The Roman Colosseum is a wonder of the world. It was located in the middle of Rome in the country of Italy and its remains still stand in that location. The building of the Roman Colosseum began around the year of 72 A.D. and was completed in the year of 81 A.D.
Prior to the building of the Roman Colosseum, gladiator fights were held in different venues across the Roman Empire. The first recorded gladiator contest occurred in the year of 264 B.C.; however, it is noted that these types of contests may have been held prior to this time. In 264 B.C., Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva honored his deceased father, D. Junius Brutus Pera, with the first recorded gladiator contest.
Gladiator contests were human sacrifices to the gods and goddesses of which the Romans honored. When a person died, in order to make the gods and goddesses happy, human sacrifices were required. It was believed that through sacrifices, the person who died had an easier transition to the afterlife.
As time passed, the gladiator contests took on additional roles in Roman history. The funeral ceremonies grew in popularity among the Roman people when, after many years, there would be over a hundred gladiators who fought during one contest. The Roman citizens, or the “mob” as they were called, enjoyed these contests so much that prominent and wealthy Romans saw an opportunity to gain power by staging gladiator competitions.
In the beginning, the contests were held in small arenas located in different places throughout the land. An arena was a small stage surrounded by a seating area something similar to a small boxing arena. When the contests or competitions became more popular, larger facilities were created which would hold a greater crowd. These larger facilities were called amphitheaters and were oval or round in dimension. An amphitheater was designed with rows of seats rising upward so that every person would have a view of the arena which was located in the center of the amphitheater.
The first stone amphitheater in Rome was built by Titus Statilius Taurus in 29 B.C. during the period of time Emperor Augustus ruled. It was not large in size and would not hold many people for which the “mob” or “plebs” (plebeians) were very dissatisfied. In 57 A.D., Emperor Nero decided to appease the plebs and created a large, wooden amphitheater. It was unfortunate for the Romans that both these amphitheaters were burned down during the great Roman fire of 64 A.D.
Between the death of Nero in 68 A.D. and July 1, 69 A.D., four other emperors reigned in quick succession ending with Titus Flavius Vespasianus or Emperor Vespasian. In order to please the people and to gain their support, Emperor Vespasian began construction of a large amphitheater in 72 A.D. The amphitheater was originally called the Amphitheatrum Flavium after Emperor Vespasian’s Flavian dynesty. Later, the amphitheater was known as the Colosseum or the Roman Colosseum.
During the construction of the Colosseum in the year of 79 A.D., Emperor Vespasian died. His oldest son, Titus, became Emperor and completed the Colosseum. Emperor Titus died in 81 A.D. and his brother, Domitian, became Emperor with his reign ending in 96 A.D. This was the last of the Flaviun Dynasty.
THE COLOSSEUM COMPLEX
The Colosseum was the center part of the overall complex. Underneath the Colosseum, Emperor Domitian built a Hypogeum which included tunnels, rooms and passageways. The tunnels were used to connect other surrounding buildings to the Colosseum. Some of the additional buildings included a Spoliarium, a Saniarium, the Ludus Magnus. One tunnel, called the Passaggio del Commodo, also led to the Imperial Palace which allowed the Emperors access to the Colosseum without having to interact with the public.
The construction of the Colosseum was built on the site where Emperor Nero’s palace stood. Emperor Vespasian chose to boost the morale of Rome by tearing down Nero’s 6 acre palace and creating an environment for entertainment.
To attend an event at the Colosseum, a citizen would enter through one of 76 numbered arched entrances. There were four additional unnumbered entrances or gates known as the Grand Entrances used only by the elite such as the emperor, senators, etc.
After entering the Colosseum, there were three tiers of seating with a fourth tier added later. The first tier was for the elite Roman population which would have included the emperor, senators, etc. The second tier was specified only for those who were in the noble class yet not quite as noble as those in the first tier. The third tier was for those who were just regular Roman citizens. This section was subdivided into wealthy regular citizens towards the lower part of the third level and poorer citizens seated in the upper part of the third level. The additional fourth tier seating was constructed with wood and held only the common women who attended Colosseum events.
The Other Buildings
The Ludus Magnus was the place the men lived and trained to become gladiators. The Spoliarium was a place where injured or dead gladiators were taken after performing for the populace. The Sanitarium or Saniarium was the place wounded gladiators were taken and treated for their injuries.
THE END OF THE COLOSSEUM
The Colosseum was used for many purposes. Some purposes included animal exhibitions, plays, and re-enactments of various historical events such as Roman war victories. Other purposes were for brutal executions such as Christian executions.
During the reign of Emperor Honorius, the end of the gladiator battles occurred in the year of 404 AD. A monk named Telemachus was in the Colosseum and protested the bloody battle between the gladiators. The crowd objected strongly to Telemachus and stoned him to death. The battle continued. A few days later, young Emperor Honorius stopped any further gladiator battles. The Colosseum continued to be used for other activities until the early 6th century. It was during this time when the Western Roman Empire was failing and Christianity was becoming more prominent. A more peaceful time without all the bloodshed had become the “norm” and activities within the Colosseum no longer were accepted by the population.
Remains of the Colosseum exist to this day. Recently, the Roman Catholic Church has held spiritual events in the remains of the Colosseum. One recent event was The Stations of the Cross which was held in the Colosseum on Good Friday so that people can quietly and more intensely reflect the events Jesus suffered during that day.
quick facts & figures
Construction Start: 72 A.D.
Construction Ended: 81 A.D.
Location: Rome, Italy
Building Style: Ancient Roman Architecture
Annual Tourists: 4,000,000
Weight: 400,000 tons