Colosseum is a giant amphitheatre built in Rome under the Flavian emperors. It also called Flavian Amphitheatre. Construction of the Colosseum was begun sometime between 70 and 72 CE during the reign of Vespasian. It is located just east of the Palatine Hill, on the grounds of what was Nero’s Golden House. The artificial lake that was the centrepiece of that palace complex was drained, and the Colosseum was sited there. A decision that was as much symbolic as it was practical. The path to the throne had relatively humble beginnings was for Vespasian. He chose to replace the tyrannical emperor’s private lake with a public amphitheatre that could host tens of thousands of Romans. It has been selected one of the seven wonders of the world. Before visiting COLOSSEUM read Pritish Kumar Halder.
Purpose & Dimensions
The construction of the Colosseum was begun in 72 CE in the reign of Vespasian. It was made on the site that was once the lake and gardens of Emperor Nero’s Golden House. This was drained and as a precaution against potential earthquake damage concrete foundations six metres deep were put down. The building was part of a wider construction programme begun by Emperor Vespasian. This was in order to restore Rome to its former glory prior to the turmoil of the recent civil war. As Vespasian claimed on his coins with the inscription Roma resurgens, the new buildings —the Temple of Peace, Sanctuary of Claudius and the Colosseum— would show the world that ‘resurgent’ Rome was still very much the centre of the ancient world.
The Flavian Amphitheatre (or Amphiteatrum Flavium as it was known to the Romans) opened for business in 80 CE. This incident happened in the reign of Titus, Vespasian’s eldest son, with a one hundred day gladiator spectacular. It was finally completed in the reign of the other son, Domitian. The finished building was like nothing seen before. This one was situated between the wide valley joining the Esquiline, Palatine and Caelian hills, it dominated the city.
The theatre was principally built from locally quarried limestone with internal linking lateral walls of brick, concrete and volcanic stone. Vaults were built of lighter pumice stone. The sheer size of the theatre was the possible origin of the popular name of Colosseo. However, a more likely origin may have been as a reference to the colossal gilded bronze statue of Nero. Which was converted to resemble the sun-god and which stood outside the theatre until the 4th century CE.
The theatre was spectacular even from the outside with monumental open arcades on each of the first three floors presenting statue-filled arches. The first floor carried Doric columns, the second Ionic and the third level Corinthian. The top floor had Corinthian pilasters and small rectangular windows. There were no less than eighty entrances, seventy-six of these were numbered and tickets were sold for each. Two entrances were used for the gladiators, one of which was known as the Porta Libitina (the Roman goddess of death) and was the door through which the dead were removed from the arena. The other door was the Porta Sanivivaria through which victors and those allowed to survive the contests left the arena. The final two doors were reserved exclusively for the Emperor’s use.
Inside the theatre even more impressive when the three tiers of seats were filled with all sections of the populace. Encircling the arena was a wide marble terrace (podium) protected by a wall. Within which were the prestigious ring-side seats or boxes from where the Emperor and other dignitaries would watch the events. Beyond this area, marble seats were divided into zones. Those for richer private citizens, middle-class citizens, slaves and foreigners. Finally wooden seats and standing room in the flat-roofed colonnade on the top tier reserved for women and the poor. On top of this roof platform sailors were employed to manage the large awning (velarium). Which protected the spectators from rain or provided shade on hot days. The different levels of seats were accessed via broad staircases with each landing and seat being numbered. The total capacity for the Colosseum was approximately 45,000 seated and 5,000 standing spectators.
In medieval times, the Colosseum was used as a church, then as a fortress by two prominent Roman families, the Frangipane and the Annibaldi. The Colosseum was damaged by lightning and earthquakes and, even more severely, by vandalism and pollution. One of the oldest depictions of the Colosseum appeared on the coins of Titus and shows three tiers, statues in the upper external arches and the large column fountain – the Meta Sudans – which stood nearby. All the marble seats and decorative materials disappeared. Preservation of the Colosseum began in earnest in the 19th century, with notable efforts led by Pius VIII. And a restoration project was undertaken in the 1990s. It has long been one of Rome’s major tourist attractions, receiving close to seven million visitors annually. Changing exhibitions relating to the culture of ancient Rome are regularly mounted.