in the wilderness. When he was a young man, he met some Christians, who enlightened him with the light of the true Faith. Quadratus studied grammar, and later learned the physician’s art and attained great success in it. But most of all, Quadratus loved the solitude of the wilderness, and he spent the greater part of his time in the hills, in prayer and meditation of God. Many years passed, and his friends and followers frequently visited the saint to hear his teachings. Among them were Cyprian, Dionysius, Anectus, Paul, Crescens and others.

By order of Emperor Decius, a military prefect named Jason arrived at Corinth to torture and slay Christians. Since Quadratus was the eldest, he spoke for the rest. The saint bravely defended his faith in Christ the Savior, then the torture began. St. Quadratus, despite inhuman suffering, encouraged the others, urging them not to be afraid and to stand firmly for the Faith.

St. Sabina of Smyrna, along with Sts. Pionius and Limnus

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Commemorated on March 11

St. Sabina was executed along with the hieromartyrs Pionius and Limnus, and the Holy Martyrs Macedonia and Asclepiades, during the persecution of Christians in the reign of Emperor Decius in the third century. They suffered at Smyrna, a mercantile city on the eastern shores of the Aegean Sea. The Church in Smyrna was founded by the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and was made glorious by its martyrs and confessors.

St. Pionius knew that he and his companions would be arrested on February 23, the anniversary of St. Polycarp’s martyrdom, and a feast day for the Christians of Smyrna. The day before they were arrested, St. Pionius entertained Asclepiades and Sabina in his house. Taking three feet of chains, St. Pionius placed them around his neck, and around the necks of the other two. He did this to show that they would all be led off to prison rather than eat food that had been sacrificed to the idols.

St. Christina in Persia

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Commemorated on March 13

St. Christina was scourged to death for confessing her faith in Christ during the fourth century under the reign of King Chosroes of Persia.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God of St. Theodore

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Commemorated on March 14 (also commemorated on August 16)

The Theodore-Kostroma Icon of the Mother of God was written by the Evangelist Luke and resembles the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.

This icon received its name from Great Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, the father of St. Alexander Nevsky, and who in holy Baptism was named Theodore in honor of St. Theodore Stratelates.

According to Tradition, the icon was found by his elder brother, St. George, in an old wooden chapel near the city of Gorodets. Later, the Gorodetsk Theodorov Monastery was built on this spot. Prince Yaroslav-Theodore became the Great Prince of Vladimir after his brother was killed in battle against the Mongols at the Sita River. In 1239, Prince Yaroslav-Theodore solemnly transferred the relics of his brother from Rostov to the Vladimir Dormition Cathedral. He eventually gave the icon which he inherited from his brother to his own son, St. Alexander Nevsky.

Yaroslav-Theodore is renowned in Russian history. He continued with the glorious traditions of his uncle, St. Andrew Bogoliubsky, and of his father, Vsevolod III Big-Nest, and he was connected to almost all of the significant events in the history of Rus in the first half of the thirteenth century.

Icon of the Mother of God of Lubyatov

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Commemorated on March 19

This holy icon, which dates from the fifteenth century, was located in the St. Nicholas Monastery in the Pskov region of Russia.

There was once a silver plaque with an inscription from 1890 on the reverse of the icon. It told of how Tsar Ivan the Terrible came to the monastery of St. Nicholas at Lubyatov during Great Lent in 1570. He had stopped there on his way to punish the people of Pskov, for he believed that they were about to give their allegiance to the Prince of Lithuania.

During the morning service, he happened to gaze at the icon of the Mother of God, and his heart was moved to compunction. “Let the killing stop,” he said. “Put away your swords.”

Other events that occurred include:

Soldiers of the Polish king Stephen Batory shot at the icon as they were on their way to attack Pskov in 1581.

Communists confiscated the icon in 1928, and in 1930, it was placed in the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow.

The icon has elements from three other types of icons of the Mother of God. Essentially, it belongs to the Eleousa type, like the Vladimir Icon (May 21, June 23, August 26). The gesture of the divine Child resembles the “Sweet-Kissing” or “Tenderness” Icon of Smolensk (March 19), and the scroll seems to come from the Hodigitria Icon (July 28).

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God of Smolensk "the Sweet-Kissing"

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Commemorated on March 19

The Smolensk “Tenderness” Icon of the Mother of God manifested itself in 1103 in Smolensk, Russia. There is another Smolensk “Tenderness” Icon from the vicinity of Okopa (south of Smolensk). This icon was in the encampment of the Russian armies that restrained the Polish invaders from destroying Smolensk for twenty months during the early 17th century.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Daria and those with her at Rome

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Commemorated on March 19

Sts. Chrysánthus and Daria and St. Claudius the Tribune with his wife, Hilaria, and their sons Jason and Maurus, and Diodorus the Presbyter and Marianus the Deacon, were martyred in Rome under Emperor Numerian in the third century.

St. Chrysánthus came from a pagan family who had moved to Rome from Alexandria. He received an excellent education, and he read books in which pagans discussed Christianity. The young man, however, wanted to read books written by Christians themselves. He finally managed to find a copy of the New Testament, which enlightened his soul.

Seeking someone to instruct him in the Holy Scriptures, he found the presbyter Carpophoros hiding from persecution, and received holy Baptism from him. After this, he began to preach the Gospel. Chrysánthus’ father tried to turn his son away from Christianity, and married him to Daria, a priestess of Minerva.

Chrysánthus managed to convert Daria to Christ, and the young couple agreed to lead celibate lives. After the death of Chrysánthus’ father, they began to live in separate houses. St. Chrysánthus converted several young men to Christ, and many pious women gathered around St. Daria.

The people of Rome complained to Governor Celerinus that Sts. Chrysánthus and Daria were preaching celibacy and attracting too many young men and women to monasticism. Chrysánthus was arrested and sent to Claudius for torture.

St. Hilaria and those with her at Rome

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Commemorated on March 19

The Holy Martyrs Hilaria, her husband Claudius the Tribune, and their sons, Jason and Maurus, and Diodorus the Presbyter and Marianus the Deacon, suffered with Sts. Chrysanthus and Daria in Rome under Emperor Numerian in the third century.

Claudius came to believe in Christ and accepted holy Baptism together with his wife, Hilaria, their sons, Jason and Maurus, and all his household and soldiers. When news of this reached Emperor Numerian, he ordered that they be executed. Claudius was drowned in the sea, and his sons and soldiers were beheaded.

Christians buried the bodies of the holy martyrs in a nearby cave, and St. Hilaria constantly went there to pray. The pagans followed her and led her off for torture. The saint asked that they give her a few moments to pray, and as soon as she finished, she gave up her soul to God. A servant buried St. Hilaria in the cave beside her sons.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Claudia, along with Sts. Alexandra, Euphrasia, Matrona, Juliania, Euphmia and Theodosia

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Commemorated on March 20

The Holy Virgin Martyrs Claudia, Alexandra, Euphrasia, Matrona, Juliania, Euphemia and Theodosia were arrested in the city of Amisa (on the coastal region of the Black Sea) during the persecution against Christians under Emperor Maximian Galerius in the fourth century.

Under interrogation, they confessed their faith and were subjected to torture. The pagans scourged and beat them with rods, and cut off their breasts. After this, they were suspended and torn with sharp hooks. Finally, the holy virgins were burned alive in a red-hot oven in the year 310.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Kyriake of Rome

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Commemorated on March 20

St. Kyriake was the sister of the Holy Martyr Photini, the Samaritan Woman, with whom the Savior conversed at Jacob’s Well (John. 4:5-42).

Summoned to appear before Emperor Nero, he asked the women whether they truly believed in Christ. They all refused to renounce the Savior. The emperor then gave orders to smash the martyrs’ finger joints. During the torments, the women felt no pain, and their hands remained unharmed.

St. Photini and her five sisters, Anatolia, Phota, Photis, Paraskeva and Kyriake, were sent to the imperial court under the supervision of Nero’s daughter, Domnina. St. Photini converted both Domnina and her servants to Christ. She also converted a sorcerer, who had brought her poisoned food that was meant to kill her.

Three years passed, and Emperor Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had been locked up. The messengers reported to him that Sts. Sebastian, Photinus and Joses, who had been blinded, had completely recovered, and that people were visiting them to hear their preaching. Indeed, the whole prison had been transformed into a bright and fragrant place where God was glorified.

St. Photini, the Samaritan Woman

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Commemorated on March 20 (also commemorated on February 26 & the “Sunday of the Samaritan Woman”)

St. Photini lived in first century Palestine. She was the Samaritan woman who Christ visited at the well asking her for water. It was she who accepted the “living water” offered her by Christ Himself after repenting from her many sins (John. 4:5-42). She went and told her townspeople that she had met the Christ. For this, she is sometimes recognized as the first to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. She converted her five sisters (Sts. Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve, and Kyriake) and her two sons (Victor and Joses). They all became tireless evangelists for Christ.

The apostles of Christ baptized her and gave her the name of Photini which means “the enlightened one.” She is remembered by the Church as a Holy Martyr and Equal to the Apostles. After Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred, St. Photini and her family left their homeland of Sychar, in Samaria, to travel to Carthage to proclaim the Gospel of Christ there.

During the reign of Emperor Nero in the first century, excessive cruelty was displayed against the Christians, St. Photini lived in Carthage with her younger son, Joses. Her eldest son, Victor, fought bravely in the Roman army against the barbarians, and was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia Minor). Later, Nero called him to Italy to arrest and punish Christians.

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