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Ordinary People Who Changed History

Roman gladiator--one whose history was changed.

Have you ever thought that just one person could change the course of history? It happened once because a little monk stumbled into a coliseum and reacted to a gladiator fight. His impulsive action resulted in the end of all gladiator competition in the Roman empire.

Time travel with me to the fifth century. Gladiator fights and coliseum games were common yet gruesome forms of entertainment in the ancient Roman world. In a culture bursting with violence, crowds thronged to watch men clutch swords and fight to the bloody death.

Gladiators of the ancient Roman world knew that one of them would die at the end of their fight and it wouldn’t be pretty. The winner pinned his foe to the ground, placed his foot on the neck of the loser, and flicked out his eyes with the tip of his sword.

So, why compete? Because of the perks. The winner would be free from paying taxes to the repressive Roman government. He would be released from slavery.

Enter an obscure little monk named Telemachus (Teh-LEM-ah-kus), who lived in what is now modern-day Turkey. Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus in Syria (393-457) wrote an account of the event involving this unusual man whose actions ended the gladiatorial contests.

According to one story, Telemachus felt an inner voice impressing him to go to Rome. He didn’t know the reason, but obeyed the prompting. Once in Rome, Telemachus followed the crowd to a coliseum. To his horror, two gladiators were fighting while the crowd shouted encouragement.

This was too much for the Christ-follower. Leaping into the arena, the little monk tried to position himself between two gladiators, shouting three times, “In the name of Christ, forbear!”

What happened next is where historians differ. Some think Telemachus was killed by being run through with a gladiator sword. As this account goes, when the crowd saw the peace-keeping little man lying dead in a pool of blood, they fell silent and left the stadium.

Other research differs. Another version says spectators were enraged that someone would dare to interfere with their bloody entertainment. They rose up and killed the little monk by stoning him to death.

Later, Honorius, emperor of Europe, heard about Telemachus’ brave feat. He counted the little monk to be among the victorious martyrs and stopped the gladiatorial games. We can credit the banishing of barbarous entertainment—at least for a while--- to one obscure little man who valued the life of others above his own.

History is filled with ordinary people who amazed others by doing impossible feats. Winston Churchill, famous statesman of the WW II era, ranked lowest in his class and had to take the military school entrance exam twice. Later, he inspired Great Britain’s citizens to rise to victory over impossible odds.

Rush Limbaugh got a D in public speaking. He earned a living as a radio personality.

Omar Bradley, a five-star general during WW II, barely qualified to pass part of West Point’s entrance exam. Yet, his remarkable leadership skills led him to oversee thousands of soldiers during WW II.

To repeat a thought made in a previous blog, God likes to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. What will He do with you? with me?


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