Purposes and Significance of the Colosseum

Topics: Roman Empire, Rome, Ancient Rome Pages: 9 (1793 words) Published: May 1, 2015
Shivam Kaushal
Historical Investigation Part III- Report
What were the various purposes and the significances of the Colosseum to Rome and Roman culture? The Roman Colosseum was more than a mere colossal monument. It served many purposes and held significance not just culturally but both architecturally and politically. Though its history leaves an unavoidable trail of blood and death, it’s still regarded as an important milestone in the history of human art and architecture. Before the construction of the Colosseum there was no structure in Rome that specialized in providing the increasingly popular gladiatorial games. Its primary purpose was entertainment and it was a significant part of the Roman culture as entertainment is a primary part in viewing and perhaps defining a culture. When Vespasian was yet to reign as emperor, in 69 AD, Rome had gone through a civil war and social turmoil after the death of Nero in 68 AD, who was hated for increasing taxes for his own personal gain. The following year saw four emperors, out of which the last was Vespasian that attempted a series of efforts to stay in power and to clear up the mess left by the short yet vicious civil war. The war was responsible for leaving Rome broke and many unemployed. He needed to find ways to compensate the damage that Rome had received during the Civil War and to please his people by displaying himself as a generous and powerful emperor. It is logical to say that the building of the Colosseum was a much required political move. Entrance to the Colosseum was free of charge to Ancient Roman citizens however they had to be reserved in advance or the citizens would have to face standing in line on the day of the games event only to receive a ticket for standing room. The seating arrangements reflected social statuses in Rome. There were 4 tiers of seating. The closer you were to the actual arena floor, the higher your status was in the Ancient Roman society. If you were a commoner in Rome you typically wouldn’t be near the first and second tiers of seating. The Colosseum’s primary purpose was entertainment and it was a gift to the people of Rome. Bear in mind this was not typical entertainment like today. The Colosseum didn’t involve JUST plays. It involved violence. Entertainment in the Colosseum was provided in several ways. Most of these methods involved death and destruction much to the pleasure of the crowd. What the Colosseum was famous (perhaps even infamous) for, however, was animal fights, gladiatorial fights, executions and man vs animal fights etc. According to Dio Cassius over 9000 animals were killed during the inaugural games which were said to have lasted for 100 days. Different historians present different animals that were slaughtered so no actual strong evidence of the animals that were used therefore it’s up to the readers on what they choose to be correct. Dio notes a hunt involving cranes and another involving elephants whilst another historian named Marshal mentions elephants, lions, leopards, tigers, hares, pigs, bulls, rhinos, hippos etc. These animals were kept in cages directly beneath the wooden floor of the arena. There were a number of trapdoors under the floor of the arena which concealed these animals securely. A typical day at the Colosseum may have involved the morning act being gladiator games. The gladiators and competitors paraded into the arena with music accompanying them. Other events might have been mock fights with wooden weapons, which were then followed by animal acts. Sometimes these animals were trained to perform tricks, but more often than not they were killed. It was during the lunch break when criminals were executed. Those who had committed particularly serious crimes i.e. murder, arson, sacrilege, and treason. One form of execution was throwing the guilty to the wild animals and another was placing them into battle after battle with wild animals until they died. After lunch was the time for the...


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