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. That was the custom, of his day. Truly spiritual people went out to be totally alone in the desert so that they could give themselves fully to God. One day as he prayed, he realized his life was based on a very selfish love of God .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. (Sound kind of like the superbowl doesn’t it?) The fights began and Telemachus stood there, watching in horror. Men for whom Christ had died were about to kill each other to amuse people who called themselves Christians.
He became so horrified that he jumped into the arena and stood between the two gladiators, imploring them to stop. The crowd was angry. They had come to see blood and this little preacher was interrupting their "entertainment." After several shouts and threats, the crowd lost it. They stoned the monk to death. The rest of the contests were cancelled that day. Three days later, Honorius (the Roman Emperor), so moved by this believer who resisted to the point of bloodshed, declared Telemachus a martyr and ended the gladiatorial games forever.
When considering the impact of this little monk, historian Edward Gibbon said ofTelemachus: "His death was more useful to mankind than his life." What he meant was this. In his life Telemachus was safely praying in the desert, alone. It took an all out commitment and event he loss of his life to really impact his world.