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The Colosseum ( ; it, Colosseo ) is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome,
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the homonymous geographical ...
, just east of the Roman Forum. It is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built, and is still the largest standing amphitheatre in the world today, despite its age. Construction began under the emperor
Vespasian Vespasian (; la, Vespasianus ; 17 November AD 9 – 23/24 June 79) was a Roman emperor who reigned from AD 69 to 79. The fourth and last emperor who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Emp ...
() in 72 and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir, Titus (). Further modifications were made during the reign of
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 81 to 96. The son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, he was the last member of the Fl ...
(). The three emperors that were patrons of the work are known as the
Flavian dynasty The Flavian dynasty ruled the Roman Empire between AD 69 and 96, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known ...
, and the amphitheatre was named the Flavian Amphitheatre ( la, Amphitheatrum Flavium; it, Anfiteatro Flavio ) by later classicists and archaeologists for its association with their family name ( Flavius). The Colosseum is built of travertine limestone, tuff (volcanic rock), and brick-faced concrete. It could hold an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 spectators at various points in its history, having an average audience of some 65,000; it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles including animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on
Roman mythology Roman mythology is the body of myths of ancient Rome as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans. One of a wide variety of genres of Roman folklore, ''Roman mythology'' may also refer to the modern study of these representa ...
, and briefly mock sea battles. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine. Although substantially ruined by earthquakes and stone robbers taking ''
spolia ''Spolia'' (Latin: 'spoils') is repurposed building stone for new construction or decorative sculpture reused in new monuments. It is the result of an ancient and widespread practice whereby stone that has been quarried, cut and used in a built ...
'', the Colosseum is still an iconic symbol of
Imperial Rome The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post- Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity, it included large territorial holdings around the Medite ...
and was listed as one of the
New 7 Wonders of the World The New 7 Wonders of the World was a campaign started in 2000 to choose Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing monuments. The popularity poll via free Web-based voting and small amounts of telephone voting was led by Canadian-Swis ...
. It is one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions and also has links to the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide . It is among the world's oldest and largest international institutions, and has played a ...
, as each Good Friday the
Pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, 'father'), also known as supreme pontiff ( or ), Roman pontiff () or sovereign pontiff, is the bishop of Rome (or historically the patriarch of Rome), head of the worldwide Cathol ...
leads a torchlit "Way of the Cross" procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum. The Colosseum is depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.


Name

Originally, the building's Latin name was simply the . Though the modern name Flavian Amphitheatre () is often used, there is no evidence it was used in
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 5th century AD centred on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ...
. This name refers to the patronage of the
Flavian dynasty The Flavian dynasty ruled the Roman Empire between AD 69 and 96, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known ...
, during whose reigns the building was constructed, but the structure is better known as the Colosseum. In antiquity, Romans may have referred to the Colosseum by the unofficial name ''Amphitheatrum Caesareum'' (with ''Caesareum'' an adjective pertaining to the title '' Caesar''), but this name may have been strictly poetic as it was not exclusive to the Colosseum; Vespasian and Titus, builders of the Colosseum, also constructed a Flavian Amphitheatre in Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli). The name ''Colosseum'' is believed to be derived from a colossal statue of Nero on the model of the Colossus of Rhodes. The giant bronze sculpture of Nero as a solar deity was moved to its position beside the amphitheatre by the emperor Hadrian (). The word ''colosseum'' is a neuter Latin noun formed from the adjective ''colosseus'', meaning "gigantic" or "colossean". By the year 1000 the Latin name "Colosseum" had been coined to refer to the amphitheatre from the nearby "Colossus Solis". The spelling was sometimes altered in and ''coliseum'' are attested from the 12th and 14th centuries respectively. In the 12th century, the structure was recorded as the . In the
High Middle Ages The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the periodization, period of European history that lasted from AD 1000 to 1300. The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and were followed by the Late Middle Ages, which ended ...
, the Flavian amphitheatre is attested as the late 13th-century , and in by the early 16th century, by which time the word could be applied to any amphitheatre. From derived the , in use by the middle of the 15th century and employed by
John Capgrave John Capgrave (21 April 1393 – 12 August 1464) was an English historian, hagiographer and scholastic theologian, remembered chiefly for ''Nova Legenda Angliae'' (New Reading from England). This was the first comprehensive collection of lives ...
in his ''Solace of Pilgrims'', in which he remarked: . An English translation by
John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners (1467 – 19 March 1533) was an English soldier, statesman and translator. Family John Bourchier, born about 1467, was the only son of Sir Humphrey Bourchier (d.1471 at the Battle of Barnet) and Elizabeth Ti ...
, of Antonio de Guevara's biography of
Marcus Aurelius Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Latin: áːɾkus̠ auɾέːli.us̠ antɔ́ːni.us̠ English: ; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good E ...
() in about 1533 referred to .... Similarly, the , or , are attested as referring first to the amphitheatre in Rome, and then to any amphitheatre (as in 1367). By 1460, an equivalent existed in ; by 1495 had appeared the , and by 1548 the . The earliest citation for the name Colosseum in Early Modern English is the 1600 translation, by Philemon Holland, of the ''Urbis Romae topographia'' of
Bartolomeo Marliani Giovanni Bartolomeo Marliano (1488 Massimiliano Albanese'Bartolomeo Marliani'in ''Dizionario biografico degli italiani'', vol. 70, Roma, Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - 26 July 1566) was an Italian antiquarian and topography, topographer, ...
, which he used in the preparation of his translation of Livy's Augustan era '' Ab Urbe Condita Libri''. The text states: "This Amphitheatre was commonly called Colosseum, of Neroes Colossus, which was set up in the porch of Neroes house." Similarly, John Evelyn, translating the used by the architectural theorist
Roland Fréart de Chambray Roland Fréart, sieur de Chambray (13 July 1606 – 11 December 1676)Asfour 1996. was a French writer, collector, and a theorist of architecture and the arts. Though not a practitioner himself, his two major publications, ''Parallèle de l'archite ...
, wrote "And 'tis indeed a kind of miracle to see that the Colosseum … and innumerable other Structures which seemed to have been built for Eternity, should be at present so ruinous and dilapidated".


Related to the Colossus of Nero statue

After Nero's suicide and the civil wars of the Year of the Four Emperors, the Colossus of Nero statue was remodeled by the condemned emperor's successors into the likeness of Helios (''Sol'') or Apollo, the sun god, by adding the appropriate
solar crown A radiant or radiate crown, also known as a solar crown, sun crown, Eastern crown, or tyrant's crown, is a crown, wreath, diadem, or other headgear symbolizing the sun or more generally powers associated with the sun. Apart from the Ancient ...
. It was then commonly referred to as the "Colossus solis". Nero's head was also replaced several times with the heads of succeeding emperors. Despite its pagan links, the statue remained standing well into the medieval era and was credited with magical powers. The emperor
Constantine the Great Constantine I ( , ; la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus, ; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor from AD 306 to 337, the first one to convert to Christianity. Born in Naissus, Dacia Mediterran ...
remodeled the statue's face as his own. In the 8th century, an epigram attributed to the Venerable Bede celebrated the symbolic significance of the statue in a prophecy that is variously quoted: ''Quamdiu stat Colisæus, stat et Roma; quando cadet colisæus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus'' ("as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world").; the form quoted from the Pseudo-Bede is that printed in
Migne Jacques Paul Migne (; 25 October 1800 – 24 October 1875) was a French priest who published inexpensive and widely distributed editions of theological works, encyclopedias, and the texts of the Church Fathers, with the goal of providing a ...
, ''Pat. Lat'' 94 (Paris), 1862:543, noted in F. Schneider, ''Rom und Romgedanke im Mittelalter'' (Munich) 1926:66f, 251, and in Roberto Weiss, ''The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity'' (Oxford:Blackwell) 1973:8 and note 5.
This is often mistranslated to refer to the Colosseum rather than the Colossus (as in, for instance,
Byron George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824), known simply as Lord Byron, was an English romantic poet and peer. He was one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement, and has been regarded as among the ...
's poem '' Childe Harold's Pilgrimage''). However, at the time that the Pseudo-Bede wrote, the masculine noun ''coliseus'' was applied to the statue rather than to the amphitheatre. The Colossus did eventually fall, possibly being pulled down to reuse its bronze. The statue itself was largely forgotten and only its base survives, between the Colosseum and the nearby
Temple of Venus and Roma The Temple of Venus and Roma ( Latin: ''Templum Veneris et Romae'') is thought to have been the largest temple in Ancient Rome. Located on the Velian Hill, between the eastern edge of the Forum Romanum and the Colosseum, in Rome, it was dedic ...
.


History


Construction, inauguration, and Roman renovations

The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills, through which a
canal Canals or artificial waterways are waterways or engineered channels built for drainage management (e.g. flood control and irrigation) or for conveyancing water transport vehicles (e.g. water taxi). They carry free, calm surface f ...
ised stream ran as well as an artificial lake/marsh. By the 2nd century BC the area was densely inhabited. It was devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, following which Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. He built the grandiose Domus Aurea on the site, in front of which he created an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes. The existing Aqua Claudia aqueduct was extended to supply water to the area and the gigantic bronze Colossus of Nero was set up nearby at the entrance to the Domus Aurea. Although the Colossus was preserved, much of the Domus Aurea was torn down. The lake was filled in and the land reused as the location for the new Flavian Amphitheatre. Gladiatorial schools and other support buildings were constructed nearby within the former grounds of the Domus Aurea. Vespasian's decision to build the Colosseum on the site of Nero's lake can be seen as a populist gesture of returning to the people an area of the city which Nero had appropriated for his own use. In contrast to many other amphitheatres, which were on the outskirts of a city, the Colosseum was constructed in the city centre, in effect, placing it both symbolically and precisely at the heart of Rome. Construction was funded by the opulent spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the
First Jewish–Roman War The First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE), sometimes called the Great Jewish Revolt ( he, המרד הגדול '), or The Jewish War, was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews against the Roman Empire, fought in Roman-controlled ...
in 70 AD led to the Siege of Jerusalem. According to a reconstructed inscription found on the site, "the emperor
Vespasian Vespasian (; la, Vespasianus ; 17 November AD 9 – 23/24 June 79) was a Roman emperor who reigned from AD 69 to 79. The fourth and last emperor who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Emp ...
ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general's share of the booty." It is often assumed that Jewish prisoners of war were brought back to Rome and contributed to the massive workforce needed for the construction of the amphitheatre, but there is no ancient evidence for that; it would, nonetheless, be commensurate with Roman practice to add humiliation to the defeated population. Along with this free source of unskilled labor, teams of professional Roman builders, engineers, artists, painters and decorators undertook the more specialized tasks necessary for building the Colosseum. The Colosseum was constructed with several different materials: wood, limestone, tuff, tiles, cement, and mortar. Construction of the Colosseum began under the rule of Vespasian in around 70–72 AD (73–75 AD according to some sources). The Colosseum had been completed up to the third story by the time of Vespasian's death in 79. The top level was finished by his son, Titus, in 80, and the inaugural games were held in 80 or 81 AD. Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheatre. Commemorative coinage was issued celebrating the inauguration. The building was remodelled further under Vespasian's younger son, the newly designated Emperor
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 81 to 96. The son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, he was the last member of the Fl ...
, who constructed the ''
hypogeum A hypogeum or hypogaeum (plural hypogea or hypogaea, pronounced ; literally meaning "underground", from Greek ''hypo'' (under) and ''ghê'' (earth)) is an underground temple or tomb. Hypogea will often contain niches for cremated human r ...
'', a series of tunnels used to house animals and slaves. He also added a gallery to the top of the Colosseum to increase its seating capacity. In 217, the Colosseum was badly damaged by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio Cassius), which destroyed the wooden upper levels of the amphitheatre's interior. It was not fully repaired until about 240 and underwent further repairs in 250 or 252 and again in 320. Honorius banned the practice of gladiator fights in 399 and again in 404. Gladiatorial fights are last mentioned around 435. An inscription records the restoration of various parts of the Colosseum under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (reigned 425–455), possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in 443; more work followed in 484 and 508. The arena continued to be used for contests well into the 6th century. Animal hunts continued until at least 523, when
Anicius Maximus (Anicius) Maximus (died 552) was a Roman senator and patrician during the Ostrogothic kingdom, who celebrated the last games in the Flavian Amphitheater. Biography Maximus was a descendant of Roman emperor Petronius Maximus, and of the noble ...
celebrated his consulship with some '' venationes'', criticised by King Theodoric the Great for their high cost.


Medieval

The Colosseum underwent several radical changes of use. By the late 6th century a small chapel had been built into the structure of the amphitheater, though this apparently did not confer any particular religious significance on the building as a whole. The arena was converted into a cemetery. The numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were converted into housing and workshops, and are recorded as still being rented out as late as the 12th century. Around 1200 the Frangipani family took over the Colosseum and fortified it, apparently using it as a castle. In the early to mid 14th century, the Pope's relocation to Avignon caused a population decline in Rome that left the region insecure. The colosseum was largely abandoned by the public and became a popular den for bandits. Severe damage was inflicted on the Colosseum by the great earthquake in 1349, causing the outer south side, lying on a less stable alluvial terrain, to collapse. Much of the tumbled stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. In 1377, after the Pope's return to Rome, the Colosseum was restored by a religious order called Arciconfraternita del SS. Salvatore ad Sancta Sanctorum, who then inhabited a northern portion of it until as late as the early 19th century.
Names the order: ''Arciconfraternita del SS. Salvatore ad Sancta Sanctorum'', aka ''del Gonfalone''. Co-tenants: the Roman Senate and the Camera Apostolica. "In 1519 The Confraternita built the little chapel of Santa Maria della Pietà inside the Colosseum."
The interior of the amphitheater was extensively stripped of stone, which was reused elsewhere, or (in the case of the marble façade) was burned to make quicklime. The iron clamps which held the stonework together were pried or hacked out of the walls, leaving numerous pockmarks which still scar the building today.


Modern

During the 16th and 17th century, Church officials sought a productive role for the Colosseum. Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) planned to turn the building into a wool factory to provide employment for Rome's prostitutes, though this proposal fell through with his premature death. In 1671 Cardinal Altieri authorized its use for bullfights; a public outcry caused the idea to be hastily abandoned. In 1749, Pope Benedict XIV endorsed the view that the Colosseum was a sacred site where early Christians had been martyred. He forbade the use of the Colosseum as a quarry and consecrated the building to the Passion of Christ and installed Stations of the Cross, declaring it sanctified by the blood of the Christian martyrs who perished there (''see Significance in Christianity''). However, there is no historical evidence to support Benedict's claim, nor is there even any evidence that anyone before the 16th century suggested this might be the case; the '' Catholic Encyclopedia'' concludes that there are no historical grounds for the supposition, other than the reasonably plausible conjecture that some of the many martyrs may well have been. Later popes initiated various stabilization and restoration projects, removing the extensive vegetation which had overgrown the structure and threatened to damage it further. The façade was reinforced with triangular brick wedges in 1807 and 1827, and the interior was repaired in 1831, 1846 and in the 1930s. The arena substructure was partly excavated in 1810–1814 and 1874 and was fully exposed under Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. The Colosseum is today one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions, receiving millions of visitors annually. The effects of pollution and general deterioration over time prompted a major restoration programme carried out between 1993 and 2000, at a cost of Lire 40 billion ($19.3m / €20.6m at 2000 prices). In recent years, the Colosseum has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment, which was abolished in Italy in 1948. Several anti–death penalty demonstrations took place in front of the Colosseum in 2000. Since that time, as a gesture against the death penalty, the local authorities of Rome change the color of the Colosseum's night time illumination from white to gold whenever a person condemned to the death penalty anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released, or if a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty. Most recently, the Colosseum was illuminated in gold in November 2012 following the abolishment of capital punishment in the American state of
Connecticut Connecticut () is the southernmost state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York (state), New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the ...
in April 2012. Because of the ruined state of the interior, it is impractical to use the Colosseum to host large events; only a few hundred spectators can be accommodated in temporary seating. However, much larger concerts have been held just outside, using the Colosseum as a backdrop. Performers who have played at the Colosseum in recent years have included Ray Charles (May 2002), Paul McCartney (May 2003), Elton John (September 2005), and Billy Joel (July 2006).


Physical description


Exterior

Unlike
Roman theatres Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy * Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a lette ...
that were built into hillsides, the Colosseum is an entirely free-standing structure. It derives its basic exterior and interior architecture from that of two theatres back to back. It is elliptical in plan and is 189 meters (615 ft / 640 Roman feet) long, and 156 meters (510 ft / 528 Roman feet) wide, with a base area of . The height of the outer wall is 48 meters (157 ft / 165 Roman feet). The perimeter originally measured 545 meters (1,788 ft / 1,835 Roman feet). The central arena is an oval 87 m (287 ft) long and 55 m (180 ft) wide, surrounded by a wall 5 m (15 ft) high, above which rose tiers of seating. The outer wall is estimated to have required over of travertine stone which were set without mortar; they were held together by 300 tons of iron clamps. However, it has suffered extensive damage over the centuries, with large segments having collapsed following earthquakes. The north side of the perimeter wall is still standing; the distinctive triangular brick wedges at each end are modern additions, having been constructed in the early 19th century to shore up the wall. The remainder of the present-day exterior of the Colosseum is in fact the original interior wall. The surviving part of the outer wall's monumental façade comprises three superposed storeys surmounted by a podium on which stands a tall attic, both of which are pierced by windows interspersed at regular intervals. The arcades are framed by half-columns of the
Doric Doric may refer to: * Doric, of or relating to the Dorians of ancient Greece ** Doric Greek, the dialects of the Dorians * Doric order, a style of ancient Greek architecture * Doric mode, a synonym of Dorian mode * Doric dialect (Scotland) * Doric ...
, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, while the attic is decorated with Corinthian pilasters.Ian Archibald Richmond, Donald Emrys Strong,
Janet DeLaine Janet DeLaine is Emeritus Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. She is a Roman archaeologist whose research has focused on urban environments, with a particular focus on bath complexes, urban deve ...
. "Colosseum", ''The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization''. Ed. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth. Oxford University Press, 1998.
Each of the arches in the second- and third-floor arcades framed statues, probably honoring divinities and other figures from Classical mythology. Two hundred and forty mast corbels were positioned around the top of the attic. They originally supported a retractable awning, known as the ''
velarium A ("curtain") was a type of awning used in Roman times. It stretched over the whole of the , the seating area in amphitheaters to protect spectators from the sun. Precisely how the awning was supported is a matter of conjecture. Suetonius, '' ...
'', that kept the sun and rain off spectators. This consisted of a canvas-covered, net-like structure made of ropes, with a hole in the center. It covered two-thirds of the arena, and sloped down towards the center to catch the wind and provide a breeze for the audience. Sailors, specially enlisted from the Roman naval headquarters at Misenum and housed in the nearby ''Castra Misenatium'', were used to work the ''
velarium A ("curtain") was a type of awning used in Roman times. It stretched over the whole of the , the seating area in amphitheaters to protect spectators from the sun. Precisely how the awning was supported is a matter of conjecture. Suetonius, '' ...
''. The Colosseum's huge crowd capacity made it essential that the venue could be filled or evacuated quickly. Its architects adopted solutions very similar to those used in modern stadiums to deal with the same problem. The amphitheatre was ringed by eighty entrances at ground level, 76 of which were used by ordinary spectators. Each entrance and exit was numbered, as was each staircase. The northern main entrance was reserved for the Roman Emperor and his aides, whilst the other three axial entrances were most likely used by the elite. All four axial entrances were richly decorated with painted stucco reliefs, of which fragments survive. Many of the original outer entrances have disappeared with the collapse of the perimeter wall, but entrances XXIII (23) to LIIII (54) survive. Spectators were given tickets in the form of numbered pottery shards, which directed them to the appropriate section and row. They accessed their seats via '' vomitoria'' (singular ''vomitorium''), passageways that opened into a tier of seats from below or behind. These quickly dispersed people into their seats and, upon conclusion of the event or in an emergency evacuation, could permit their exit within only a few minutes. The name ''vomitoria'' derived from the Latin word for a rapid discharge, from which English derives the word vomit.


Interior seating

According to the Codex-Calendar of 354, the Colosseum could accommodate 87,000 people, although modern estimates put the figure at around 50,000. They were seated in a tiered arrangement that reflected the rigidly stratified nature of Roman society. Special boxes were provided at the north and south ends respectively for the Emperor and the
Vestal Virgins In ancient Rome, the Vestal Virgins or Vestals ( la, Vestālēs, singular ) were priestesses of Vesta, virgin goddess of Rome's sacred hearth and its flame. The Vestals were unlike any other public priesthood. They were chosen before pubert ...
, providing the best views of the arena. Flanking them at the same level was a broad platform or ''podium'' for the
senatorial A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a bicameral legislature. The name comes from the ancient Roman Senate (Latin: ''Senatus''), so-called as an assembly of the senior (Latin: ''senex'' meaning "the e ...
class, who were allowed to bring their own chairs. The names of some 5th century senators can still be seen carved into the stonework, presumably reserving areas for their use. The tier above the senators, known as the ''maenianum primum'', was occupied by the non-senatorial noble class or knights ('' equites''). The next level up, the ''maenianum secundum'', was originally reserved for ordinary Roman citizens ('' plebeians'') and was divided into two sections. The lower part (the ''immum'') was for wealthy citizens, while the upper part (the ''summum'') was for poor citizens. Specific sectors were provided for other social groups: for instance, boys with their tutors, soldiers on leave, foreign dignitaries, scribes, heralds, priests and so on. Stone (and later marble) seating was provided for the citizens and nobles, who presumably would have brought their own cushions with them. Inscriptions identified the areas reserved for specific groups. Another level, the ''maenianum secundum in legneis'', was added at the very top of the building during the reign of
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 81 to 96. The son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, he was the last member of the Fl ...
. This comprised a gallery for the common poor, slaves and women. It would have been either standing room only, or would have had very steep wooden benches. Some groups were banned altogether from the Colosseum, notably gravediggers, actors and former gladiators. Each tier was divided into sections (''maeniana'') by curved passages and low walls (''praecinctiones'' or ''baltei''), and were subdivided into ''cunei'', or wedges, by the steps and aisles from the vomitoria. Each row (''gradus'') of seats was numbered, permitting each individual seat to be exactly designated by its gradus, cuneus, and number.


Arena and hypogeum

The arena itself was 83 meters by 48 meters (272 ft by 157 ft / 280 by 163 Roman feet). It comprised a wooden floor covered by sand (the Latin word for sand is ''harena'' or ''arena''), covering an elaborate underground structure called the ''
hypogeum A hypogeum or hypogaeum (plural hypogea or hypogaea, pronounced ; literally meaning "underground", from Greek ''hypo'' (under) and ''ghê'' (earth)) is an underground temple or tomb. Hypogea will often contain niches for cremated human r ...
'' (literally meaning "underground"). The hypogeum was not part of the original construction but was ordered to be built by Emperor
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 81 to 96. The son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, he was the last member of the Fl ...
. Little now remains of the original arena floor, but the ''hypogeum'' is still clearly visible. It consisted of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. Eighty vertical shafts provided instant access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath; larger hinged platforms, called ''hegmata'', provided access for elephants and the like. It was restructured on numerous occasions; at least twelve different phases of construction can be seen. The ''hypogeum'' was connected by tunnels to a number of points outside the Colosseum. Animals and performers were brought through the tunnel from nearby stables, with the gladiators' barracks at the Ludus Magnus to the east also being connected by tunnels. Separate tunnels were provided for the Emperor and the
Vestal Virgins In ancient Rome, the Vestal Virgins or Vestals ( la, Vestālēs, singular ) were priestesses of Vesta, virgin goddess of Rome's sacred hearth and its flame. The Vestals were unlike any other public priesthood. They were chosen before pubert ...
to permit them to enter and exit the Colosseum without needing to pass through the crowds. Substantial quantities of machinery also existed in the ''hypogeum''. Elevators and pulleys raised and lowered scenery and props, as well as lifting caged animals to the surface for release. There is evidence for the existence of major hydraulic mechanisms and according to ancient accounts, it was possible to flood the arena rapidly, presumably via a connection to a nearby aqueduct. However, the construction of the hypogeum at Domitian's behest put an end to the practise of flooding, and thus also to naval battles, early in the Colosseum's existence.


Supporting buildings

The Colosseum and its activities supported a substantial industry in the area. In addition to the amphitheatre itself, many other buildings nearby were linked to the games. Immediately to the east is the remains of the '' Ludus Magnus'', a training school for gladiators. This was connected to the Colosseum by an underground passage, to allow easy access for the gladiators. The ''Ludus Magnus'' had its own miniature training arena, which was itself a popular attraction for Roman spectators. Other training schools were in the same area, including the ''Ludus Matutinus'' (Morning School), where fighters of animals were trained, plus the Dacian and Gallic Schools. Also nearby were the ''Armamentarium'', comprising an armory to store weapons; the ''Summum Choragium'', where machinery was stored; the ''Sanitarium'', which had facilities to treat wounded gladiators; and the ''Spoliarium'', where bodies of dead gladiators were stripped of their armor and disposed of. Around the perimeter of the Colosseum, at a distance of 18 m (59 ft) from the perimeter, was a series of tall stone posts, with five remaining on the eastern side. Various explanations have been advanced for their presence; they may have been a religious boundary, or an outer boundary for ticket checks, or an anchor for the ''
velarium A ("curtain") was a type of awning used in Roman times. It stretched over the whole of the , the seating area in amphitheaters to protect spectators from the sun. Precisely how the awning was supported is a matter of conjecture. Suetonius, '' ...
'' or awning.


Use

The Colosseum was used to host gladiatorial shows as well as a variety of other events. The shows, called '' munera'', were always given by private individuals rather than the state. They had a strong religious element but were also demonstrations of power and family prestige, and were immensely popular with the population. Another popular type of show was the animal hunt, or '' venatio''. This utilized a great variety of wild beasts, mainly imported from Africa and the Middle East, and included creatures such as rhinoceros,
hippopotamus The hippopotamus ( ; : hippopotamuses or hippopotami; ''Hippopotamus amphibius''), also called the hippo, common hippopotamus, or river hippopotamus, is a large semiaquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of only two exta ...
es,
elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species are currently recognised: the African bush elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. They are the only surviving members of the family Elephantida ...
s, giraffes, aurochs, wisents, Barbary lions, panthers, leopards,
bears Bears are carnivoran mammals of the family Ursidae. They are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans. Although only eight species of bears are extant, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the No ...
, Caspian tigers, crocodiles and ostriches. Battles and hunts were often staged amid elaborate sets with movable trees and buildings. Such events were occasionally on a huge scale; Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians, its core in Transylvania, stretching to the Danube in the south, the Black Sea in the east, and the Tisza in the west. The Carpathian Mountains were located in the middle of Dacia. It ...
in 107 with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days. During lunch intervals, executions ''
ad bestias ''Damnatio ad bestias'' (Latin for "condemnation to beasts") was a form of Roman capital punishment where the condemned person was killed by wild animals, usually lions or other big cats. This form of execution, which first appeared during the Ro ...
'' would be staged. Those condemned to death would be sent into the arena, naked and unarmed, to face the beasts of death which would literally tear them to pieces. Other performances would also take place by acrobats and magicians, typically during the intervals. During the early days of the Colosseum, ancient writers recorded that the building was used for '' naumachiae'' (more properly known as ''navalia proelia'') or simulated sea battles. Accounts of the inaugural games held by Titus in AD 80 describe it being filled with water for a display of specially trained swimming horses and bulls. There is also an account of a re-enactment of a famous sea battle between the Corcyrean (Corfiot) Greeks and the
Corinthians The First Epistle to the Corinthians ( grc, Α΄ ᾽Επιστολὴ πρὸς Κορινθίους) is one of the Pauline epistles, part of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author ...
. This has been the subject of some debate among historians; although providing the water would not have been a problem, it is unclear how the arena could have been waterproofed, nor would there have been enough space in the arena for the warships to move around. It has been suggested that the reports either have the location wrong or that the Colosseum originally featured a wide floodable channel down its central axis (which would later have been replaced by the
hypogeum A hypogeum or hypogaeum (plural hypogea or hypogaea, pronounced ; literally meaning "underground", from Greek ''hypo'' (under) and ''ghê'' (earth)) is an underground temple or tomb. Hypogea will often contain niches for cremated human r ...
). ''Sylvae'' or recreations of natural scenes were also held in the arena. Painters, technicians and architects would construct a simulation of a forest with real trees and bushes planted in the arena's floor, and animals would then be introduced. Such scenes might be used simply to display a natural environment for the urban population, or could otherwise be used as the backdrop for hunts or dramas depicting episodes from mythology. They were also occasionally used for executions in which the hero of the story – played by a condemned person – was killed in one of various gruesome but mythologically authentic ways, such as being mauled by beasts or burned to death.


Modern use

The Colosseum today is a major tourist attraction in Rome with thousands of tourists each year entering to view the interior arena. There is now a museum dedicated to Eros in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building. Part of the arena floor has been re-floored. Beneath the Colosseum, a network of subterranean passageways once used to transport wild animals and gladiators to the arena opened to the public in summer 2010. The Colosseum is also the site of Roman Catholic ceremonies in the 20th and 21st centuries. For instance, Pope Benedict XVI led the Stations of the Cross called the Scriptural Way of the Cross (which calls for more meditation) at the Colosseum on Good Fridays.


Restoration

In 2011
Diego Della Valle Diego Della Valle (born 30 December 1953) is the chairman of the Italian leather goods company ''Tod's''. Biography Family, youth and studies Diego Della Valle is the elder son of Dorino Della Valle and grandson of Filippo Della Valle. Filip ...
, head of the shoe firm
Tod's Tod's S.p.A., also known as Tod's Group, is an Italian company which produces luxury shoes and other leather goods. The company is majority controlled by the founding family Della Valle Family and is listed on the Italy's Milan Stock Exchange bei ...
, entered into an agreement with local officials to sponsor a €25 million restoration of the Colosseum. Work was planned to begin at the end of 2011, taking up to two and a half years. Due to the controversial nature of using a public–private partnership to fund the restoration, work was delayed and began in 2013. The restoration is the first full cleaning and repair in the Colosseum's history. The first stage is to clean and restore the Colosseum's arcaded façade and replace the metal enclosures that block the ground-level arches. After three years, the work was completed on 1 July 2016, when the Italian minister of culture, Dario Franceschini, also announced that the funds have been committed to replace the floors by the end of 2018. These will provide a stage that Franceschini says will be used for "cultural events of the highest level." The project also includes creating a services center and restoring the galleries and underground spaces inside the Colosseum. Since 1 November 2017, the top two levels have been opened for guided visits. The fourth level held the marketplace, and the top fifth tier is where the poorest citizens, the plebeians, gathered and watched the show, bringing picnics for the day-long event.


Significance in Christianity

The Colosseum is generally regarded by Christians as a site of the martyrdom of large numbers of believers during the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, as evidenced by Church history and tradition. On the other hand, other scholars believe that the majority of martyrdoms may have occurred at other venues within the city of Rome, rather than at the Colosseum, citing a lack of still-intact physical evidence or historical records. These scholars assert that "some Christians were executed as common criminals in the Colosseum—their crime being refusal to reverence the Roman gods", but most Christian martyrs of the early Church were executed for their faith at the Circus Maximus. According to Irenaeus (died about 202), Ignatius of Antioch was fed to the lions in Rome around 107 A.D and although Irenaeus says nothing about this happening at the Colosseum, tradition ascribes it to that place. In the Middle Ages, the Colosseum was not regarded as a monument, and was used as what some modern sources label a "quarry," which is to say that stones from the Colosseum were taken for the building of other sacred sites. This fact is used to support the idea that, at a time when sites associated with martyrs were highly venerated the Colosseum was not being treated as a sacred site. It was not included in the itineraries compiled for the use of pilgrims nor in works such as the 12th century '' Mirabilia Urbis Romae'' ("Marvels of the City of Rome"), which claims the
Circus Flaminius The Circus Flaminius was a large, circular area in ancient Rome, located in the southern end of the Campus Martius near the Tiber River. It contained a small race-track used for obscure games, and various other buildings and monuments. It was "bu ...
– but not the Colosseum – as the site of martyrdoms. Part of the structure was inhabited by a Christian religious order, but it is not known whether this was for any particular religious reason. Pope Pius V (1566–1572) is said to have recommended that pilgrims gather sand from the arena of the Colosseum to serve as a relic, on the grounds that it was impregnated with the blood of martyrs, although some of his contemporaries did not share his conviction. A century later Fioravante Martinelli listed the Colosseum at the head of a list of places sacred to the martyrs in his 1653 book ''Roma ex ethnica sacra''. Martinelli's book evidently had an effect on public opinion; in response to Cardinal Altieri's proposal some years later to turn the Colosseum into a bullring, Carlo Tomassi published a pamphlet in protest against what he regarded as an act of desecration. The ensuing controversy persuaded Pope Clement X to close the Colosseum's external arcades and declare it a sanctuary. At the insistence of St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Pope Benedict XIV (1740–1758) forbade the quarrying of the Colosseum and erected Stations of the Cross around the arena, which remained until February 1874. Benedict Joseph Labre spent the later years of his life within the walls of the Colosseum, living on alms, before he died in 1783. Several 19th century popes funded repair and restoration work on the Colosseum, and it still retains its Christian connection today. A Christian cross stands in the Colosseum, with a plaque, stating:
The amphitheater, one consecrated to triumphs, entertainments, and the impious worship of pagan gods, is now dedicated to the sufferings of the martyrs purified from impious superstitions.
Other Christian crosses stand in several points around the arena and every Good Friday the Pope leads a Via Crucis procession to the amphitheater.


Flora

The Colosseum has a wide and well-documented history of flora ever since Domenico Panaroli made the first catalogue of its plants in 1643. Since then, 684 species have been identified there. The peak was in 1855 (420 species). Attempts were made in 1871 to eradicate the vegetation, because of concerns over the damage that was being caused to the masonry, but much of it has returned. 242 species have been counted today and of the species first identified by Panaroli, 200 remain. The variation of plants can be explained by the change of climate in Rome through the centuries. Additionally, bird migration, flower blooming, and the growth of Rome that caused the Colosseum to become embedded within the modern city centre rather than on the outskirts of the ancient city, as well as deliberate transport of species, are also contributing causes. Another reason often given is their seeds being unwittingly transported either on the fur or in the feces of animals brought there from all corners of the empire.


In popular culture

The Colosseum has appeared in numerous films, artworks and games. It's featured in movies such as ''
Roman Holiday ''Roman Holiday'' is a 1953 American romantic comedy film directed and produced by William Wyler. It stars Audrey Hepburn as a princess out to see Rome on her own and Gregory Peck as a reporter. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actres ...
'', '' Gladiator'', '' The Way of the Dragon'', '' The Core'' and ''
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'' and games like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Ryse: Son of Rome and
Forge of Empires ''Forge of Empires'' is a browser-based strategy game developed by InnoGames. It was first launched on closed beta on 29 March 2012. The game was initially released on 17 April 2012 (open beta phase). In 2013, a television advertising campaign ...
. Several architectural works have also been modelled on or inspired by, the Colosseum. These include: * The ''Kongresshalle'', or "Congress Hall", (1935, unfinished) at the Nazi Party Rally grounds,
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,
Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and the most populous member state of the European Union. Germany is situated betwee ...
* The Summer Olympic Games medal from 1928 to 2000, designed by
Giuseppe Cassioli Giuseppe Cassioli (22 October 1865 – 5 October 1942)
,
2004 Summer Olympics in
Athens Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is both the capital and largest city of Greece. With a population close to four million, it is also the seventh largest city in the European Union. Athens dominates a ...
the Colosseum was replaced by a depiction of the Panathinaiko Stadium * The exterior of the
Vancouver Public Library Vancouver Public Library (VPL) is the public library system for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2013, VPL had more than 6.9 million visits with patrons borrowing nearly 9.5 million items including: books, ebooks, CDs, DVDs, video gam ...
in
British Columbia British Columbia (commonly abbreviated as BC) is the westernmost province of Canada, situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. It has a diverse geography, with rugged landscapes that include rocky coastlines, sandy beaches, for ...
resembles the current state of the Colosseum. It was designed by Moshe Safdie. * The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum entrance was inspired by the Colosseum. * The Palazzo della Civilta Italiana was very closely modelled on the Colosseum. It was built for Mussolini for the Universal Exhibition of 1942 but the exhibition never happened due to the outbreak of World War II. The architects were Giovanni Guerrini, Ernesto Bruno La Padula, and Mario Romano. *
McCaig's Tower McCaig's Tower, also known as McCaig's Folly, is a prominent tower on Battery Hill overlooking the town of Oban in Argyll, Scotland. It is built of Bonawe granite taken from the quarries across Airds Bay, on Loch Etive, from Muckairn, with ...
, overlooking Oban, Scotland.


Gallery

File:Rom Colosseum Sept 2021 2.jpg, The Colosseum in 2021 File:Colosseum and Arch of Constantine seen from Palatine.jpg, Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine seen from Palatine File:Colosseum (8474551096).jpg, Interior File:Colosseum 1000689.jpg, Interior File:Colosseo - Through my lens 2.jpg, Colosseum at night File:The Colosseum (9554989427).jpg, Seating tiers at the east entrance File:Rome (IT), Kolosseum -- 2013 -- 3400.jpg, Colosseum 2013


See also

* * *


References


Notes


Bibliography

* * *


External links

*
Virtual tour of the Colosseum

A 3D model of Colosseum on Sketchfab
* *
3D model of the past and present of the colosseum – The Only Progress is Human
{{DEFAULTSORT:Flavian Amphitheatre Amphitheatres in Rome Building projects of the Flavian dynasty Roman archaeology Ruins in Italy National museums of Italy Round buildings Roman amphitheatres in Italy 1st-century establishments in Italy 80s establishments in the Roman Empire Rome R. XIX Celio Titus Vespasian 80 Buildings and structures completed in the 1st century World Heritage Sites in Italy Outdoor arenas