5 Facts About The Roman Colosseum
The Colosseum we know today which is located near the center of Rome is a massive stone amphitheater that was officially known as the Flavian Amphitheater at the time.
Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and was finished in the year 80 AD, when Emperor Titus kicked off 100 days of games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights.
The Colosseum saw some four centuries of active use until the struggles of the Western Roman Empire and the gradual change in public tastes put an end to gladiatorial combats and other large public entertainments by the 6th century A.D.
As is to be expected, there were a lot of deaths at the Colosseum. It was used for entertainment for just shy of 400 years, and in this time, it is estimated that 400,000 people died within the walls of this particular amphitheater.
The Colosseum had seating for more than 50,000 spectators. This is quite comparable to modern-day football stadiums in the US. The NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, home of the Houston Texans football team has a seating capacity of 71,995 in comparison. The Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana used for the Independence Bowl game has a seating capacity of 50,832.
The Colosseum took only about ten years to complete and covered about six acres. The facade rose to over 159 feet, which is the height of about a 12 to 15 story building. It’s a total of 5 levels.
Construction for the Colosseum was funded by the opulent spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 AD led to the Siege of Jerusalem.
According to a reconstructed inscription found on the site, “the emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheater to be erected from his general’s share of the booty.”
Along with the spoils, estimated 100,000 Jewish prisoners were brought back to Rome after the war, and many contributed to the massive workforce needed for construction.
The slaves undertook manual labor such as working in the quarries at Tivoli where the travertine was quarried, along with lifting and transporting the quarried stones 20 miles from Tivoli to Rome. Along with this free source of unskilled labor, teams of professional Roman builders, engineers, artists, painters, and decorators undertook the more specialized tasks necessary for building the Colosseum.
Below the Colosseum were numerous rooms and underground passages are known as the Hypogeum. That is where the animals and gladiators were kept, waiting to meet their fate in the arena above. There were several wooden elevators used to bring the gladiators up to the stage where they would appear suddenly. They also had as many as 36 trap doors which were used for special effects. The Colosseum, after all, was all about entertaining the masses.
The citizens of Rome didn’t have to pay an entry fee for the events that took place at the Colosseum. They were also provided free food as well. The Colosseum was a way for the emperor of Rome to buy his people’s favor and what better way to do that than give his people free food and entertainment?
The Fighting Killed Off Whole Species The sheer quantity of slaughter in the Colosseum saw the number of lions, jaguars, and tigers plummet across the globe. According to some, Roman hunting absolutely “devastated the wildlife of North Africa and the entire Mediterranean region,” wiping some species of animal off the map entirely.
While many, many natural disasters hammered the structure of the Colosseum over the years, two big earthquakes caused the major damage visitors to see today. These happened in 847 AD and 1231 AD.
It is not only historians and archaeologists that are fascinated by the Colosseum – botanists are really interested in it too. Over the years, since 1642 specifically, they have cataloged the different species of plants that have taken root across the grounds of this ruined amphitheater. So far they have found around 337.
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