Today In Fact, 1 January

In Roman times, every town and city had an amphitheatre where games were played. These games were not the sort of thing that we today would take our children to watch as they involved death and suffering. Gladiators killed and were killed in battle and hunt and these games were wildly popular. The gladiatorial games were initially used as martial sacrifices to honour dead ancestors and the Roman values of war and conquest. The games became political tools to gain popularity and votes.

The introduction of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire from 313 did not mean that overnight the citizens of the empire adopted the values of Christianity. The games and gladiatorial battles remained popular until Telemachus, a Greek Monk protested on this day against the games at the amphitheatre in Rome in 404.

The crowd was so outraged by his protests that they stoned him to death. His martyrdom impressed the Roman Emperor, Honorius and he ordered the final abolition of gladiatorial games.

Telemachus’s protest against the brutality and inhumanity of gladiatorial games was a deeply Christian impulse and his martyrdom ended this brutal and lucrative industry. The impulse and joy we gain today from sports and contests reflect a more brutal and pagan tradition, now gentled thanks to Saint Telemachus

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (serendipiday.blogspot.com)