The Roman Coliseum

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The Roman Coliseum (Colosseum)
Picture Courtesy of David Iliff

The Roman Coliseum (Colosseum), also in ancient times known as Flavian Amphitheater, is a huge amphitheater found in the middle of Rome. It is the largest structure of its kind built by the mighty Empire. It is one of the greatest works of Rome's architecture ever built. It was originally capable of holding more than fifty-thousand people.

Building on the Coliseum began under Vespasian around 72 A.D. The location chosen for the massive Roman structure was on a body of water known as 'Nero's lake,' which at one time was a part of Nero's palace. The structure was not completely finished until the time of Titus. During the celebration of the amphitheater's completion, more than ten thousand animals were killed within its walls.

Roman Games and Naval Battles

The Coliseum hosted large-scale spectacular games that included fights between animals, the killing of prisoners by animals and other executions, naval battles (via flooding the arena and bringing in ships) up until 81 A.D., and combats between gladiators (munera). They were always given by private individuals rather than the state. It has been estimated that several hundreds of thousands died in the Coliseum games. Fights between animals, death matches between prisoners and wild beasts, naval battles (the structure was built to allow enough water into it to allow ships to float!) were held in the structure.

Rome's most important military road

Picture of the Forum

Largest Circus built by the Empire

Map showing the rise and fall of the Empire

Map of Empire at time of Jesus

One of the most popular types of shows put on by Rome featured animal hunting. Because of the expanse and power of the Empire, Rome was able to transport to the Colosseum such animals as lions, tigers, rhinos, hippos, wild bears and many other exotic creatures. Movable sets that included buildings were many times used as a backdrop for a battle. Stadium events were many times held on a grand scale, For example, after Trajan (who expanded the power of Rome to its greatest extent through territorial conquests) was victorious over Dacia, he celebrated by sponsoring contests that involved more than ten thousand animals and several thousand gladiators over a period of roughly 4 months.

The name of the Coliseum is believed to have originated name from a giant statue (colossus) of Emperor Nero that was located nearby.

Its design

The Coliseum measures 157 feet high, 617 feet long, and it was as wide as 511 feet. The floor of the structure was 228 feet by 177 feet.

A variety of different sections existed within the Coliseum. Level 1 (known as the podium) was for high-level politicians of the state and for the Emperor. The second level was designated for the ruling classes that were not actual senators. The next level up had a section for those who were rich and another for those who were poor. A special section was reserved at the top of the Colosseum for females only. Recent discoveries at the site showed drainpipes that connected the building to Rome's famous sewer system.

Ancient air conditioning

The overall cooling of the Roman Coliseum (Colosseum) utilized the innovation idea of a canvas roof that covered the majority of the stadium. This roof, slanted toward the ground, was able to catch the wind and provide cooling to the spectators.

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