Yet it was sympathy for them that brought an end to the gladiator combat. In 404 a monk by the name of Telemachus, who had never seen such games before, became outraged and jumped into the arena. He tried to separate the gladiators. The presiding official took one look and gestured to the fighters to cut him down, which they did neatly. Emperor Honorius was watching and was repelled by the sight. He canonized Telemachus for his trouble and abolished duels forever. One more century and even the matchups between animals were through, but by now nearly all the lions of Mesopotamia, the elephants of North Africa and the hippos of Nubia had been decimated.
It is unlikely that the Emperor Vespasian, father of Titus and Domitian, envisioned what would go on inside the Colosseum when he began to build it; contrary to popular belief, Nero had nothing to do with it, mainly because he was dead. Vespasian was a sober man, with one eye always on the budget and the other usually raised at the excesses of Roman high life. His reasons for starting work on the Colosseum were simple: he wanted to put the restless people to work and keep slaves occupied, and he thought Rome could do with another recreation center. It took more than 10 years to complete, and Vespasian did not see its finish. He died the year before the opening ceremonies, leaving the final touches and its ultimate reputation to Titus and Domitian.
Now, after all these centuries, the Colosseum shakes, its underbelly shocked every 10 minutes by the subway, its frame rattled by inexorable traffic. It has survived five earthquakes, Popes who used it as a public quarry, millions of tourists who had to have a piece of it and, finally, an American millionaire. Professor Carettoni estimates that complete restoration would cost $5 million; the budget for the ruins of Rome is $400,000. The government has given him an emergency fund of $34,500, and for a while anyway seems once more attracted to its chronic invalid. After closing it, officials have reopened a portion to tourists and promised future restoration. The world and the Venerable Bede, it seems for the moment, can rest easy if not the flinty old Brother with the broken chalk in his hand.