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Saint Telemachus, also Almachius (†404 AD) was an ascetic who came to Rome from the East and was martyred by stoning after trying to stop a gladiator fight in a Roman amphitheatre.[note 1] The Christian Emperor Honorius was impressed by the monk's martyrdom and took the occassion to issue an historic ban on all gladiator fights.[note 2]

The story is found in the writings of Theodoret of Cyrus, Bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria,[1] and is further mentioned in the martyrologies of Bede, Ado, and Usuard, which add that St. Almachius was put to death at Rome for boldly opposing the pagan rites that were practiced on the Octave of our Lord’s nativity."[2] Telemachus' feast day is observed on January 1 / January 14.[3][4]

Account in Theodoret

Theodoret's account of St. Telemachus' martyrdom is as follows:

"Chapter XXVI — Of Honorius the emperor and Telemachus the monk.
Honorius, who inherited the empire of Europe, put a stop to the gladiatorial combats which had long been held at Rome. The occasion of his doing so arose from the following circumstance. A certain man of the name of Telemachus had embraced the ascetic life. He had set out from the East and for this reason had repaired to Rome. There, when the abominable spectacle was being exhibited, he went himself into the stadium, and, stepping down into the arena, endeavoured to stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another. The spectators of the slaughter were indignant, and inspired by the mad fury of the demon who delights in those bloody deeds, stoned the peacemaker to death. When the admirable emperor was informed of this he numbered Telemachus in the array of victorious martyrs, and put an end to that impious spectacle."[1]

Later Versions

There is an alternate form of the story, in which Telemachus stood up in the amphitheatre and told the assembly to stop worshiping idols and offering sacrifices to the gods. Upon hearing this statement, the prefect of the city is said to have ordered the gladiators to kill Telemachus, and they promptly did so. The entry in the Roman Martyrology reads:

"At Rome, St. Almachius, martyr, who, by the command of Alipius, governor of the city, was killed by the gladiators for saying, 'Today is the Octave of our Lord's birth; put an end to the worship of idols, and abstain from unclean sacrifices.'"

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".[5] In the version of the story told by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the entire crowd left in silence.[6]


  1. 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".
  2. The last known gladiator fight in Rome was on January 1, 404 AD, so this is usually given as the date of Telemachus' martyrdom.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Theodoret of Cyrus. Chapter XXVI.—Of Honorius the emperor and Telemachus the monk. The Ecclesiastical History. Book V: Chapter XXVI. In: Philip Schaff (1819-1893) (Ed.). NPNF (V2-03). p.264.
  2. Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). St. Almachus, or Telemachus, Martyr. The Lives of the Saints. Volume I: January. 1866. (
  3. January 1. Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome.
  4. January 1. The Roman Martyrology.
  5. John Fox, (Ed. William Byron Forbush). "The Last Roman "Triumph"". Fox's Book of Martyrs. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  6. Reagan, Ronald (1984-02-02). "Remarks at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast". Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Retrieved 2011-12-07.


  • January 1. Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome.

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