The Colosseum

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The Classical World
The Colosseum

What is the Colosseum?
** It is an ancient building which is a national symbol of the long history of Rome (the Eternal City) and a long surviving building of the Roman Empire. ** It was built for performances which were a basic part of the ancient Roman culture. ** Its size, date of construction (antiquity) and central place in old culture make it an obvious choice as Rome's symbol.

Its Role and Purpose:
** It was built by the Emperors of the Flavian family in Rome, and it is a theatre where the seats are in a circle. So it's called the "Flavian Amphitheatre" as well as the Colosseum. ** Many games were held there in the olden days, such as: gladiator fights, wild-beast displays, and events in which criminals and early Christians were executed. ** It was a symbol of the greatness and power of Rome as the greatest city of the Empire, even in the eighth century CE.

Omnibus by Thomas Weidemann: (Resource Book I)

a. Ancient sources (for his research): mosaics, ruins of old amphitheatres, inscriptions and written works, etc. b. Why were the games played, and the role of the Colosseum and the arena in the ancient Roman society c. What do we learn about the Roman civilization by studying about the Colosseum?

Romans and Greeks:
Games were played and popular even before the Colosseum was built in both Rome and Greece (which had a sophisticated culture several hundred years before the Romans); however, these shows and displays were criticized by philosophers and Christian thinkers as cruel and immoral.

The struggle with nature:
The people were to be grateful to the Emperor for killing all dangerous and harmful animals in the games, in the arena, and the Emperor was a considered a hero for getting his people rid of these animals (Hercules was a suitable symbol for the Emperors as he had killed many monsters in his legendary adventures). (Color Plate 23 and 16) It was built in the beginning to show the Roman victory over the Jews who had rebelled against them in Judea.

Life and death:
Possible origins of the gladiatorial fights and lists of the different ways in which criminals were killed in the arena. Punishment for any crime was shown openly in the arena to be seen by the rulers and the people. To forgive brave and successful fighters was also done together as a "collective and popular responsibility" of the rulers and the people gathered in the arena. Therefore, this place could give the opportunity for active discussion between the Emperor and people, as well as a way to separate the social position of people which showed them to be separate from criminals.

Gentlemen and Players:
The gladiators belonged to enemy fighters captured in wars, revolt, or those charged with serious crime; men who had no rights, and were slaves to the men who trained them to fight. Some of them were professional gladiators who were heroes, especially to women. (Even of the court). Christians looked at the gladiators as an enemy who was a devil and to defeat him would be a victory of true faith against a pagan practice. So, for a Christian to win over a gladiator was to win a religious victory and die a martyr. (Plates 25-28): Show how noble men would also become gladiators and highlight the fact that gladiators were both outcasts of society and glamorous attractions in society.

Sources:
I. WRITTEN SOURCES:
a. Graffiti (on walls).
b. Writings of that time (fragment papers).
c. Books from a later empire.

Contemporary Writings:
The "Achievements of the Divine Augustus", by Emperor Augustus, 14CE (about 60 years before the Colosseum was built) It was a political writing to be used in the grave of one of the ruling families. It mentions the games and their political implications. The games were organized to basically please the people. As a complete work, it appears to be a record of...
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