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Monk Sacrificed Himself for Peace

In the fifth century, a monk named Telemachus wanted to live his life in pursuit of God, so he lived alone in the desert praying, fasting, and meditating. One day as he prayed, he realized his life was based on a selfish love of God, not selfless. If he were to serve God, he must serve men. He decided to return to the city where there was sin and need.

Telemachus headed for Rome. He arrived at a time when the Roman general, Stilicho, had won a great victory over the Goths. Since Rome was officially Christian, triumph brought people pouring into the churches.

But one pagan practice still lingered in Christian Rome—the gladiator games. While Christians were not thrown to the lions, prisoners of war were cast into the arena to fight and kill each other. Spectators roared with blood lust as the gladiators battled.

Telemachus arrived on the day of the games. Following the noise, he made his way to the arena where 80,000 people had gathered to celebrate. The fights began and Telemachus stood aghast. Men for whom Christ had died were about to kill each other to amuse a supposedly Christian populace.

He jumped into the arena and stood between the two gladiators, imploring them to stop. The crowd was furious at the delay of their "entertainment," and after several shouts and threats, it stoned the monk to death. The rest of the contests were cancelled that day. Three days later, Honorius (the Roman Emperor) declared Telemachus a martyr and ended the gladiatorial contests.

Historian Edward Gibbon observed the following about Telemachus: "His death was more useful to mankind than his life."

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