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  COLOSSEUM
COLOSSEUM
Image 1: Colosseum viewed from the Via dei Fori Imperiali
Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre (Anfiteatro Flavio), it is the well known monument of the ancient Rome. The amphitheatre was built in the years between 70-72 AD by Vespasian (Vespasiano) as the first stable Amphitheatre of the city. The site choosen was between the Palatine (Palatino), Caelian (Celio) and Oppian (Oppio) hills, in place of an artificial lake belonging to Domus Aurea that was drained. Nearby, a colossal statue (Colossus) of Nero (Nerone) was set up under the Palatine hill. A legend says that the name Colosseum (Colosseo), also known as Coliseum, derives from this colossal statue.
The amphitheatre was inaugurated in 80 by Titus (Tito), son of Vespasian, with games that lasted 100 days. The building was transformed under Antoninus Pius (Antonino Pio), Elagabalus (Elagabalo) and Alexander Severus (Severo Alessandro).
In the 4th century it was used as burial site, during the medieval ages became a fortress. During the 15h and 16th centuries the amphitheatre was stripped of stone and valuable material which was reused by aristocratic families to decorate their villas and palaces. During the first years of 1800, stabilization and restoration projects were initiated to repair damages that affected the building.
Image 2: Colosseum viewed from the Via Sacra
Image 2: Colosseum viewed from the Via Sacra
The arena substructure, partially modified during restoration projects, was completely excavated in 1938-1939.

Physical description
The amphitheatre has an elliptical form and, unlike ancient Greek theatres (built in half-round form), has a double perimeter and it's an an entirely free-standing structure, constructed on flat ground rather than being built into an existing hillside or natural depression. The surviving part of the outer wall is composed of four orders (or floors); the first three orders are made of superposed series of arches on pillars. The arcades are framed by half-columns in three classical Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders. The fourth order (the highest one) is composed by a podium surmounted by a tall attic decorated with Corinthian pilasters and pierced by little rectangular windows. The building, with a total height of 52 metres, covered an elliptical area of 19000 square metres and could accommodate 50.000 people.
The elliptical internal arena (86x54 metres) was separated from the cavea by means of a high podium protected by a balustrade. Behind the balustrade, the reserved area for the senatorial and noble class.
Image 3: Colosseum viewed from the Oppian hill
Image 3: Colosseum viewed from the Oppian hill
Cavea was divided into five "maeniana" (balconies in orizontal view) and into "cunei" (wedges in vertical view). Each "maeniana" was reserved according to the rigidly stratified nature of Roman society. Spectators accessed their numbered seats through their reserved arcades (between the 74 existing arcades) across a passageway known as "vomitoria", one for each sector.
The arena could be accessed through two monumental gateways used by game protagonists, gladiators and biggest animals, too heavy to lift to the surface by using elevators and pulleys from the underground cages; It is still possible to see parts of the hydraulic system used to fill the arena with water for sea battles. The arena comprised a floor made of wooden, brick and stone and covered with sand. The criptoportic, in the norther part, connected underground tunnels of Colosseum to the Ludus Magnus, the outside nearby stable of the gladiators' barracks.

Image 4: Colosseum viewed from the exterior entrance to the metro station Colosseo (B line)
Image 4: Colosseum viewed from the exterior entrance to the metro station Colosseo (B line)
The amphitheatre was provided of a a retractable awning (known as the velarium), that was used to shield the spectators from the sun and to keep the rain off. It doesn't leave any trace.

Colosseum was used for several kinds of games, events, entertainments and shows:
- Naumachiae (more properly known as navalia proelia), that simulated sea battles; for this reason the arena was filled with water.
- Animal hunts with thousands wild beasts killed in a background that was a recreation of natural scenes, simulated with a forest composed by real bushes and trees planted in the floor.
- Gladiator fights, one of the most popular entartainments in ancient Rome. Sometimes Romans purposely trained slaves to became gladiators for fighting between them.
The Colosseum is also known because it has been the scene of numerous martyrdoms of early Christians, especially during the time when the Christianity contradicted the Roman laws.

Address: Colosseum Square (Piazza del Colosseo).
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Last modified: May, 5th 2008 | Ave-roma - Online since 14-sep-06 Ave Roma | Partner websites | Site Map

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