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The Colosseum

The Colosseum

The Colosseum is the most famous monument of Ancient Rome. Its original name is Flavian Amphitheatre. It was started by the Emperor Vespasian between 70 and 76 AD, and completed by his son Titus in 80 AD. The Colosseum was dedicated the year after Vespasian's death by Titus. They celebrated the opening by holding 100 days worth of games there. It was built on the site where Nero had had a huge villa for himself. Vespasian wanted to build something for the people rather than for himself. It got its popular name, the Colosseum, because it was built near where Nero had erected a huge statue, or colossus of himself. It showed him as the god of the sun. It was 100 feet high, and it was the largest gilded bronze statue in antiquity. It was later moved away. It took 24 elephants to move it!

All over the empire, Romans enjoyed going to the theater to see concerts and plays, and to the stadium to watch chariot races and the amphitheater to watch bloody sports. Going to the amphitheater (Colosseum) was probably the most popular. Gladiatorial combats, fights with beasts and other fights were held in the Colosseum. The Colosseum was big enough to hold the whole population of a town--as many as 50,000 people would sometimes spend the whole day there watching sports. The games were really bloody and for four centuries, men died as an entertainment for the crowd. Gladiators went to training schools; most of them were slaves and criminals. At first there were fights to the death between wild animals: bear against buffalo, buffalo against elephant, and elephant against rhinoceros. Sometimes there would even be fights between men and tame beasts. These fights were called venationes.

The Amphitheater is built of travertine outside, and of tufa and brick in the interior. It had Greek columns decorating the outside, but these did not support the architecture. The Colosseum had a circumference of 527m and it was 50m high. There were 80 entrances, all numbered except for the four main entrances which were wider than the others and were reserved for the Emperor. It was designed so that the crowd could get out in five minutes. The interior was divided into three parts: the arena, the podium, and the cavea. Now more than two-thirds of the original building has been removed and the rows of the seats in the cavea are missing. It is very similar to other amphitheaters except this one is much bigger.


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