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Building of the Colosseum started under Emperor’s Vespasian rule around the 70-72 AD. This construction was funded by the spoils that were retrieved from the Jewish Temple after Jerusalem was taken over. The location chosen in constructing the Colosseum was a flat region on the floor of a valley amid the Palatine, Esquiline and Caelian Hills., all the way through which a canalized watercourse ran. By the second century, this area was densely populated. The Great Fire of Rome devastated the area in AD 64. After the occurrence of this event, Nero grabbed a bigger part of the area adding a lot to his personal domain (Bomgardner, 2000).
Nero built the grandiose Domus Aurea on the location, creating a man-made lake that had pavilions, porticoes and gardens surrounding it. The Aqua Claudia that existed was extended in supplying water to the locality and the gigantic bronze, Nero’s Colossus was mounted nearby at the Domus Aurea entrance. Even though the Colossus was conserved, to a great extent of the Domus Aurea was taken down. The land was used again as an area for the latest Flavian Amphitheatre and the lake was filled. Gladiatorial schools and various support buildings were developed nearby within the Domus Aurea former grounds. As stated in a reconstructed writings found at the location, “the emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general’s share of the booty.” This is believed to refer to the immense treasure the Romans seized after they won the Great Jewish revolt in the 70 AD (Bomgardner, 2000).
Colosseum in Context
This Colosseum can therefore be interpreted as an enormous triumphal monument that was constructed in the Roman traditions of great victory celebrations, placating the people of Rome as an alternative of returning soldiers.
Vespasian’s resolution in building the Colosseum on the location of Nero’s lake can be seen also as a populist sign of returning to the individuals a location of the city whereby Nero had suitable for his purposes. In contrast to the various amphitheatres that were located outside the city, the Colosseum was built in the heart of the city; in result placing it both symbolically and literally at the center of Rome (Hopkins, 125).
When Vespasian died in 79, the Colosseum was completely constructed up to the third stories. The top point was concluded and the construction launched by Titus who was Vespasian’s son. Later on, the building was redesigned and a hypogeum was constructed which various tunnels had used in housing slaves and animals. A gallery was added to the Colosseum’s top so that its seating capacity could be increased. The Colosseum was destroyed badly in 217 by an enormous fire that damaged the wooden upper levels found in the amphitheatres inside. This building was not repaired fully until about 240 (Hopkins, 127). This fire was caused by lightning. During the middle age period, the Colosseum underwent various drastic changes of use.
By the end of the sixth century, a small church had been constructed into the amphitheatre structure, even though this did not present any specific religious significance on the Colosseum as a whole. The field was changed into a burial ground. The plentiful vaulted spaces found in the covered passages under the seating were changed into workshops and housings. They have been documented as still being borrowed out as late as the twelve century. The Frangipani family took over the Colosseum just about 1200 and fortified it. They went on to use it as a castle (Hopkins, 128).
In 1349, the Colosseum had severe damages due to the great earthquake that took place. This caused the external south side that lies on less steady alluvional terrains to subside. A large amount of the tumbled stone was used again in building churches, palaces, hospitals and various buildings in other parts of Rome. The inside part of the amphitheatre was widely exposed of stone, which was used again somewhere else or burned to create quicklime in the situation of marble facades (Hopkins, 128).
The bronze clamps used in holding the stonework together were hacked or pried out of the building’s walls, leaving abundant pockmarks that are still scarred the building currently. In the period of the 17th and 16th century, officials of the church wanted an industrious role for the Colosseum. Pope Sixtus had plans of turning the building to be a wool industrial unit that would give employment to the prostitutes in Rome. This proposal was not implemented because he died. Another official cardinal Altieri, approved the Colosseum to be used in bullfighting. Outcries made by the public made this idea to be abandoned hastily (Hopkins, 129).
Pope Benedict the fourteenth approved as an official church rule the outlook that the Colosseum was a holy location where early Christians had been killed for their beliefs. This pope forbade the Colosseum use in 1749 as a quarry. The building was consecrated in Christ’s passion and Stations of the Cross were installed. This declared that the building was consecrated by the Christian martyrs’ blood who died in the Colosseum. Today, the Colosseum is a leading tourist attraction site in Rome. It receives millions of visitors yearly (Hopkins, 129). The general deterioration and pollution effects from time to time encouraged major restoration program that was carried out in 1993 to 2000.
Currently, the Colosseum is viewed as a symbol of the worldwide campaign in opposition to punishment that was put an end in Italy in 1948. Various anti-death penalty protests occurred in 2000 in front of the Colosseum. After this period, as gestures against death penalties, Rome local authorities changed the Colosseum night time lighting colors from white to gold, whenever an individual fated to the death penalty at any place in the world gets his sentence exchanged or released, or in case a jurisdiction puts an end to the death penalty. Currently, the Colosseum was lightened in gold after the death penalties were put to an end in New Mexico in 2009 (Hopkins, 131).
Due to the interior ruined state, it was not practical for using the Colosseum in hosting large events.
( Bomgardner, 2000)
Unlike the old Greek theatres that were constructed into hillsides, the Colosseum is one of the free standing structures. Its basic interior and exterior architectures are derived from the two Roman theatres. In plan, the Colosseum is elliptical and is 615feet long and 510feet wide. Additionally, it has a base area of six acres. The outer wall height is 157feet (Hopkins, 131). The perimeter of the Colosseum is measured at 1,788feet. The central ground is 180feet wide and an oval of 287feet long, surrounded by a 15feet wall high whereby there are rose tiers of seating (Hopkins, 133). The building’s outer wall is approximated to have needed more than 10,000 cubic meters of travertine stone that were set with no mortar apprehended together by three hundred tons of iron clamps.
On the other hand, this wall has suffered widespread damage during the past centuries. Large segments have collapsed due to earthquakes. The northern side of the perimeter wall did not collapse. The unique triangular brick wedges at every end are recent additions. They were created in the early nineteenth century to shore up the constructed wall. The rest of the nowadays Colosseum exterior is in fact the original inside wall. The outer part of the wall’s monumental front that survived consisted of three superimposed arcades stories prevailed by a podium whereby tall attics stand. Both of them are pricked by windows mixed together at regular intervals (Mann, 66).
These arcades are surrounded by half columns of Ionic, Corinthian and Tuscan orders. Additionally, the attic is beautified with Corinthian pilasters. Every arch found in the third and second floor arcades surrounded statues, most likely honoring religions and other figures gotten from Classical mythology. Two hundred and forty pole corbels were situated just on the attic’s top. They supported retractable awnings that were referred to as the velarium. These velarium kept the rain and the sun off the spectators (Mann, 67). This contained canvas covered, net like structures that were made of ropes and had holes at the center. They covered two thirds of the showground and sloped down to the center. This helped in catching the wind and providing the audience with a cool breeze.
The huge crowd hosted by the Colosseum made it vital for the location to be evacuated or filled quickly. The architects who designed the Colosseum implemented the solutions that were the same as the ones used in modern stadiums in dealing with the capacity problem. This amphitheatre was circled by eighty entrances found at the ground level. Seventy six of these entrances was used by normal spectators. Every exit and entrance had been numbered. This was also done to the staircase. The roman emperor and his friends used the northern main entrance while the other three axial entrances were used mainly by the influential people. All four axial gates were decorated richly with stucco reliefs that were painted whereby fragments continue to exist. Many of the original external gates lost when the perimeter wall collapsed, but entrance 54 and 23 did not disappear (Mann, 69).
( Bomgardner, 2000)
The inside part of the Colosseum held 87,000 individuals, even though modern approximations put the figure to 50,000 individuals (Bomgardner, 2000). These individuals seated in a tiered arrangement reflecting the firmly stratified Roman society nature. Special boxes were issued in the south and north ends correspondingly for the Vestal Virgins and the Emperor, giving the best views of the ground. Neighboring them at the similar level was a large platform for the senatorial class who were given permission to come with their own chairs. The tiers known as the maenianum primum were inhabited by the non-senatorial knights. The maenianum secundum was initially set aside for the normal Roman citizens and were divided in two sectors. The lower sector was preserved for the rich citizens and the upper sector for the poor citizens. Specific sections were made available for different social groups. Marble and stone seating were offered to the nobles and the citizens who would have come with cushions to the arena. Writings categorized the locations for precise people (Bomgardner, 2000).
During Domitian’s reign, the maenianum secundum in legneis were added at the top of each building. These include galleries for the common women, poor and slaves. The actors, former gladiators and the grave diggers were banned from coming to the Colosseum. Every tier was partitioned into sectors that had low walls and curved passages. They were also subdivided into wedges and cunei by the aisles and steps retrieved from the vomitoria. Every row of seats had been numbered authorizing every person’s seat to be precisely allocated by its cuneus, number and gradus (Bomgardner, 2000).
The field itself was 272 feet by 157 feet. It consisted of wooden floor that had sand covering it, covering up a complicated underground structure been referred to as the hypogeum. Even though there are little remains of the original floor, the underground structure remains to be clearly seen. It had a two level subterranean arrangement of cages and tunnels underneath the arena whereby animals and gladiators were kept before beginning a contest (Mann, 72). Eighty vertical shafts offered instantaneous entrée to the arena for scenery pieces and caged animals hidden underneath big platforms referred to as hegmata that gave access to the elephants. It was redesigned on various occasions.
( Bomgardner, 2000)
The hypogeum was linked by underground tunnels to different number of points found on the outer part of the Colosseum. Performers and animals were passed all the way through the tunnel from close by stables with the barracks of the gladiators at the Ludus Magnus found in the east also linked by the tunnels. Different tunnels were created for the Vestal Virgins and the Emperor to enable them in entering and exiting the Colosseum with no need of passing through the multitude. The hypogeum had extensive quantities of machineries (Mann, 75). Pulleys and elevators lowered and raised props and scenery. They were also used in lifting caged animals to the ground for release. The Colosseum and the activities carried inside it maintained a significant industry in the location. Many buildings found near the Colosseum were connected to the games. The Colosseum was used in hosting gladiatorial shows and various events.
Bomgardner, David. “The Story of the Roman Amphitheatre.” Colosseum. Penelope. 2000.
Web. 20 April. 2013.
Hopkins, Keith. The Colosseum. London: Profile Books, 2011. 125-133.
Mann, Elizabeth. The Roman Colosseum. New York: Mikaya Press, 1998. 65-77.