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The Colloseum Essay, Research Paper
of all time. The city of Rome once was home to more than one million residents in the early centuries. The Romans had a fine selection of building monuments in the city of Rome including the forums for civic services, temples of worship, and amphitheaters for recreation and play. The Romans made great use and pioneered great architecture mechanisms Architecture of the ancient Roman Empire is considered one of the most impressive including arches, columns, and even mechanical elements in pulleys and early elevators. However, when one tends to think of great buildings, one building stands out in Rome. This building is the Fluvial Amphitheatre, or better known as the Coliseum.
When discussing such a great monument such as the Coliseum, it is very important to realize the time, place, and culture in which it stood to fully understand both its form and function. In the beginnings, Rome was both influenced by the Etruscans of the North and Greeks of the South, but had its basic roots from a long time of Sammie domination. The Etruscans would have a strong impression in Roman lifestyles and philosophies. For example, the Romans would later adopt the purple robe worn by leaders. They also were the influence, which brought gladiatorial battles of sacrifice into the Roman culture. This was a time of bloodthirsty humans who loved the site of battle, and also a time of paganism, which meant sacrifice and death. Early Christians were persecuted for their beliefs in the first few centuries. Clearly in Rome, the focus was not only on religion or the emperor, but a focus on leisure and activities. It is said that of a three hundred and sixty-five day year that one hundred and fifty days were celebrated as regular holidays, with over ninety days given up to games. This type of lifestyle would dominate the cities and architecture of the Romans for some time to come.
The people of Rome enjoyed theatres, battles, races, baths, comical events, and of course the game of death. There were many forums, temples, and many amphitheaters in the history of Rome, however only a few stand out. The Coliseum is the greatest standing building of Rome, and one of the most recognized worldwide architectural achievements to this day. The amphitheater’s primary purpose was to hold gladiator fights and brutal shows which were banned in Athens at the time. Other events held in Roman amphitheaters were horseracing, gymnastics, mock cavalry battles, footraces, prizefighting, wrestling, fights between animals, between men, animals and men, and mock sea battles.
One of the first amphitheaters was the Pompeian amphitheater of Pompeii of 30 BC. Like the Coliseum, it was oval in plan. It was supported on great masses of solid earth pierced by a broad corridor at each end. Stone seats were added at one time but most spectators sat on the earth or wooden chairs. Although this amphitheater was a great innovation, it would be dwarfed by the Coliseum. The great building, although fitting and plain in design to its surroundings of Rome, still stood out due to its sheer monstrosity and oval shape. Although the site viewed today is still a marvel, back in the days of its prime, it was a spectacular site that would be difficult to apprehend with only words. The city that held the great structure was full of great examples of the use of arches, columns from every order, and of course sheer size. When traveling the city to the Coliseum, the whole area had been paved and railed off. The approach was taken by cobbled slabs of lava, and then one entered an area paved with travertine more than five thousand feet wide and surrounded by huge boundary stones.
At the end of the Emperor Nero and the triumph of the Flavians every effort was made to forget the times of the Julio-Claudians (of which Julius Caesar’s family), and move to newer times. The focus of architecture and buildings shifted from the emperor’s creations to the public’s buildings. The next prominent emperor was Vespasian. His greatest feat was the beginning of the construction of the Coliseum for “games” purposes around 72 AD. Titus succeeded Vespasian and completed his fathers dream around 79-80 AD. The dedication of the Coliseum was a lavish gladiator show that lasted for exactly one hundred days in which over nine thousand animals were killed.
A typical day at the Coliseum show usually started with a bloodless comic relief battle, often times with dwarfs, women, or cripples battling with wooden objects. A tuba would sound and the main events would begin. The gladiator fights were the most popular and prominent fights. These featured two highly trained men battling for courage, strength, and dignity. They would often rather take a blow and stand strong than whimper and run in defense. The people were in love with gladiators much like today’s sport heroes. It is written that famous women would even leave their husbands for famous gladiators, which were known to be very scarred and ugly by Roman standards. The gladiator fight was a ruthless blood-ridden spectacle which usually ended in death by the loser who begged for mercy and was chosen to die by the present emperor or crowd cheers of 45,000 hysterical fans. Even more appalling than the gladiator fights may have been the famous wild beast hunts. Some beast slayers fought lions, tigers, bears, and bulls, which brought many animals to near extinction in the surrounding areas. However, even worse than the wild beast hunts was the killings of rather harmless animals such as ostriches, giraffes, deer, elephants, and even hippopotami all for the delight of the crowd. The Coliseum utilized machinery to even raise animals to the battle floor from beneath where the catacombs and passages lay. The Coliseum would be decorated with trees, hillocks, and other elements to simulate natural surroundings. One fighter was the deranged emperor Commodious who had such a passion for unequal combat he visited the Coliseum more than a thousand times- slaughtering at one time one hundred bears. He killed ostriches, and even innocent fans if they laughed. It was clear to many that he was insane, and another famous athlete assassinated him.
Perhaps the most interesting of all events held was the mock sea battles. The Romans were famous for running water in their architecture, and this allowed them to flood the battlefield and hold mock sea battles.
Of course with all of this bloodshed, it was very controversial starting in the third to fourth centuries. The paganism of Rome had rooted from the Etruscans and was evident at the Coliseum. Honorius abolished the games of the Coliseum, but criminals were still persecuted there for more than one hundred years. After that it was generally used up until the end of the sixth century for concerts, sermons, and bullfights.
The structure itself of the Coliseum can be summarized as the symbol of Rome. The overall plan is a huge elliptical structure measuring about 617 by 512 feet. Estimates of capacity range from 45,000 to 50,000 spectators. The most important of aspects of this monument are in its arches, columns, vaulting, technological advances, and in its mere magnitude. The arches and barrel vaulting are typical of Roman buildings and architecture. The Coliseum is built as four stories, which was unprecedented in its day. The arch was a great Roman architecture innovation, which allowed for great amounts of weight to be carried over long spans. One of the first natural changes of the Coliseum came in 320 when lightning struck and damaged the building. In 422 an earthquake damaged it. However Theodosius II and Valentitian III repaired it only to be again damaged by an earthquake in 508. After the sixth century the city of Rome and the Coliseum went downhill because of some devastating disasters. Towards the end of the sixth century grass was starting to grow rampant at the Coliseum.
The Coliseum reflected a strong belief in humanism. Humanism comes from a belief that the power of nature and the power of rulers dwarfed ordinary human effort. The Romans were fascinated by violence and death. The battles fought show the rulers ability to manipulate human life, and control
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