An ancient structure for mass spectacles, the Colosseum, located at the base of two of the seven hills of the city – the Capitol and Palatine, is considered one of the symbols of Ancient Rome, and since 1979 has been under the protection of UNESCO.
Historical facts that you probably don’t know about:
- The Colosseum might not have been built, but the Roman emperor Flavius Titus Vespasian (the elder) decided to eliminate the traces of the reign of Claudius Nero. Construction of the structure began on the site of a pond with swans in 70. The Colosseum was opened in 80, during the reign of the son of Titus, who was a representative of the Flavians (dynasty of emperors). Therefore, the Colosseum was often referred to in historical documents as the Flavian Amphitheater.
- By order of Nero, the architect Zenodorus made a sculpture in the image of the Colossus of Rhodes (a large statue of the sun god Helios) in imperial honor and was named the Colossus of Nero. In the beginning, the Colossus was installed in the palace of Nero. Emperor Hadrian, after the death of Nero, built a stone base near the Colosseum, on which a statue transferred from the palace was placed. The sculpture itself has not survived to our time, and the pedestal, lined with marble, was removed from the Colosseum Square in 1930.
- Most of the amphitheatres in ancient Greece were built by digging out a certain area on the hillsides. The colosseum, which has the shape of an ellipse, was built of stone.
- The Colosseum was built for all Romans, but the wealthy class was seated separately from the rest of the poor population of Rome. The amphitheater could accommodate 50 thousand people.
- Gladiatorial fights were a popular entertainment for the Romans, in which criminals, slaves, and prisoners of war were forced to participate. But volunteers also took part in this type of competition.
- In addition to fights between people, fights with animals were arranged. The gladiator, in order to stay alive and be the winner, had to kill a wild beast released from a cage into the arena. Ancient chroniclers noted that during the grand opening of the Colosseum, which lasted 123 days, about 11 thousand animals were killed in the arena: elephants, tigers, lions, bears, buffaloes.
- During the reign of Emperor Trajan, about 40 thousand people died in gladiatorial battles and in battles with animals. Among them, Christians were thrown into the arena, who at that time were considered the culprits of the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire.
- Before the reign of the youngest son of Emperor Vespasian, before the underground floor was built under the Colosseum, the arena was flooded with water to a depth of one meter, and the arena turned into a swimming pool, where an imitation of naval battles (naumachia) took place for the entertainment of the public. For this purpose, a water supply channel (aqueduct) was built.
- According to historical documents, when the Roman Empire collapsed, the Colosseum in the 5th century ceased to play the role of a place for various kinds of social events and gradually collapsed. Beautiful marble and brick after the earthquake in 847 was used for the construction of church buildings, and the Romans used basements for growing vegetables.
- The main part of the marble was used for facing the exterior facade of St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican.
- For the first time, priests of the Catholic Church started talking about the Colosseum as a historical monument of world culture in the XVIII century. Pope Benedict XIV decided to consider the Colosseum a holy place. After that, the restoration of the amphitheater began, which has been open to tourists since 2000 and is considered the most visited monument of world culture.
- Another interesting fact is the quote made by the English chronicler, the Venerable monk Bede in one of his works that if the Colosseum falls, then Rome itself will follow him.
The Colosseum is certainly not the only one, but undoubtedly one of the most significant and majestic places of eternal Rome.