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{{Other uses}}{{short description|Amphitheatre in Rome}}{{Use dmy dates|date=June 2011}}{{Ancient monuments in Rome|name=Colosseum|label_name=The Colosseum
250px)|caption=14 regions of Augustan Rome>Regio IV Templum Pacis ("Temple of Peace"), Rome, Italy|date= 70–80 AD|builder=Vespasian, Titus|type=Amphitheatre|Related links=Inaugural games of The Flavian Amphitheatre|}}The Colosseum or Coliseum ({{IPAc-en|ˌ|k|ɒ|l|ə|ˈ|s|iː|ə|m}} {{respell|KOL|ə|SEE|əm}}), also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre (; {{IPA-it|aɱfiteˈaːtro ˈflaːvjo|}} or Colosseo {{IPA-it|kolosˈsɛːo|}}), is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of travertine limestone, tuff (volcanic rock), and brick-faced concrete,WEB,weblink Building the Colosseum,, it was the largest amphitheatre ever built at the time and held 50,000 spectators. The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72Hopkins, p. 2 and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir, Titus.WEB,weblink BBC's History of the Colosseum p. 2,, 22 March 2011, 16 April 2012, Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96).BOOK, Leland M., Roth, 1993, Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning, First, Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 978-0-06-430158-9, These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius).The Colosseum could hold an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 spectators during phases of its various renovations over the centuries,William H. Byrnes IV (Spring 2005) "Ancient Roman Munificence: The Development of the Practice and Law of Charity". Rutgers Law Review vol. 57, issue 3, pp. 1043–1110.WEB,weblink BBC's History of the Colosseum p. 1,, 22 March 2011, 16 April 2012, having an average audience of some 65,000;BOOK, Baldwin, Eleonora, Rome day by day, John Wiley & Sons Inc, Hoboken, 2012, 978-1-118-16629-1, 26, Dark Tourism – Italy's Creepiest Attractions, The Local it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.{{citation needed|date=August 2019}}Although substantially ruined because of earthquakes, thieves, and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is still an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome and is listed as one of the New7Wonders of the World.WEB,weblink The New Seven Wonders of the World, Hindustan Times, 8 July 2007, 11 July 2007, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 30 September 2007, mdy-all, It is one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions and also has links to the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit "Way of the Cross" procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.WEB,weblink Frommer's Events – Event Guide: Good Friday Procession in Rome (Palatine Hill, Italy), Frommer's, 8 April 2008, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 7 January 2009, In 2018, it was the most popular tourist attraction in the world, with 7.4 million visitors.WEB,weblink Colosseum most popular tourist attraction in world says TripAdvisor, 2018-12-19, The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.


(File:Roma06(js).jpg|thumb|235px|The Colosseum)The Colosseum's original Latin name was Amphitheatrum Flavium, often anglicized as Flavian Amphitheatre.NEWS,weblink 16 Italian architectural icons to see before you bite the dust, Patrcia, Tumang, 15 November 2018, 12 April 2019, ABS-CBN News, The building was constructed by emperors of the Flavian dynasty, following the reign of Nero.WEB,weblink The Flavian Dynasty, Willy, Logan, 25 September 2007, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 31 May 2011, dmy-all, This name is still used in modern English, but generally the structure is better known as the Colosseum. In antiquity, Romans may have referred to the Colosseum by the unofficial name Amphitheatrum Caesareum (with Caesareum an adjective pertaining to the title Caesar), but this name may have been strictly poeticBOOK, Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome, 114, J. C. Edmondson, Steve Mason, J. B. Rives, 2005, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-926212-0, WEB,weblink The Colosseum – History 1, 26 January 2008, as it was not exclusive to the Colosseum; Vespasian and Titus, builders of the Colosseum, also constructed an amphitheater of the same name in Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli).Mairui, Amedeo. Studi e ricerche sull'Anfiteatro Flavio Puteolano. Napoli : G. Macchiaroli, 1955. (OCLC {{OCLC search link|2078742}})The name Colosseum is believed to be derived from a colossal statue of Nero that once stood nearby. This statue was later remodeled by Nero's successors into the likeness of Helios (Sol) or Apollo, the sun god, by adding the appropriate solar crown. Nero's head was also replaced several times with the heads of succeeding emperors. Despite its pagan links, the statue remained standing well into the medieval era and was credited with magical powers. It came to be seen as an iconic symbol of the permanence of Rome.In the 8th century, an epigram attributed to the Venerable Bede celebrated the symbolic significance of the statue in a prophecy that is variously quoted: Quamdiu stat Colisæus, stat et Roma; quando cadet colisæus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus ("as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world").WEB,weblink The Coliseum, The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent, 2 August 2006, ; the form quoted from the Pseudo-Bede is that printed in Migne, Pat. Lat 94 (Paris), 1862:543, noted in F. Schneider, Rom und Romgedanke im Mittelalter (Munich) 1926:66f, 251, and in Roberto Weiss, The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity (Oxford:Blackwell) 1973:8 and note 5. This is often mistranslated to refer to the Colosseum rather than the Colossus (as in, for instance, Byron's poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage). However, at the time that the Pseudo-Bede wrote, the masculine noun coliseus was applied to the statue rather than to what was still known as the Flavian amphitheatre.The Colossus did eventually fall, possibly being pulled down to reuse its bronze. By the year 1000 the name "Colosseum" had been coined to refer to the amphitheatre from the nearby Colossus Solis.BOOK,weblink A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, L., Richardson, Jr., JHU Press, 1992, 7, 9780801843006, Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins University, The statue itself was largely forgotten and only its base survives, situated between the Colosseum and the nearby Temple of Venus and Roma.The name further evolved to Coliseum during the Middle Ages. In Italy, the amphitheatre is still known as il Colosseo, and other Romance languages have come to use similar forms such as Coloseumul (Romanian), le Colisée (French), el Coliseo (Spanish) and o Coliseu (Portuguese).


Construction, inauguration, and Roman renovations

(File:Colosseo 2008.jpg|thumb|left|Colosseum)File:Colosseum Ses Titus 80AD.JPG|thumb|right|250px|SestertiusSestertius(File:Map of downtown Rome during the Roman Empire large.png|right|thumb|A map of central Rome during the Roman Empire, with the Colosseum at the upper right corner)The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills, through which a canalised stream ran as well as an artificial lake/marsh.WEB,weblink the Colosseum,, 2019-09-19, By the 2nd century BC the area was densely inhabited. It was devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, following which Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. He built the grandiose Domus Aurea on the site, in front of which he created an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes. The existing Aqua Claudia aqueduct was extended to supply water to the area and the gigantic bronze Colossus of Nero was set up nearby at the entrance to the Domus Aurea.BOOK, Amanda, Claridge, 1998, Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, First, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 978-0-19-288003-1, 276–282,weblink File:L-Kolloseum.png|upright|thumb|left|Cross-section from the Lexikon der gesamten TechnikLexikon der gesamten Technik Although the Colossus was preserved, much of the Domus Aurea was torn down. The lake was filled in and the land reused as the location for the new Flavian Amphitheatre. Gladiatorial schools and other support buildings were constructed nearby within the former grounds of the Domus Aurea. Vespasian's decision to build the Colosseum on the site of Nero's lake can be seen as a populist gesture of returning to the people an area of the city which Nero had appropriated for his own use. In contrast to many other amphitheatres, which were located on the outskirts of a city, the Colosseum was constructed in the city centre, in effect, placing it both symbolically and precisely at the heart of Rome.Construction was funded by the opulent spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 CE led to the Siege of Jerusalem. According to a reconstructed inscription found on the site, "the emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general's share of the booty." It is often assumed that Jewish prisoners of war were brought back to Rome and contributed to the massive workforce needed for the construction of the amphitheater, but there is no ancient evidence for that; it would, nonetheless, be commensurate with Roman practice to add humiliation to the defeat population.Elkins, p. 23 Along with this free source of unskilled labor, teams of professional Roman builders, engineers, artists, painters and decorators undertook the more specialized tasks necessary for building the Colosseum. The Colosseum was constructed with several different materials: wood, limestone, tuff, tiles, cement, and mortar.Construction of the Colosseum began under the rule of Vespasian in around 70–72 AD (73–75 AD according to some sources). The Colosseum had been completed up to the third story by the time of Vespasian's death in 79. The top level was finished by his son, Titus, in 80, and the inaugural games were held in 80 or 81 AD.WEB,weblink Building the Colosseum,, Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheatre. Commemorative coinage was issued celebrating the inauguration.Sear, David R. (2000). Roman Coins and Their Values – The Millennium Edition. Volume I: The Republic and The Twelve Caesars, 280 BC – 96 AD (pp. 468–469, coin # 2536). London: Spink. {{ISBN|1-902040-35-X}} The building was remodelled further under Vespasian's younger son, the newly designated Emperor Domitian, who constructed the hypogeum, a series of underground tunnels used to house animals and slaves. He also added a gallery to the top of the Colosseum to increase its seating capacity.JOURNAL, Alföldy, Géza, Eine Bauinschrift Aus Dem Colosseum., Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 1995, 109, 195–226, In 217, the Colosseum was badly damaged by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio CassiusCass. Dio lxxviii.25.) which destroyed the wooden upper levels of the amphitheatre's interior. It was not fully repaired until about 240 and underwent further repairs in 250 or 252 and again in 320. Gladiatorial fights are last mentioned around 435. An inscription records the restoration of various parts of the Colosseum under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (reigned 425–455), possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in 443; more work followed in 484The repairs of the damages inflicted by the earthquake of 484 were paid for by the Consul Decius Marius Venantius Basilius, who put two inscriptions to celebrate his works ({{CIL|6|1716}}). and 508. The arena continued to be used for contests well into the 6th century. Animal hunts continued until at least 523, when Anicius Maximus celebrated his consulship with some venationes, criticised by King Theodoric the Great for their high cost.


(File:Coliseo medieval.jpg|thumb|Map of medieval Rome depicting the Colosseum)The Colosseum underwent several radical changes of use. By the late 6th century a small chapel had been built into the structure of the amphitheater, though this apparently did not confer any particular religious significance on the building as a whole. The arena was converted into a cemetery. The numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were converted into housing and workshops, and are recorded as still being rented out as late as the 12th century. Around 1200 the Frangipani family took over the Colosseum and fortified it, apparently using it as a castle.Severe damage was inflicted on the Colosseum by the great earthquake in 1349, causing the outer south side, lying on a less stable alluvial terrain, to collapse. Much of the tumbled stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. A religious order moved into the northern third of the Colosseum in the mid-14th century WEB, MEDIVM AEVVM,weblink The-Colosseum, The-Colosseum.Net, 1 November 2016, Names the order: Arciconfraternita del SS. Salvatore ad Sancta Sanctorum, aka del Gonfalone. Co-tenants: the Roman Senate and the Camera Apostolica. "In 1519 The Confraternita built the little chapel of Santa Maria della Pietà inside the Colosseum." and continued to inhabit it until as late as the early 19th century. The interior of the amphitheater was extensively stripped of stone, which was reused elsewhere, or (in the case of the marble façade) was burned to make quicklime. The bronze clamps which held the stonework together were pried or hacked out of the walls, leaving numerous pockmarks which still scar the building today.


File:Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Colosseum.png|thumb|The Colosseum in a 1757 engraving by Giovanni Battista PiranesiGiovanni Battista PiranesiFile:Giovanni_Paolo_Panini_-_View_of_the_Colosseum_-_Walters_372367.jpg|thumb|1747 view by Giovanni Paolo PaniniGiovanni Paolo PaniniDuring the 16th and 17th century, Church officials sought a productive role for the Colosseum. Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) planned to turn the building into a wool factory to provide employment for Rome's prostitutes, though this proposal fell through with his premature death."Rome." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. In 1671 Cardinal Altieri authorized its use for bullfights; a public outcry caused the idea to be hastily abandoned.(File:The British Army on Leave in Italy, June 1944 TR1959.jpg|thumb|180px|left|Allied troops consult a guidebook outside the Colosseum after liberation in 1944)In 1749, Pope Benedict XIV endorsed the view that the Colosseum was a sacred site where early Christians had been martyred. He forbade the use of the Colosseum as a quarry and consecrated the building to the Passion of Christ and installed Stations of the Cross, declaring it sanctified by the blood of the Christian martyrs who perished there (see Significance in Christianity). However, there is no historical evidence to support Benedict's claim, nor is there even any evidence that anyone before the 16th century suggested this might be the case; the Catholic Encyclopedia concludes that there are no historical grounds for the supposition, other than the reasonably plausible conjecture that some of the many martyrs may well have been.The Coliseum in Catholic EncyclopediaFile:Cole Thomas Interior of the Colosseum Rome 1832.jpg|thumb|Interior of the Colosseum, Rome (1832) by Thomas Cole, showing the Stations of the CrossStations of the CrossLater popes initiated various stabilization and restoration projects, removing the extensive vegetation which had overgrown the structure and threatened to damage it further. The façade was reinforced with triangular brick wedges in 1807 and 1827, and the interior was repaired in 1831, 1846 and in the 1930s. The arena substructure was partly excavated in 1810–1814 and 1874 and was fully exposed under Benito Mussolini in the 1930s.The Colosseum is today one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions, receiving millions of visitors annually. The effects of pollution and general deterioration over time prompted a major restoration programme carried out between 1993 and 2000, at a cost of 40 billion Italian lire ($19.3m / €20.6m at 2000 prices).In recent years, the Colosseum has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment, which was abolished in Italy in 1948. Several anti–death penalty demonstrations took place in front of the Colosseum in 2000. Since that time, as a gesture against the death penalty, the local authorities of Rome change the color of the Colosseum's night time illumination from white to gold whenever a person condemned to the death penalty anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released,NEWS, Gayle, Young,weblink On Italy's passionate opposition to death penalty, CNN, 24 February 2000, 2 August 2006, or if a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty. Most recently, the Colosseum was illuminated in gold in November 2012 following the abolishment of capital punishment in the American state of Connecticut in April 2012.WEB, International: Roman Colosseum Lit to Mark Connecticut's Abolition of Death Penalty,weblink Death Penalty Info, 9 June 2015, Because of the ruined state of the interior, it is impractical to use the Colosseum to host large events; only a few hundred spectators can be accommodated in temporary seating. However, much larger concerts have been held just outside, using the Colosseum as a backdrop. Performers who have played at the Colosseum in recent years have included Ray Charles (May 2002),Colosseum stages peace concert, BBC News Online, 12 May 2002. Paul McCartney (May 2003),McCartney rocks the Colosseum, BBC News Online, 12 May 2003. Elton John (September 2005),Sir Elton's free gig thrills Rome, BBC News Online, 4 September 2005. and Billy Joel (July 2006).(File:Colloseum through the city street.jpg|thumb|The Colosseum today as a background to the busy metropolis)

Physical description


(File:Roman Colosseum With Moon.jpg|thumb|Original façade of the Colosseum)Unlike earlier Greek theatres that were built into hillsides, the Colosseum is an entirely free-standing structure. It derives its basic exterior and interior architecture from that of two Roman theatres back to back. It is elliptical in plan and is 189 meters (615 ft / 640 Roman feet) long, and 156 meters (510 ft / 528 Roman feet) wide, with a base area of {{convert|6|acre|m2|order=flip}}. The height of the outer wall is 48 meters (157 ft / 165 Roman feet). The perimeter originally measured 545 meters (1,788 ft / 1,835 Roman feet). The central arena is an oval 87 m (287 ft) long and 55 m (180 ft) wide, surrounded by a wall 5 m (15 ft) high, above which rose tiers of seating.The outer wall is estimated to have required over {{convert|100000|m3|0|abbr=off|lk=out}} of travertine stone which were set without mortar; they were held together by 300 tons of iron clamps. However, it has suffered extensive damage over the centuries, with large segments having collapsed following earthquakes. The north side of the perimeter wall is still standing; the distinctive triangular brick wedges at each end are modern additions, having been constructed in the early 19th century to shore up the wall. The remainder of the present-day exterior of the Colosseum is in fact the original interior wall.(File:Colosseum exterior, inner and outer wall AvL.jpg|thumb|left|The exterior of the Colosseum, showing the partially intact outer wall (left) and the mostly intact inner wall (center and right))The surviving part of the outer wall's monumental façade comprises three stories of superimposed arcades surmounted by a podium on which stands a tall attic, both of which are pierced by windows interspersed at regular intervals. The arcades are framed by half-columns of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, while the attic is decorated with Corinthian pilasters.Ian Archibald Richmond, Donald Emrys Strong, Janet DeLaine. "Colosseum", The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Ed. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth. Oxford University Press, 1998. Each of the arches in the second- and third-floor arcades framed statues, probably honoring divinities and other figures from Classical mythology.Two hundred and forty mast corbels were positioned around the top of the attic. They originally supported a retractable awning, known as the velarium, that kept the sun and rain off spectators. This consisted of a canvas-covered, net-like structure made of ropes, with a hole in the center. It covered two-thirds of the arena, and sloped down towards the center to catch the wind and provide a breeze for the audience. Sailors, specially enlisted from the Roman naval headquarters at Misenum and housed in the nearby Castra Misenatium, were used to work the velarium.WEB, Downey, Charles T., 9 February 2005,weblink The Colosseum Was a Skydome?, 2 August 2006, File:Colosseum-Entrance LII.jpg|thumb|Entrance {{rn|LII}} of the Colosseum, with Roman numeralsRoman numeralsThe Colosseum's huge crowd capacity made it essential that the venue could be filled or evacuated quickly. Its architects adopted solutions very similar to those used in modern stadiums to deal with the same problem. The amphitheatre was ringed by eighty entrances at ground level, 76 of which were used by ordinary spectators. Each entrance and exit was numbered, as was each staircase. The northern main entrance was reserved for the Roman Emperor and his aides, whilst the other three axial entrances were most likely used by the elite. All four axial entrances were richly decorated with painted stucco reliefs, of which fragments survive. Many of the original outer entrances have disappeared with the collapse of the perimeter wall, but entrances {{rn|XXIII}} (23) to {{rn|LIIII}} (54) survive.Spectators were given tickets in the form of numbered pottery shards, which directed them to the appropriate section and row. They accessed their seats via vomitoria (singular vomitorium), passageways that opened into a tier of seats from below or behind. These quickly dispersed people into their seats and, upon conclusion of the event or in an emergency evacuation, could permit their exit within only a few minutes. The name vomitoria derived from the Latin word for a rapid discharge, from which English derives the word vomit.

Interior seating

(File:Rome (29096723).jpg|thumb|left|The raked areas that once held seating)According to the Codex-Calendar of 354, the Colosseum could accommodate 87,000 people, although modern estimates put the figure at around 50,000. They were seated in a tiered arrangement that reflected the rigidly stratified nature of Roman society. Special boxes were provided at the north and south ends respectively for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins, providing the best views of the arena. Flanking them at the same level was a broad platform or podium for the senatorial class, who were allowed to bring their own chairs. The names of some 5th century senators can still be seen carved into the stonework, presumably reserving areas for their use.(File:Colosseum-profile-english.png|thumb|Diagram of the levels of seating)The tier above the senators, known as the maenianum primum, was occupied by the non-senatorial noble class or knights (equites). The next level up, the maenianum secundum, was originally reserved for ordinary Roman citizens (plebeians) and was divided into two sections. The lower part (the immum) was for wealthy citizens, while the upper part (the summum) was for poor citizens. Specific sectors were provided for other social groups: for instance, boys with their tutors, soldiers on leave, foreign dignitaries, scribes, heralds, priests and so on. Stone (and later marble) seating was provided for the citizens and nobles, who presumably would have brought their own cushions with them. Inscriptions identified the areas reserved for specific groups.Another level, the maenianum secundum in legneis, was added at the very top of the building during the reign of Domitian. This comprised a gallery for the common poor, slaves and women. It would have been either standing room only, or would have had very steep wooden benches. Some groups were banned altogether from the Colosseum, notably gravediggers, actors and former gladiators.Each tier was divided into sections (maeniana) by curved passages and low walls (praecinctiones or baltei), and were subdivided into cunei, or wedges, by the steps and aisles from the vomitoria. Each row (gradus) of seats was numbered, permitting each individual seat to be exactly designated by its gradus, cuneus, and number.Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby), A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. Oxford University Press, 1929.

Arena and hypogeum

File:0 Colosseum - Rome 111001 (2).JPG|thumb|The Colosseum arena, showing the hypogeumhypogeumFile:Rome Colosseum inscription 2.jpg|thumb|LatinLatinThe arena itself was 83 meters by 48 meters (272 ft by 157 ft / 280 by 163 Roman feet). It comprised a wooden floor covered by sand (the Latin word for sand is harena or arena), covering an elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum (literally meaning "underground"). The hypogeum was not part of the original construction but was ordered to be built by Emperor Domitian. Little now remains of the original arena floor, but the hypogeum is still clearly visible. It consisted of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. Eighty vertical shafts provided instant access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath; larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and the like. It was restructured on numerous occasions; at least twelve different phases of construction can be seen.(File:Colloseum-hypogeum-detail.jpg|thumb|left|Detail of the hypogeum)The hypogeum was connected by underground tunnels to a number of points outside the Colosseum. Animals and performers were brought through the tunnel from nearby stables, with the gladiators' barracks at the Ludus Magnus to the east also being connected by tunnels. Separate tunnels were provided for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins to permit them to enter and exit the Colosseum without needing to pass through the crowds.Substantial quantities of machinery also existed in the hypogeum. Elevators and pulleys raised and lowered scenery and props, as well as lifting caged animals to the surface for release. There is evidence for the existence of major hydraulic mechanisms and according to ancient accounts, it was possible to flood the arena rapidly, presumably via a connection to a nearby aqueduct. However, the construction of the hypogeum at Domitian's behest put an end to the practise of flooding, and thus also to naval battles, early in the Colosseum's existence.

Supporting buildings

File:Colosseo3.JPG|thumb|upright|The Colosseum – a view from the Oppian HillOppian HillThe Colosseum and its activities supported a substantial industry in the area. In addition to the amphitheatre itself, many other buildings nearby were linked to the games. Immediately to the east is the remains of the Ludus Magnus, a training school for gladiators. This was connected to the Colosseum by an underground passage, to allow easy access for the gladiators. The Ludus Magnus had its own miniature training arena, which was itself a popular attraction for Roman spectators. Other training schools were in the same area, including the Ludus Matutinus (Morning School), where fighters of animals were trained, plus the Dacian and Gallic Schools.Also nearby were the Armamentarium, comprising an armory to store weapons; the Summum Choragium, where machinery was stored; the Sanitarium, which had facilities to treat wounded gladiators; and the Spoliarium, where bodies of dead gladiators were stripped of their armor and disposed of.Around the perimeter of the Colosseum, at a distance of 18 m (59 ft) from the perimeter, was a series of tall stone posts, with five remaining on the eastern side. Various explanations have been advanced for their presence; they may have been a religious boundary, or an outer boundary for ticket checks, or an anchor for the velarium or awning.Right next to the Colosseum is also the Arch of Constantine.


File:Jean-Leon Gerome Pollice Verso.jpg|thumb|Pollice Verso (Thumbs Down) by Jean-Léon GérômeJean-Léon GérômeThe Colosseum was used to host gladiatorial shows as well as a variety of other events. The shows, called munera, were always given by private individuals rather than the state. They had a strong religious element but were also demonstrations of power and family prestige, and were immensely popular with the population. Another popular type of show was the animal hunt, or venatio. This utilized a great variety of wild beasts, mainly imported from Africa and the Middle East, and included creatures such as rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, elephants, giraffes, aurochs, wisents, Barbary lions, panthers, leopards, bears, Caspian tigers, crocodiles and ostriches. Battles and hunts were often staged amid elaborate sets with movable trees and buildings. Such events were occasionally on a huge scale; Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia in 107 with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days. During lunch intervals, executions ad bestias would be staged. Those condemned to death would be sent into the arena, naked and unarmed, to face the beasts of death which would literally tear them to pieces. Other performances would also take place by acrobats and magicians, typically during the intervals.During the early days of the Colosseum, ancient writers recorded that the building was used for naumachiae (more properly known as navalia proelia) or simulated sea battles. Accounts of the inaugural games held by Titus in AD 80 describe it being filled with water for a display of specially trained swimming horses and bulls. There is also an account of a re-enactment of a famous sea battle between the Corcyrean (Corfiot) Greeks and the Corinthians. This has been the subject of some debate among historians; although providing the water would not have been a problem, it is unclear how the arena could have been waterproofed, nor would there have been enough space in the arena for the warships to move around. It has been suggested that the reports either have the location wrong, or that the Colosseum originally featured a wide floodable channel down its central axis (which would later have been replaced by the hypogeum).Sylvae or recreations of natural scenes were also held in the arena. Painters, technicians and architects would construct a simulation of a forest with real trees and bushes planted in the arena's floor, and animals would then be introduced. Such scenes might be used simply to display a natural environment for the urban population, or could otherwise be used as the backdrop for hunts or dramas depicting episodes from mythology. They were also occasionally used for executions in which the hero of the story – played by a condemned person – was killed in one of various gruesome but mythologically authentic ways, such as being mauled by beasts or burned to death.


(File:Panoramica del Coliseo Romano Febrero 2016.JPG|thumb|A panorama of the interior of the Colosseum in 2016)The Colosseum today is now a major tourist attraction in Rome with thousands of tourists each year entering to view the interior arena.The : The resourceful site on the Colosseum. There is now a museum dedicated to Eros located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building. Part of the arena floor has been re-floored. Beneath the Colosseum, a network of subterranean passageways once used to transport wild animals and gladiators to the arena opened to the public in summer 2010.NEWS, Nick, Squires,weblink Colosseum to open gladiator passageways for first time, The Daily Telegraph, UK, 23 June 2010, 30 January 2011, The Colosseum is also the site of Roman Catholic ceremonies in the 20th and 21st centuries. For instance, Pope Benedict XVI led the Stations of the Cross called the Scriptural Way of the Cross (which calls for more meditation) at the ColosseumJoseph M Champlin, The Stations of the Cross With Pope John Paul II Liguori Publications, 1994, {{ISBN|0-89243-679-4}}.Vatican Description of the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum: on Good Fridays.


In 2011 Diego Della Valle, head of the shoe firm Tod's, entered into an agreement with local officials to sponsor a €25 million restoration of the Colosseum. Work was planned to begin at the end of 2011, taking up to two and a half years.NEWS,weblink Rome Colosseum repair to be funded by Tods shoe firm, BBC, 21 January 2011, 16 April 2012, BBC News, Due to the controversial nature of using a public–private partnership to fund the restoration, work was delayed and began in 2013. The restoration is the first full cleaning and repair in the Colosseum's history.NEWS, Silvers, Eric, The Colosseum's Badly Needed Bath,weblink 7 September 2014, Wall Street Journal, 25 April 2014, The first stage is to clean and restore the Colosseum's arcaded façade and replace the metal enclosures that block the ground-level arches. Taking three years, the final product of this work was unveiled 1 July 2016, when the Italian minister of culture, Dario Franceschini, also announced that the funds have been committed to replace the floors by the end of 2018. These will provide a stage that Franceschini says will be used for "cultural events of the highest level."WEB,weblink Italy Completes a Long Overdue Restoration of Rome's Iconic Colosseum, 3 July 2016, The project also plans to create a services center and to restore the galleries and underground spaces inside the Colosseum.WEB, Colosseum Won't Be Restored in a Day, but Work Is Finally Scheduled to Start,weblink 2015-06-17, Elisabetta, Povoledo, 2012-07-31, New to tours of the restored marvel beginning 1 November 2017, the top two levels have been opened for guided visits. The fourth level held the marketplace, and the top fifth tier is where the poorest citizens, the plebians, gathered and watched the show, bringing picnics for the day-long event.WEB,weblink Colosseum To Open Top Levels to the Public, Silvia, Donati, 5 October 2017, File:Colosseum 0731 2013.jpg|Colosseum 2013File:Colosseum 0732 2013.jpg|Colosseum 2013File:Exterior of the Colosseum.jpg|Colosseum 2012File:Colosseum 0740 2013.jpg|Colosseum 2013File:Colosseum 0748 2013.jpg|Colosseum 2013File:Colosseum 0771 2013.jpg|Colosseum 2013File:Colosseum 0762 2013.jpg|Colosseum 2013File:Weed Whacking the Colosseum (2883935844).jpgFile:Interior of the Colloseum, Rome.png|Colosseum 2014File:Colosseum Exterior July 2018.jpg|Colosseum 2018

Significance in Christianity

File:Jean-Léon Gérôme - The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer - Walters 37113.jpg|thumb|right|The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon GérômeJean-Léon GérômeFile:Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg - View of the interior of the Colosseum - Google Art Project.jpg|thumb|right|View of the interior of the Colosseum, by C. W. Eckersberg (1815)]]The Colosseum is generally regarded by Christians as a site of the martyrdom of large numbers of believers during the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, as evidenced by Church history and tradition.WEB,weblink Antiquity,, WEB,weblink Catholic Encyclopedia: The Coliseum,, WEB,weblink Colosseum & Christian Martyrs,, On the other hand, other scholars believe that the majority of martyrdoms may have occurred at other venues within the city of Rome, rather than at the Colosseum, citing a lack of still-intact physical evidence or historical records.Hopkins, p. 103BOOK, Brockman, Norbert C., Encyclopedia of Sacred Places [2 volumes], 2011, ABC-CLIO, 978-1-59884-655-3, 108, Public executions were held there during the empire, and it is for these last events that the Colosseum became a Christian shrine. It is disputed whether many early Christian martyrs actually died in the Colosseum, since there is no mention of that in ancient Christian records., JOURNAL, Polidoro, Massimo, Massimo Polidoro, Myths and Secrets of the Colosseum, Skeptical Inquirer, 2018, 42, 1, 15–17,weblink 19 June 2018, These scholars assert that "some Christians were executed as common criminals in the Colosseum—their crime being refusal to reverence the Roman gods", but most Christian martyrs of the early Church were executed for their faith at the Circus Maximus.BOOK, Brockman, Norbert C., Encyclopedia of Sacred Places [2 volumes], 2011, ABC-CLIO, 978-1-59884-655-3, 108, There seems little doubt that some Christians were executed as common criminals in the Colosseum-their crime being refusal to reverence the Roman gods. Most martyrs, however, died for their faith at the Circus Maximus. Some were even executed as members of what the Romans considered a Jewish sect, since both Jews and Christians refused to reverence the gods., BOOK, Potter, David Stone, Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire,weblink 30 April 2014, 1999, University of Michigan Press, 978-0-472-08568-2, 227, The public execution of condemned offenders, including Christians, is associated above all with the amphitheater, although there were executions at various other venues. Gladiatorial games, hunting displays, and executions also took place at the Circus Maximus, even after the construction of the Colosseum (Humphrey 1987, 121)., According to Irenæus (died about 202), Ignatius of Antioch was fed to the lions in Rome around 107 A.D and although Irenaeus says nothing about this happening at the Colosseum, tradition ascribes it to that place.BOOK, Flinn, Frank K., Encyclopedia of Catholicism,weblink 30 April 2014, 2006, Infobase Publishing, 978-0-8160-7565-2, 359, He was caught up in the general persecution of the church under the emperor Trajan (r. 98–117), brought to Rome, and fed to the lions in the Coliseum around 107 C.E. His feast day is October 17. Before his execution, Ignatius wrote seven letters to the churches along his route, one each to Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, and Philadelphia, two to the church at Smyrna, and one to Smyrna's bishop, Polycarp. The letters are a rich source about early theology, liturgy, and church organization., Hopkins, p. 103: "It is likely that Christians were put to death there and that those said to have been martyred 'in Rome' actually died in the Colosseum. But, despite what we are often told, that is only a guess. One of the possible candidates for martyrdom in the Colosseum is St. Ignatius, a bishop of Antioch (in Syria) at the beginning of the second century AD, who was 'condemned to the beasts' at Rome."BOOK, Brockman, Norbert C., Encyclopedia of Sacred Places [2 volumes], 2011, ABC-CLIO, 978-1-59884-655-3, 108, The Christians who did die in the Colosseum often did so under dramatic circumstances, thus cementing the legend. The hero St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of St. John the Beloved, was sent to the beasts by Trajan in 107. Shortly after, 115 Christians were killed by archers. When Christians refused to pray to the gods for the end of a plague in the latter part of the second century, Marcus Aurelius had thousands killed in the Colosseum for blasphemy., In the Middle Ages, the Colosseum was not regarded as a monument, and was used as what some modern sources label a "quarry,"Hopkins, p. 160: "For most of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance the Colosseum was not so much a monument as a quarry. To describe this activity as 'robbery' is to give the wrong impression. For the most part, there was nothing illegal or unofficial about the removal of this stone." which is to say that stones from the Colosseum were taken for the building of other sacred sites.WEB,weblink 1300–1700,, This fact is used to support the idea that, at a time when sites associated with martyrs were highly venerated the Colosseum was not being treated as a sacred site.WEB, The Coliseum,weblink Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent, 24 April 2014, In the Middle Ages, for example, when the sanctuaries of the martyrs were looked upon with so great veneration, the Coliseum was completely neglected; its name never occurs in the itineraries, or guide-books, compiler for the use of pilgrims to the Eternal City., It was not included in the itineraries compiled for the use of pilgrims nor in works such as the 12th century Mirabilia Urbis Romae ("Marvels of the City of Rome"), which claims the Circus Flaminius – but not the Colosseum – as the site of martyrdoms.WEB, The Coliseum,weblink Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent, 24 April 2014, The "Mirabilia Romae", the first manuscripts of which date from the twelfth century, cites among the places mentioned in the "Passions" of the martyrs the Circus Flaminius ad pontem Judaeorum, but in this sense makes no allusion to the Coliseum., Part of the structure was inhabited by a Christian religious order, but it is not known whether this was for any particular religious reason.Pope Pius V (1566–1572) is said to have recommended that pilgrims gather sand from the arena of the Colosseum to serve as a relic, on the grounds that it was impregnated with the blood of martyrs, although some of his contemporaries did not share his conviction.WEB, The Coliseum,weblink Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent, 24 April 2014, Pope St. Pius (1566–72) is said to have recommended persons desirous of obtaining relics to procure some sand from the arena of the Coliseum, which, the pope declared, was impregnated with the blood of martyrs. The opinion of the saintly pontiff, however, does not seem to have been shared by his contemporaries., A century later Fioravante Martinelli listed the Colosseum at the head of a list of places sacred to the martyrs in his 1653 book Roma ex ethnica sacra. Martinelli's book evidently had an effect on public opinion; in response to Cardinal Altieri's proposal some years later to turn the Colosseum into a bullring, Carlo Tomassi published a pamphlet in protest against what he regarded as an act of desecration. The ensuing controversy persuaded Pope Clement X to close the Colosseum's external arcades and declare it a sanctuary.WEB, The Coliseum,weblink Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent, 24 April 2014, The pamphlet was so completely successful that four years later, the jubilee year of 1675, the exterior arcades were closed by order of Clement X; from this time the Coliseum became a sanctuary., File:Cruz del Jubileo 2000 en el Coliseo - detalle.JPG|thumbnail|right|Cross dedicated to the Christian martyrs, placed in 2000 by Pope John Paul IIPope John Paul IIAt the insistence of St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Pope Benedict XIV (1740–1758) forbade the quarrying of the Colosseum and erected Stations of the Cross around the arena, which remained until February 1874.WEB, The Coliseum,weblink Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent, 24 April 2014, At the instance of St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Benedict XIV (1740-58) erected Stations of the Cross in the Coliseum, which remained until February, 1874, when they were removed by order of Commendatore Rosa. St. Benedict Joseph Labre (d. 1783) passed a life of austere devotion, living on alms, within the walls of the Coliseum., Benedict Joseph Labre spent the later years of his life within the walls of the Colosseum, living on alms, before he died in 1783. Several 19th century popes funded repair and restoration work on the Colosseum, and it still retains its Christian connection today. A Christian cross stands in the Colosseum, with a plaque, stating:The amphitheater, one consecrated to triumphs, entertainments, and the impious worship of pagan gods, is now dedicated to the sufferings of the martyrs purified from impious superstitions.BOOK, Litfin, Bryan M., Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction, 2007, Brazos Press, 978-1-4412-0074-7, 44, But according to Irenaeus (who spent time in Rome not long after these events took place) Ignatius did in fact meet his end by being torn apart by wild animals for the amusement of the Roman masses, probably in the infamous Colosseum. The crowd there that day would have viewed the spectacle as a crushing defeat of this meek man's Christian religion. But Ignatius understood his death to be a shout of victory. Today a Christian cross stands in the Colosseum of Rome with a plaque that reads, "The amphitheater, one consecrated to triumphs, entertainments, and the impious worship of pagan gods, is now dedicated to the sufferings of the martyrs purified from impious superstitions.", Other Christian crosses stand in several points around the arena and every Good Friday the Pope leads a Via Crucis procession to the amphitheater.


(File:Colosseum-flora.jpg|thumb|Plants on the inner walls of the Colosseum)The Colosseum has a wide and well-documented history of flora ever since Domenico Panaroli made the first catalogue of its plants in 1643. Since then, 684 species have been identified there. The peak was in 1855 (420 species). Attempts were made in 1871 to eradicate the vegetation, because of concerns over the damage that was being caused to the masonry, but much of it has returned. 242 species have been counted today and of the species first identified by Panaroli, 200 remain.The variation of plants can be explained by the change of climate in Rome through the centuries. Additionally, bird migration, flower blooming, and the growth of Rome that caused the Colosseum to become embedded within the modern city centre rather than on the outskirts of the ancient city, as well as deliberate transport of species, are also contributing causes. Another reason often given is their seeds being unwittingly transported either on the fur or in the feces of animals brought there from all corners of the empire.NEWS, Cooper, Paul, Rome's Colosseum Was Once a Wild, Tangled Garden,weblink 12 January 2018, The Atlantic, 5 December 2017,

Works modeled on, or inspired by, the Colosseum

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Popular culture references

The iconic status of the Colosseum has led it to be featured in numerous films, such as Roman Holiday, Demetrius and the Gladiators, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Way of the Dragon, Gladiator (in which it was re-created via CGI), (Megiddo: The Omega Code 2), The Core, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Jumper, and the animated movie (Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted).It was also featured in the 2010 video game (Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood).

See also

  • {{annotated link|Roman amphitheatre}}
  • {{annotated link|List of Roman amphitheatres}}
{{subject bar|portal1=Catholicism|portal2=Architecture|portal3=History}}





  • BOOK, Filippo, Coarelli, Filippo Coarelli, 1989, Guida Archeologica di Roma, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milano, 978-88-04-11896-1,
  • BOOK, Elkins, Nathan T., Elkins, 2019, A Monument to Dynasty and Death: The Story of Rome's Colosseum and the Emperors Who Built It, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 9781421432557,
  • BOOK, Hopkins, Keith, Hopkins, Keith Hopkins, Beard, Mary, Mary Beard (classicist), 2005, The Colosseum, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 978-0-674-01895-2,weblink

External links

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