When Vespasian became the Emperor of Rome in 69 CE he promised to make a difference. He did not want to live the rich life that Nero, a previous Emperor, had. Vespasian tore down Nero's Golden House and turned the land into a public park. He also tore down Nero's giant gold statue called the Colossus. With the money from the statue's gold, Vespasian built an amphitheater. He called it the Colosseum after the statue. But what exactly was it, and what went on there?
The Roman Colosseum was a huge amphitheatre built between 69 and 79 CE (Mann). The events that took place there were gladiatorial combats, wild beast hunts, vaudeville acts, and many types of theatrical entertainment. Among these, the gladiatorial combats and wild beast hunts made up most of the program. Originally, gladiatorial fights began as public funerals to show the amount of wealth a person possessed. By 104 BCE, crowds had become so large; they could only be accommodated by state affairs (Dutemple). When Rome's republic became imperial, the emperors sought to please the people, and they did this by rewarding the plebeians, Roman common people, with entertainment. Although the original purpose of the Colosseum was entertainment, it was transformed into a medieval fortress in the sixth century CE after being damaged by an earthquake.
The Roman Colosseum is situated in Rome, Italy, between the Esquiline and Palatine Hills (The-colosseum.net). Its construction was planned by Nero, who was the ruler of Rome in the beginning of the first century CE. The structure was originally intended as a larger complex, but the idea was never fulfilled and Nero died before its opening. After three more rulers and many years of anarchy, Vespasian, in 69 CE, became the authority in Rome. He supervised the construction of the Colosseum, and his successor, Titus, finally dedicated the Colosseum in 80 CE (Time-Life Books). Vespasian founded a new dynasty called the Flavian Dynasty, which is where the Colosseum's proper name, the Flavian Amphitheatre, originated. The term Colosseum is derived from a "colossal" 120-foot-high statue of Nero, which once stood near the amphitheatre (Crystalinks.com). It has since been demolished. Not only was the statue colossal, but the amphitheatre itself was quite a sight. Of all the amphitheatres in the Roman Empire, the Colosseum was by far the largest, having a capacity of fifty-thousand spectators. It spanned an area of 620-feet long by 510-feet wide and was 160-feet high, with four stories (Mann). The exterior walls were of a creamy colored calcium carbonate material called travertine, the inner walls of siliceous rock deposits called tufa, and the vaulting of the ramped seating area made from monolithic concrete (Crystalinks.com). Its roof was of canvas, and could be raised and lowered as needed by specially trained, skilled Roman sailors. Underneath the main arena, there were passageways and cells for the "performing" animals and prisoners. Although the original purpose of the Colosseum was entertainment, it was transformed into a medieval fortress in the sixth century CE after being damaged by an earthquake. In the eighteenth century its restoration was begun by several popes including Benedict XIV and is preserved as a historical monument to this day (Crystalinks.com).
A typical day in the Colosseum began with a succession of bloodless duels often comic or fantastic, but others were extremely gruesome. The Romans were obsessed with blood and gore. They enjoyed watching one man kill another man, or watching one man kill many innocent animals. What the Romans called entertainment back then is what we call murder today. All types of people witnessed the bloody spectacle, and forms of "entertainment" in the Colosseum. Among the Colosseum's spectators were dignitaries, their guests and their slaves, common people, and foreigners, people who did not hold Roman citizenship (Time-Life Books). As far as...
Cited: Crystalinks.com. "The Roman Colosseum." Crystalinks.com. 4 May 2008 .
Dutemple, Lesley A. The Colosseum. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Company, 2003.
Mann, Elizabeth. The Roman Colosseum. New York, NY: Mikaya Press, 1998.
The-colosseum.net. The Colossevm . 2006. 2 May 2008 .
Time-Life Books. "What Life was Like ." Dersin, Denise. When Rome Ruled the World. Richmond, VA: Time-Life Books, 1997. 132-157.
Times, Gladiator History &. Gladiators. 1 January 2008. 3 May 2008 .
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