The last sacrifice in the colosseum

In AD 80 Rome saw the opening of a huge amphitheatre, known as the colosseum. For almost four centuries this became the foremost place of enjoyment for the Romans.

Bloody sports took place in the arena of this amphitheatre while thousands of spectators, including the emperor, were seated along the balconies, applauding them. Fearful beasts were collected from various parts of the world. They were starved and made to fight among themselves. What is more, human fighters had to confront them. Those declared criminals or rebels came handy to be used for this purpose. Then came the gladiators. They were men generally chosen from the slaves, taught to fight each other unto death.

One day, while the fight was on, suddenly a stranger jumped into the arena. While trying to separate the two batches of gladiators, he shouted, “Stop this beastly practice.” There was a stunned silence for a moment. Then the audience shouted, “Kill the the stranger!” He was at once cut down. But the game lost its momentum. That was the last fight of the gladiators in the Colosseum. The practice stopped, under the impact of Christianity.

The stranger was a traveller from Asia. Hardly anything more is known about him!

Chandamama, Jan. 1979

The stranger’s name was Telemachus.  In AD 391 (or AD 404?), the Christian monk from Asia (modern-day Turkey comprises the Roman province of Asia; what we today call Asia Minor), went on a pilgrimage to Rome. While there he noticed crowds flocking to the Colosseum to see gladiators do battle. He followed them in, only to witness a sight that repulsed him. He protested against the senseless violence, tried to stop the gory spectacle, and was killed in the ensuing melee. But his death was not in vain. In 405 Emperor Honorius declared gladiatorial battles were to end at the Colosseum. Tradition tells us that it was Telemachus’ brave protest that helped move him to do so.