This artwork is derived from a photograph taken during a tour of Western Europe.
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Please pardon my play on words and intentional misspelling.
Taken March 7/09 on a gorgeous day in Rome, Italy.
The 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 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wrong, or that the Colosseum originally featured a wide floodable channel down its central axis (which would later have been replaced by the hypogeum).
The 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”). 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.
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.
Why the Colosseum of Rome is special –
The Colosseum of Rome is truly colossal – it stands 50 meters (165 feet) high and measures 185 meters (600 feet) long. It was large enough to hold 50,000 roaring spectators when it was inaugurated in 80 AD.
Today, it is one of the most dramatic, historic and recognized archaeological monuments on earth.
Condition of today’s Colosseum of Rome –
The wonder is in a partially ruined state, but it is in remarkable condition when you consider it was built nearly 2000 years ago.
Why the Colosseum was built –
The Flavian Roman emperors built the Colosseum of Rome for entertaining their subjects (and to distract their minds from the woes of the time).
There were bloody contests pitting gladiators against gladiators – and against wild beasts. Even naval battles were staged in the Colosseum of Rome (the arena’s floor was flooded for those events). Non-martial events were staged, too, including lavish theatrical productions and tamed animal acts.
Popular misconceptions –
Hollywood movies reinforced some widespread false impressions about the Colosseum of Rome.
Historians doubt that the wholesale martyring of Christians occurred there and, the image of lions eating the Christians before cheering crowds is likely fantasy.
Thumbs down –
Films have also bolstered the myth that thumbs down meant to kill the person in the arena. It was just the opposite in Roman times. Thumbs up signaled “kill him” and thumbs down, “spare him.”
Which spelling is correct? Colosseum? Coliseum? Colloseum? –
All three are all correct. However, the first two spellings are more widely used.