immense amphitheatre, whose imposing remains still allow us to admire its
ancient splendour, was begun bay Vespasian in 72 A.D. and completed by his
son Titus in 80 A.D. it was built by Jewish prisoners. It's true name is the
"Flavian amphitheatre" though it was commonly called the Colosseum,. both
for its proportions and its vicinity to the Colossus of Nero. There is
hardly a page of Roman history that is not in some way connected to the
Colosseum, which became the symbol of the city and is life.
Colosseum had the same function as a modern giant stadium, but the favourite
spectacles in Roman times were the games of the Circus (ludi circenses),
which probably had been invented in the late Republican era, with the
intention of cultivating yhe war-like spirit that had made Romans the
conquerors of the world. This was the origin of the professional gladiators,
who were trained to fight to the death, while wild beasts of every sort
increased the orror of the show. Dion Cassius said that 9000 wild
animals were killed in the one hundred days of celebrations which
inaugurated the amphitheatre. After the animals were killed and removed,
the arena was often filled with wather in order to stage naval battles.
Emperor Constantine and his successors tried to put an end to the
gladiatorial fights, but at the first the Romans did not want to give up
their customary shows. At the beginning of the 5th century, a monk called
Telemachus came from the cast and one day entered the arena and tried to put
himself between the gladiators. He appealed to the people to give up their
horrid games. The crowd hurled insults, sarcasm, and ultimately rocks,
stoning the intruder to martyrdom. But that day the games were brought to
Colosseum is elliptical in shape, 187 meters at is longest end and 155
meters at is shortest. The height of the external ring reaches 50 meters
from ground level. It was designed to accomadate an estimated 80.000
spectators. Around the exterior run thrrree orders of arches, respectively
adorned with Doric, Ionian and Corinthian columns, and a fourth floor with
Corinthian pilasters. Of the 80 arches thath make up the elliptical ring,
four correspond to the entrances at the four axes, of which only the
entrance of honour reserved for the Emperor remains.
the center of the podium, called the suggestum, was the Emperor's seat; the
rest of the podium was occupied by senators and members of the court. Then
came the sectios for the cavaliers and civil and military tribunes. There
were special place for married coupled, for young men accompanied by their
tutors, for families and servants, for women, and for servants.
Colosseum was usually uncovered, but in case od rain it was covered by an
immense velarium, which was maneuvered by two squads of sailors belonging to
the fleets of Ravenna and Cape Misenum. These two squads also took part in
the naval battles which were often staged in the amphitheatre.
this amphitheatre was in its full glory, it must have been as stupendous
site of Roman greatness. But even today, after so many centuries, the
Colosseum is the pride of Rome and a marvel to its visitors. Nonetheless
the history of the amphitheatre is not without long periods of abandon and
neglect. The end of the Roman Empire was marked by two earthquakes (in
442 and 508), which caused great damage to the structure. The Colosseum was
nonetheless still in use under Theodoric, ruler of the Romano-Barbaric
Kingdom of the Gots, who in 523 authorized the staging of the venationes,
the traditional hunt of the wild beasts. From that point began the total
abandon that saw the Colosseum used as a cemetery, a fortress, and above all,
after the earthquake of 1349, as a quarry for building materials. The
marble which once covered it almost entirely was reused in the busy period
of construction during the renaissance.
order to halt the serious decay of the Colosseum, Pope Benedict XIV°
(1740-1758) consecrated the old amphitheatre by setting up a "Way of the
Cross" and raising a cross on the site, which has been connected to
thousands of Christian martyrs.