The Colosseum, originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome and the largest ever built in the Roman Empire.
The Colosseum is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering, accommodating 50,000 spectators. Construction started in 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus (members of the Flavian family). Domitian, Vespasian’s younger son, built the hypogeum (the tunnels under the Colosseum to house slaves and wild animals) and extended the seating capacity to the third level. It was constructed of travertine and held together with bronze clamps. The structure which encompasses 6 acres and is 615 feet long on the long side of the ellipse, 510 feet wide and 157 feet high.
The Colosseum was built in an area that had been the Emperor Nero’s Golden House which was taken down in the years after his death. Based on an inscription found in the ruins, wealth from the defeat and subjugation of the Jewish people in 70 AD was used to fund the construction (“the emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general’s share of the booty”).
The Colosseum was initially used for public spectacles for mass entertainment—executions, gladiatorial contests, animal hunts by men/fights with other species, dramas and mock sea battles with the arena filled with water. As Christianity became the dominant religion of the empire, the spectacles were discontinued on the order of the Christian emperors. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was used for housing, workshops, housing for a religious order, a fortress, a cemetery and a Christian shrine. During the 14th century, the Frangipani family used it as a fortified castle. In the 18th century, Pope Benedict XIV declared the site as sacred since it was a site of Christian martyrdom. No proof or implication exists to support his assertion but it did preserve the site.
Today, ruined by earthquakes and used as a quarry for stone and bronze for building, it is a symbol of the Roman Empire. Each Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) the Pope conducts a “Way of the Cross” procession around the Colosseum that commemorates Jesus Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. It has also been used for concerts.
Tomorrow, The Great Wall of China Rita Bay