Saint Telemachus

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The Martyrdom of Saint Telemachus
Hermit and Martyr
BornEastern Roman Empire
Died(404-01-01)1 January 404 (or 391[1])
Rome, Italy
Feast1 January

Saint Telemachus (also Almachus[1] or Almachius) was a monk who, according to the Church historian Theodoret,[2] tried to stop a gladiatorial fight in a Roman amphitheatre, and was stoned to death by the crowd. The Christian Emperor Honorius, however, was impressed by the monk's martyrdom and it spurred him to issue a historic ban on gladiatorial fights. Frederick George Holweck gives the year of his death as 391.[3] The last known gladiatorial fight in Rome was on 1 January 404 AD.

Telemachus at the stadium


He is described as being an ascetic who came to Rome from the East. The story is found in the writings of Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria.

Although the site of Telemachus' martyrdom is often given as being the Colosseum in Rome, Theodoret does not actually specify where it happened, saying merely that it happened in "the stadium".

Later retellings of the story have differed from Theodoret's in a number of details. Foxe's Book of Martyrs claims that Telemachus was first stabbed to death by a gladiator, but that the sight of his death "turned the hearts of the people".[4] In the version of the story told by Ronald Reagan in 1984, the entire crowd left in silence.[5]

There is also an alternate form of the story, in which Telemachus stood up in the amphitheatre and told the assembly to stop worshipping idols and offering sacrifices to the gods. Upon hearing this statement, the prefect of the city is said by this source to have ordered the gladiators to kill Telemachus, and they promptly did so.[6]


  1. ^ a b Jones, Terry. "Telemachus". Patron Saints Index. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 15 August 2008.
  2. ^ Theodoret (1843). Honorius the Emperor, and the Monk Telemachus. Ecclesiastical History v.26. London, UK: Samuel Bagster and Sons. pp. 326–327. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  3. ^ Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1924) p. 51
  4. ^ Fox, John. William Byron Forbush (ed.). "The Last Roman "Triumph"". Fox's Book of Martyrs. Retrieved 9 June 2009.
  5. ^ Reagan, Ronald (2 February 1984). "Remarks at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast". Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Retrieved 9 June 2009.
  6. ^ Burns, Paul. Butler's Lives of the Saints:New Full Edition. Collegeville, MN:The Liturgical Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8146-2377-8.

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