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Discovery Magazine 10/1/2010

Gladiators and Christianity Clash

Gladiator shows were brutal fights between slaves. The Roman government forced these slaves to fight each other to the death. Sometimes they would fight with swords and spears. Sometimes they would flood the arena and fight from ships. At other times they would fight from chariots. Sometimes gladiators would be made to fight ferocious wild animals. Most of the time, the fights ended when the gladiators were brutally murdered by another gladiator or a vicious animal.

The Roman people loved watching these men die. Thousands of Roman citizens would pack the stadiums to see gladiators fight. Sometimes, hundreds or thousands of gladiators would die in one day. And sometimes, the gladiator fights would be held every day for months at a time. Tens of thousands of gladiators died over the years.

When Jesus’ teachings began to spread, his followers realized that the gladiator shows were not good. The killing of gladiators was murder, Christians said. Furthermore, the gladiator shows taught people to be cruel, heartless, and to treat their fellow human beings like animals. Many of the early Christian leaders taught their fellow Christians not to attend the gladiator shows because they glorified cruelty and sin.

In fact, the story is told about Telemachus—a man who was known as a Christian. In about A.D. 404, he attended a gladiator show. When he saw the cruelty and violence of the show, he jumped into the arena and tried to stop the gladiators from killing each other. The crowd was so angry with him for attempting to stop the fight that they stoned him to death.

When the emperor of Rome, Honorius, heard of Telemachus’ bravery, he outlawed all gladiator shows throughout his empire.

Although some historians are not sure that the story of Telemachus is true, there is no doubt that Christians, following the teachings of Christ, played a large part in helping the government to see that gladiator shows were immoral and cruel. It is wonderful to see all the improvements in society that those who follow the teachings of Jesus have helped to accomplish over the years.

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