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The Colosseum: One of the Seven Wonders of the World

Flavian emperor Vespasian had this amphitheatre that could accommodate 65,000 spectators built in the year 72 CE.

Construction of the Colosseum took eight years and was financed with plunder taken from Jerusalem.

The Colosseum, also called the Amphitheatrum Flavium, was opened by emperor Titus with games and festivities that lasted 100 days and cost the lives of 5,000 animals.

Emperor Domitian, Titus’ successor, later expanded the amphitheatre with an extra storey and a number of spaces underneath the Colosseum.

This made the Colosseum the largest amphitheatre in Roman history, and it is considered one of the seven wonders of the world.

Rome’s amphitheatre

The main purpose of the Colosseum in Rome was to entertain the people – and thereby increase the popularity of the emperor – with gladiator battles, sometimes including wild animals, such as elephants and tigers.

It was common for animal fights to be held in the mornings by the ‘bestiarii’.

During intermissions, convicted criminals were often thrown to the wild animals.

Gladiator battles were held in the afternoons.

As Christianity become more important, the barbaric games were finally forbidden by emperor Honorius in 404 CE.

The public lynching of a monk who tried to end a fight between two gladiators was the final straw.

Until the year 523, only shows with wild animals were held there.

During the middle ages, various earthquakes destroyed much of the Colosseum.

In later centuries the ruins were stripped by popes and others to reuse the stones as building material for churches and palaces.

An end was put to this plundering under Pope Benedict XIV in 1749.

He considered the Colosseum to be holy ground because of its important history; the blood of many Christian martyrs has been spilled there.

Colosseum facts

The amphitheatre could be accessed via 80 entrance arches, and the name ‘Colosseum’ was based on the colossal statue of Emperor Nero (Colossus of Nero) that stood next to the amphitheatre in those days.

The total circumference of the amphitheatre is 527 metres, and it reaches a maximum height of 48.50 metres.

For building materials they used limestone (1st row of arches), lighter bricks (2nd and 3rd row of arches) and concrete.

The outside was finished with travertine from the hills near Tivoli.

Marble was used for the seats and to clad the inner walls.

The actual arena where the battles took place measured 76 by 44 metres and was surrounded by a four-metre wall.

It is estimated that 300,000 to 500,000 people lost their lives in the Colosseum arena!

The stands of the amphitheatre were divided into four galleries.

The seats closest to the arena were reserved for the senators, magistrates, and other important people.

The emperor even had his own box with a private entrance.

The second and third gallery were for male spectators, with the higher classes sitting closer to the arena.

The upper, fourth gallery was for the wives of senators and knights.

In those days, the Colosseum could be covered with a large, cloth awning, the so-called Velarium.

According to legend, it took a thousand sailors to tighten the awning across 240 masts.

During the reign of emperor Domitian, the Colosseum’s expansions included a hypogeum.

This was an underground labyrinth with several trapdoors and lifts, for instance to carry large animals up into the arena.

It also contained the gladiators’ barracks, wild animal cages and there was an underground passageway to the largest gladiator school in Rome.



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