Colosseum – arena for gladiators and beasts
Roman Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus (ruled 69-79), razed the palace of extravagant Nero in Rome, decided to build the Flavian Amphitheatre – enormous building for 50 thousand spectators. The construction began in 75. Vespasian wanted to erase Nero from the memory of people as quickly as possible, and glorify the Flavian dynasty.
The current name of the Colosseum is a modified Latin word “colossus”, which meant “enormous, huge.” Gladiators had to fight with each other, with wild lions, leopards and panthers.
The amphitheater was built at the bottom of the former artificial pond that was dug in front of the famous Golden House of Nero (Domus Aurea). Thousands of slaves worked like ants around the clock. The giant construction site was a regular ellipse – 190 m long and 156 m wide.
During the construction there wasn’t more interesting thing in Rome than watching the building of a giant amphitheater. And the inhabitants of Rome watched half-naked slaves bent under the weight of the stones, baskets of sand, barely moving his feet, walked down to the bottom of the former lake, and crept into a giant bowl, building up the foundation. Slaves continued to carry stones, knead the clay and cursed their fate day after day, month after month, for more than five years.
Vespasian began the construction of the Colosseum and it was finished by another emperor, his son Titus in 80. Celebrations to mark the opening of the Colosseum lasted 100 days. In honor of the event, hundreds of gladiators, five thousand wild beasts fought in the arena, and the audience demanded more and more fights.
The decoration of the amphitheater – marble lining, installation of statues and decoration with carved columns – was completed by the third emperor, younger son of Vespasian, Domitian. And all those years the construction work was managed by the architect, author of the project.
More recent archaeological excavations have shown that the Colosseum is set on a powerful foundation (13 m), and its construction took 400 thousand tons of stone, that is more than the greatest American skyscraper Empire State Building weighs. The outer wall rose to a height of over 40 meters. Later it was increased up to 50 m.
The construction was made for the entertainment of the audience. The amphitheater was designed for 50 thousand people, but it could accommodate up to 70 thousand. There were 80 entrances – exits. Marble chairs and benches were designed for the patricians, honorary citizens of Rome and dear guests. Above there were three rows of marble benches for free citizens and closer to the outer wall, there were wooden benches for the servants, women, and the plebs. Under the wooden arena, which was mobile, there were a lot of rooms for the gladiators and beasts. There were pipes that supply water, filling the arena during sea battles.
Gladiators greeted Emperor with the words: Those Who Are About to Die Salute You – Morituri Te Salutant.
Not only slaves and criminals fought in the arena, many noble Romans also loved to take part in the fighting, though incognito, because it was not encouraged in high society. The Roman emperor Commodus had 735 fights as a gladiator! According to legend, he was stabbed with a knife in the arena. But in fact, he was strangled the day before entering the arena. The film Gladiator is based on this story.
The most famous gladiator Spartacus rebelled against Rome and successfully fought with its legions for several years.
In 405 AD bloody battles were banned. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum proved unnecessary, gradually destroyed.
In 2007, Colosseum was declared one of the Seven New Wonders of the World.