ONE MAN’S VOICE:
Sixteen hundred years ago a simple holy man from the countryside found himself in Rome for the first time. His name was Telemachus – and when this Christian monk arrived in Rome the “eternal city” was mid-festival celebrating its recent battle victory over the Barbarians. As part of the festivities the famous Colosseum was hosting a series of gladiatorial events – and so this rural monk simply followed the crowd into the huge stadium. Telemachus didn’t know what he was about to witness, nor did he know that this day his actions would bring about the end of gladiators fighting in the Colosseum.
As Telemachus stood at the back of the stands wondering what the commotion was for, the gladiators came out and stood before Emperor Honorius. These trained fighters gave the pledge their profession had been giving for centuries: “Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant” (“Hail, Emperor, we who are about to die salute you”).
Telemachus might have lived a simple country life as a monk but he wasn’t dumb. He quickly realised these men were about to battle to the death. Unable to understand why people would watch men kill each other he cried out “In the name of Christ, stop!” but his voice was lost in the cheering crowd.
As the gladiators began to fight each other Telemachus ran down to the front of the stands and yelled out again “In the name of Christ, stop!” but still he was unsuccessful in being heard.
So Telemachus did the unthinkable. He climbed over the wall into the arena and walked towards the battling gladiators, pleading “In the name of Christ, stop!”
The crowd cheered as they saw this scrawny and dishevelled holy man thinking it was part of the entertainment, but quickly grew angry as they realised he was trying to interrupt the entertainment.
As Telemachus approached the gladiators he continued his appeal: “In the name of Christ, stop!” But instead of heeding Telemachus’s appeal one of the fighters lifted his sword and plunged it into the monk’s body. Telemachus dropped to the sand and his last words were to the gladiator who had delivered the fatal blow: “In the name of Christ, stop!”
As the other gladiators stopped their fighting and stood over the body of this simple man the spectators fell silent. And then one-by-one the crowd began to leave the Colosseum. The stadium soon emptied and that day’s events were subsequently cancelled. The Emperor was so moved by the death of Telemachus that he soon passed a law putting an end to gladiatorial battles, and the Roman Colosseum would never again host this barbaric entertainment.
One tiny voice filled with the spirit of christian compassion was willing to take a risk. And Telemachus’s actions changed history.
You may think your voice won’t be heard over a crowd unwilling to listen but what impact might you be able to make in your world by simply saying: “In the name of Christ, stop!”?
Author: David Riley is a minister on the Gold Coast in Australia. This blog is a series of articles and “rambles” on the Reformation and christian church history written by David.