The ‘Colosseum’ or ‘Coliseum’ is considered as one of the most eminent structures ever built by the mighty Roman dynasty. The ‘Colosseum’ was actually a Roman amphitheatre which was built by the founder of ‘Flavian’ Dynasty- Emperor Vespasian. This amphitheatre was originally known as the ‘Flavian Amphitheatre’ & was the largest construction of that era!
Although, this magnificent monument which has seen the glory as well as the fall of the greatest kingdom in the history is now left in the form of ruins only, its leftover relics still magnetizes the visitors who congregates at this place to witness the greatest amphitheatre in the world & to revive the legends of the glorious gladiatorial battles associated with it!
HISTORY IN BRIEF: –
The construction of this humongous amphitheatre was done by the Emperor Vespasian & it was started around 72 AD. The loot garnered from the ‘Jewish Temple’ during the ‘Siege of Jerusalem’ was utilized for the construction of the ‘Colosseum’ which was built on a flat area between Caelian, Esquiline & Palatine Hills. The construction was done on the very site which, once upon a time, was occupied by a dense population of the city & which was devastated by the ‘Great Fire of Rome’. The land was grabbed by then Emperor Nero, who used it for constructing his personal lavish palace & an artificial lake surrounded by specious amenities meant exclusively for Nero.
The Emperor Vespasian, who took charge of the Empire after Nero, had ordered to build a momentous architecture for the people of Rome at the site of Nero’s lake. His order has been speculated as the noble gesture from the Emperor Vespasian of returning people’s land back to them, which was forcefully snatched by the Nero for satisfying his own greed. The Colosseum is also considered as the monument of triumph to commemorate the Roman’s victory in the ‘Great Jewish Revolt’ in 70 AD.
The Emperor Vespasian died in 79 AD, but his son- ‘Titus’, then carried on father’s legacy & by 80 AD, the most impressive memorial in the history of Romans thus, pulled in its first show! The new glorious amphitheatre was inaugurated by Titus by holding a grand celebration consisting of several nerve-racking cruel games & shows which were lasted for hundred days! The grandeur celebration had seen over 9000 wild animals being slaughtered in various fights which were organized to appease the Roman spectators!
THE ARCHITECTURE: –
The Colosseum is elliptical in shape & measures 189 meters X 156 meters covering 6 acres of area at its base. The outer wall stands 48 meters tall with the perimeter measuring 545 meters. The dimensions of the central arena are 87 m X 55m surrounded by 5 meters high wall. The entire construction was done using travertine marble stone.
The Colosseum had four floors above the ground, which could accommodate nearly 50,000 people. The Colosseum was provided with giant eighty arched entrances which were potent enough to fill or evacuate the huge amphitheatre in a matter of time. Four entrances out of 80 were kept reserved for the elite class of Rome, which were decorated with affluent painted stuccos. One out of four elite entrances was kept reserved for the Roman Emperor & his aides. In the course of time, most of the entrance arches have vanished with the toppling of the perimeter façade, but entrances numbered 23 & 54 still survive.
Arena & Hypognum:
The Colosseum also had a couple of underground floors which were covered with wooden floor called the ‘Arena’ containing thick layer of sand. The underground structure was known as ‘Hypognum’ (which literally means ‘underground’). The arena was the center stage for the action, whereas, hypognum containing an elaborate network of tunnels & cellars was used to keep the animals, the gladiators as well as the props used for the show. An intricate hydraulic system of hinges, lifts, pulleys & shafts was employed to heave the underground objects to the surface through the trapdoors.
Although, the majority area of the arena is now in a miserable condition, the hypognum is comparatively in good shape which can be reckoned as the best preserved remains of this mammoth architecture.
This colossal Roman amphitheatre was covered with retractable awning called as ‘Velarium’ that was used to provide shelter from the sun. It was tied to the larger poles hanged near the attic & used to cover two third of the arena. A special squad of 100 men was enlisted to move the enormous ‘velarium’.
The seating arrangement inside the Colosseum was the reflection of Rome’s rigid social structure. Elite class of Roman citizen’s was provided with the seating positions closest to the arena providing the best view of the action. Special cordon near the north & south ends were kept reserved for the Emperor & the Vestal Virgins respectively. Senatorial class & other majors of the society were provided with the podium at the same level, flanking the special cordon.
Above tier was dedicated to the noble class or knights & the levels above that were for the common people. The topmost tier had the gallery for poor, slaves & women, which was actually a balcony with room for standing only!
The Colosseum being an amphitheatre was used primarily for demonstrating the several events & games to satisfy the Roman citizen’s appetite for the entertainment. Considering the Roman spectator’s affection for the cruel show, the majority of the games & events were related to the fights between the wild beasts or between men & beasts or even between men & men.
The gladiatorial fights were cherished the most by the spectators which used to take place amidst the deafening cheers of crowd & the shattering trumpets. The gladiators used to be the trained fighters who used to be selected from the herds of slaves, war prisoners or abandoned criminals depending upon their strengths & skills to fight.
Apart from the gladiator fights, the Colosseum was the center stage for showcasing other events including animal hunts, re-enactment of the famous battles in the history, mock sea battles & public execution bandits & traitors. Games were held for the entire day or even for several days at a stretch! The games were supposedly the symbol of prestige & prowess for the Emperor & many Roman Emperors also used it as a sedative to deflect the minds of citizens from the crisis occurred due to the incompetency of the government or due to the malpractices by the Emperor & his aides!
The sixth century in the history saw the fall of the Roman dynasty & so the popularity of the Colosseum. The ferocious earthquake of 847 saw the toppling of the southern part of this Imperial Roman monument. In the middle ages, this imposing symbol of the Roman architecture was completely forsaken by the locals & soon it became a giant marble, iron & lead quarry which was used for constructing many medieval monuments including Piazza Venezia & St. Peter’s Basilica!
Although left in the form of ruins only, this iconic monument of Rome is now one of the most loved tourist hotspot & a true identity of Rome. The remnants of the building are still standing with all of their might, only to narrate the glorious legends of the splendor of Romans & the extravagant battle shows seen in the past by the veteran walls of this humongous architecture!