St. Telemachus (St. Almachius) was a saintly ascetic of Asia Minor in present day Turkey. Once, during his prayer, he received a divine inspiration to travel to Rome and preach. When he reached Rome, the citizens of Rome were celebrating the victory of Rome over the Goths. Moving along with the marching crowd, he reached the Colosseum in Rome on 1st January, 404 A.D. He remembered the countless Christian martyrs who were killed and eaten by hungry lions in the Colosseum during the period of religious persecution in Rome. The Colosseum remained as a place for the public exhibition of cruel duels. Gladiatorial fights were common in the Roman amphitheatre.
The gladiators’ fight to amuse the crowd was about to begin. Two armed gladiators bowed before Emperor Honorius. They vowed to fight till one of them died. They approached each other for the fierce combat. Seeing the gruesome scene, Telemachus stood up from his seat in the gallery and cried aloud, “In the name of Christ, stop this killing.” The people laughed at him and said he was mad. But he jumped over the wall and sprang down into the arena. He stood between the combatant gladiators and repeated his request at the top of his voice. The audience became violent and threw stones at Telemachus, cursing him for interrupting their savage entertainment. The stones rained upon the saint from the furious spectators. He was stabbed to death by one of the gladiators.
There was a solemn silence as the audience witnessed the tragic death. The scene opened the eyes of the spectators and turned their hearts. They realised the cruelty of their conduct and left the gallery silently, one by one. The last words of Telemachus echoed in the Collosseum. The emperor, Honorius was greatly moved and left his seat in silence. The gladiators saw the empty gallery and stopped the fight.
Influenced by the Saint’s sacrifice, the Emperor soon issued a proclamation banning all gladiatorial fights and cruel entertainments involving murder of men. That was the end of killing in the Roman Colosseum. But Telemachus had to sacrifice his life to achieve this great victory.
Telemachus was canonised as a Saint for his heroic stance and sacrifice for protecting the dignity of life.
Jesus Christ taught, “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.” …………………………………………………………………
© By: Prof. Dr. Babu Philip, Former Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India, Prof. Mrs. Rajamma Babu, Former Professor, St. Dominic's College, Kanjirappally, Leo. S. John, St. Antony's Public School, Anakkal, Kanjirappally and Neil John, Maniparambil, Alfeen Public School, Kanjirappally, Kerala, India.
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