Staying True to Your First Allegiance
by Kathi Macias
I’ve been writing/publishing for more than two decades now and only recently published my first historical novel. Though my thirty-plus books are fairly evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction, all my novels have been contemporary—until Valeria’s Cross.
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But none of the stories impacted me more than that of the Theban Legion—6600 men, valiant warriors who served the Roman Empire in the third century, a time when persecution of Christians was intense. When the Theban Legion, along with the rest of the Roman army, was commanded to make sacrifices to the Roman gods, this amazing group of men respectfully and humbly declined, explaining that though they were loyal to Rome, their first loyalty was to Christ. They could not compromise that primary allegiance to serve one of the lesser ones.
As a result, the legion was decimated—one-tenth of the 6600 men were martyred for their faith. The rest were then offered a chance to reconsider, but they too declined. This process was repeated several times until the last man went to his death rather than deny his first allegiance to Christ.
I was stunned by the story. Though some historians question its veracity, there is a monument to the legion in France, and many historians are convinced that it is true. Whether it is or isn’t, it is certainly a clear portrait of what it means to give our first allegiance to Christ.
With that in mind, I was convinced that the story of the Theban Legion needed to be told in fiction form. I was, in fact, shocked that someone hadn’t already done so. When I mentioned the idea to my friend Susan Wales, wife of movie producer Ken Wales (Amazing Grace, Revenge of the Pink Panther, etc.), she agreed that it was a novel waiting to happen. In addition, she told me that she had done her college thesis on that very time period and therefore knew it well. She said the third-century Roman Emperor Diocletian was notorious for his persecution of Christians, but it was also rumored that Diocletian’s wife, Prisca, and daughter, Valeria (their only child) had converted to Christianity. What better love interest for the leader of the Theban legion than the very daughter of his persecutor!
And so a co-authored novel was in the works, and a historical romance was born. Of course, that part of the story is indeed fictionalized, but what a wonderful twist to the existing facts! We soon had our love triangle: the beautiful Princess Valeria; the handsome Theban leader, Mauritius; and the evil Roman General Galerius, who fueled Diocletian’s fear and hatred of Christians, including the Theban Legion, and wanted Valeria for himself.
With that particular exception and a few other minor tweaks that we had to make to bring these events together, Valeria’s Cross stays relatively true to history as we know it. This made for a different challenge than the purely historical novel based in a particular era and setting but without any of the major players having been real. We didn’t have the luxury of making the story turn out the way we might want it to, but rather had to end it as history is written. But oh, what fun we had in the interim! Fleshing out the characters who, in many cases, were mere mentions on the pages of history and introducing them to one another was such a joy! There were times we had to remind ourselves that Mauritius and Valeria truly hadn’t known one another and therefore weren’t in love at all. In our hearts and minds, they certainly were!
There have been quite a few novels written about the time of Christ and the century immediately following, but not many that we’ve found set in the third century. Susan and I pray that Valeria’s Cross will not only ignite an interest in that fascinating time period but will also ignite a fire in the hearts of believers today—a fire that will cause them to re-examine their first allegiance and to make the commitment to cling fast to it at all costs!
Kathi Macias is an “occasional radio show host” (www.blogtalkradio.com/communicatethevision) and an award-winning author of more than 30 books. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al, where together they spend their spare time riding Al’s Harley—hence, Kathi’s “road name” of Easy Writer!
Valeria's Cross can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, CBD, Lifeway, Family Christian, and Indie Bound.