Colosseum

Colosseum

The Flavian Amphitheater, the most imposing monument in the Roman world, was built by Flavians emperors on the site where the artificial lake of Nero's Golden House once stand. They intended to renstitute to the Roman citizens the places that Nero had confiscated after the great fire of Rome in 64 AD. The name Colosseum was used for the first time during the Middle Ages, as it stood right next to the colossal statue of Nero. 35 meters high. The construction started under Vespasian, but was completed by his son Titus in 80 A.D. Suetonius wrote that inauguration lasted 100 days, during which people saw venationes (staged hunts between men and animals), naumachias (naval battles) and battles between gladiators: over 5,000 animals were killed on that occasion.

 

The building is elliptical in shape and it has 4 levels, almost 50 meters high, There are 80 arches with Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian columns. The arches of the second and third order housed huge statues, that not longer exist. The fourth order consisted of Corinthian pilasters, with boxes and brackets that held the "Velarium", a sliced linen tarpaulin, moved as necessary by a special department of sailors in the fleet of Cape Miseno, to protect the audience from the sun.

Admission to the Colosseum was for free, because the performances were public, but places were assigned according to the social status. There were the Imperial box, 600 personal seats for Senators (it is still possible to read the name of last senators hosted here), seats for horsemen, Vestal Virgins and for the major priestly colleges, for the magistrates, for young people and their teachers, for guests and foreign ambassadors and finally, in the higher places, for the common people.


The arena was a wooden platform covered with sand (hence the name "sand", "arena"). The ancient sources wrote that (before the construction of the underground floor) also naval battles took place inside the Colosseum during the inauguration. The underground floor was completed under Domitian and hosted service tunnels and elevators, so that spectacular trees, artificial hills, beasts through a complex system of winches, ropes and hoists suddenly appeared on the arena from trapdoors.
The shows included venationes and death sentences (slaves were crucified, violators of tombs were staked and thrown to wild beasts). But the clou of the day where the fights between gladiators, of course.

 

The editor (ie. the organizer of the games) chartered gladiators by a lanista (a sort of contractor), regardless of expense: it was too important for him to grab the hearts of the people in the upcoming elections.
Romans liked to bet, so imagine the area around the Colosseum full of astrologers, magicians, fortune-tellers who suggested to the public which gladiator would win, street vendors and curious people who thronged to see never before seen exotic animals (elephants, giraffes, hippopotamuses). The women went crazy for their favorites. Juvenal wrote that Eppia, a senator's wife, fled to Africa with a gladiator.
The most important battle today will face a retiarius (almost naked, armed only with a trident and net) against a secutor (armed with a short sword, an helmet and an armor). The tension of the gladiators increases; they are waiting for their turn in the underground floor of the Colosseum, and can clearly hear the shouts of more than 70,000 people crowding the cavea. Now the trumpets send their signal: it's time to enter the arena.
The audience goes wild, but when Emperor nods his hand the terraces dumb. Gladiators say the ritual phrase to the emperor: "Ave Caesar, Morituri te salutant" (Hail, Caesar, those who are about to die salute you). And the battle can begin. Today the bet is high: after years spent in the arena, the winner will receive the "rudis" (the wooden sword which means freedom for him). The fate of the defeated will be decided by the audience, that will shout the word "missum" (spare) or "jugula" (cut his throat). In any case, if not survive, he will receive a funeral with full honors.
Ludi gladiators were banned several times during Christian era. Under Emperor Honorius, in the fifth century, the monk Telemachus was killed by a raging crowd because he was trying to ban a fight between gladiators. After 523 A.D. there are no other shows: the curtain brought down on the arena of the Colosseum. Travertine blocks and metal nails became building material; for over 1500 years the amphitheater suffered despoliations, earthquakes and invasions. Silence was broken only by the apocalyptic prophecy of the Venerable Bede monk: "When the Coliseum falls, so will Rome; when Rome falls, so will the world."

 

Details

duration 1 hour (only Colosseum); 3 hours (Colosseum and Roman Forum)
type archaeological area
entrance ticket not included entrance ticket not included (the ticket is cumulative and includes Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill)
Unesco heritage Unesco heritage
info reservation is absolutely recommended in order to skip the line. On request you can book a special tour which also includes the underground levels and the third tier
 
 

 

 

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