Bits of History - Honorius and Telemachus

I wish I knew more about history. Oh I know the basics, but one thing that really impresses me is when I hear someone speak about some event in history and they really know their stuff.
History fascinates me. Maybe it's because if you look closely you can see God's hand in history, the careful orcestrating of His plans.
Especially interesting to me is American history, and lately I've also been equally interested in the history of the Christian church. I'd like to learn more about these two apects of history and get to the point where I can talk about an event and really know my stuff.
Because of the appeal that history has for me in general, and as a way to vent my creative writing impulses, I thought I'd try writing a small bit of history from the perspective of someone who was there. I'll try to post these "bits of history" periodically, and hopefully it will benefit me in learning more history and improving my writing skills and benefit you in looking at historical events or characters from a different perspective. So here we go.

Rome - 404 A.D.


The sun was shining gently on the marble balcony as Honorius looked at the view from the imperial palace in Constantinople. He had lived here in this place from his birth, and he knew the hallways and arches like he back of his hand.
This was his home, the place he felt most comfortable. He had grown up in this palace with his brother Arcadius who now ruled the eastern half of Rome. It was a parting in which both brothers had agreed to go their own ways and rule each half of the empire as they saw fit. In the past either the eastern or western ruler would in essence control both halves of the empire, but with Arcadius and Honorius the empire was split pretty much down the middle with neither of them dominating the other. He had ruled western Rome ever since his father died nine years ago. Honorius was only eleven at the time.
Honorius turned away from the balcony and made his way to the courtyard. He needed to take a stroll through the gardens. Perhaps that would clear his mind.
Honorius couldn’t quite shake from his mind what he had seen two days ago at the gladiatorial games. For the most part it had started out like many other days at the games he had seen in the past. Honorius had been prepared to play the traditional role of the Emperor at the games – let the gladiators fight until one of them had the other on his knees, then give the thumbs down signal that was expected of him, giving the gladiator permission to complete the kill.
They had brought the first round of gladiators into the arena, and he half remembered the men calling out to him the traditional cry of “Hail Emperor! We who are about to die solute you!” He winced when he remembered his indifference to that phrase.
He was talking to Stilicho, his father’s “Master of Soldiers” who had been appointed his guardian after his father’s death, when there seemed to be a disruption. The crowd suddenly called madly, angry at something that had happened in the arena. The mood of the crowd was always fickle, but something seemed different this time. Honorius turned and looked out across the arena.
Suddenly he was aware of a small man dressed as a monk who was running to the center of the arena where the gladiators fought. The monk ran right between two gladiators who had been locked in combat and attempted to push them apart! The crazy little man, Honorius thought. They’ll probably turn on him now.
“Stop! Stop! In the name of Christ I beg you to stop!” said the monk, whose name Honorius later learned was Telemachus. Those words were now emblazoned on Honorius’ heart. He wasn’t sure he would ever forget them.
Surprisingly the gladiators didn’t kill the man, but the crowd had been outraged to have the games interrupted in such a way. Before long stones and other objects were raining down upon Telemachus. He continued to beg them in the name of Christ to stop killing men for sport until he was unconscious, the sand of the arena soaking up his blood. At that point Honorius had turned away.
Now as Honorius walked through the gardens at Constantinople, he replayed the monk’s last words in his mind. Honorius had always considered himself a Christian, but what kind of Christian was he really? He had watched the games many times before, watched men die without a second thought. He was ashamed that it had took an innocent monk speaking out and dying in the arena to open his eyes.
Honorius set his jaw, knowing what he must do. He had never made many decisions as the Emperor; he was content to just live his life, oversee what he must, but leave the rest to other men. Many called him weak and maybe he was; maybe that was why the Roman empire was split into two virtually separate empires with he and his brother at the helm. They had both been spoiled shamelessly as children and neither of them was dominant over the other now; maybe they were both weak as rulers. But this was the moment, the one moment in Honorius’ life when he felt he must do what he had to do. This was something that could not be left to others.
The next day, in the year 404 AD, Honorius issued a decree that the gladiatorial games should come to an end. No matter how many weak or even disastrous political moves Honorius had made in the past or would make in the future, he knew he could rest easy knowing that he had not failed in this; he had been strong and done what was right.





I gathered information for this piece from the following websites:
1. http://www.roman-empire.net/collapse/honorius.html
2. http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-emperors/honorius.htm
3. http://bible.christiansunite.com/sch/sch01-19.shtml
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