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The Colosseum

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The Colosseum

You are a citizen of the great Holy Roman Empire in the year 300 AD going for the first time to the capital of the world, Rome. As you enter the gates of the city, you see the most magnificent building ever constructed, the Colosseum. As you get closer and closer, the murmur of the people gets louder and louder. The excitement is growing by the second. As you walk in, every seat is full and the fans are screaming their heads off. As the emperor arrives, the crowd goes wild and chants the emperor's name. Once everyone has quieted down, the speaker starts describing the day's event. The gladiators and the slaves will re-enact the battle of Carthage, in which Rome definitely defeated Hannibal and took over the northern part of Africa. As the gladiators enter the arena, the fans once again go crazy; and as the battle progresses, wild animals such as tigers and elephants are introduced on the battlefield. After many gruesome deaths, a gladiator is standing over the only slave left, waiting for the emperor's decision. The crowd quiets down as the suspense increases, everyone has their eyes on the emperor; he slowly raises his arm and the thumb is horizontal. After a few moments, the thumb is pointing down and the crowd is cheering, the gladiator finishes the slave off, and once again, another great exhibition has taken place in the Colosseum.

The Colosseum wasn't only used for re-enactments; the arena was also used for naval battles, concerts, games, and plays. The Colosseum was and is known throughout the whole world for its majesty and magnificence. This building still stands today in the heart of the now Italian capital, Rome. It attracts thousands of tourists daily and is one of the most famous monuments ever built.

Before the Colosseum was even built, there was only one small amphitheatre in the whole city of Rome. After the famous fire of 64 AD and Nero's death, the dynasty changed to the Flavian family. In 72 AD, the emperor Vespasian wanted to make a gesture to reconcile the Roman citizens with the new family in power. Therefore the emperor started building a new amphitheatre. The constructions were finished with the son of Vespasian, Titus, in the year 80 AD, and the opening was celebrated with 100 days of games. Around what was originally called the Amphitheatrum Flavium were built four ludi, the prisons where gladiators, slaves and animals were kept. (Pepe, The Colossevm)

The amphitheatre was built in an elliptical shape with its axes being 188 and 156 meters long. There were 80 entrances in the Colosseum, with four main ones at the tips, which were reserved for the emperor and other important people of Rome. The floor of the arena, where the gladiators battled, was made of wood, and covered a complex construction of many rooms used for animals, slaves and gladiators. The seating was in travertine, a local type of stone, and held approximately from 50,000 to 75,000 people. The various corridors, stairs and exits allowed the entire crowd to evacuate the building in less than two minutes. All around the top there were the sockets for 240 wooden beams that were covered with sheets of silk to cover the spectators from the sun and rain. The Colosseum is said to have this name because of Nero's gigantic statue, called Colossus, that was held inside the Arena. Therefore, being the biggest building in history, it got the name Colosseum. Outside the Colosseum is the original piazza in which the amphitheatre was constructed, in which there is also the Arch of Constantine, which was erected in the year 315 AD in honor of the emperor Constantine for defeating Maxentius. (Matthews, Roman Colosseum)

For four centuries, the Colosseum was the greatest wonder of the world. Unfortunately, the building began degrading as time went on. Throughout the 400 years, the Arena as had many changes, additions and repairs; and in 217, the upper floors went on fire because of a thunderbolt. This caused the Colosseum to be closed for a period of five years, during which the games were held in a nearby circus. There were also many earthquakes in 442 and 470 that badly damaged the Arena. The last gladiatorial combat was held in the year 404. Gradually the taste of the public had changed, but the main reason for the end of the games was the military and financial crisis of the western part of the empire, together with the many invasions Italy suffered. (Pepe, The Colossevm)

The last games in the Colosseum were held in the year 523, and because of repeated earthquakes between 524 and 526, the monument fell into complete abandon. The undergrounds started filling up with dirt, and people were using the stones that had fallen as building material. The building was deteriorating daily, and the Church, the only powerful institution left in Italy, started the practice of recycling ancient temples to use them for new churches. Further earthquakes in 801 and 847 completely destroyed the upper ring. Inside, plants and wild animals were beginning to fill the Colosseum. (Quennel, The Colosseum)

Throughout the years, the Colosseum was used as a fortress by the Annibaldi family for their wars against other baronial families in Rome, during which bullfights were held. It is said that as many as 18 young Romans lost their lives. The Colosseum stayed under this family's control until the 1400s. During this time though, the family allowed the Church and other families to take away parts of the building for construction. (Pearson, Arena: The Story of the Colosseum)

By the end of the Medieval Age, the property of the Colosseum was divided among the Confraternity, a religious group that had been living in the Colosseum, the Roman Senate and the Camera Apostolica. Even though by the year 1431 the Church started repairing old Roman ruins, many parts of the Colosseum had already been taken. Many of Rome's famous monuments were made with the stones of the Colosseum, such as Palazzo Venezia, from which Mussolini gave his weekly speeches, St. John Lateran's cathedral, Rome's primary cathedral, and the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitol Hill. (Pearson, Arena: The Story of the Colosseum)

After many decades of abandonment, in 1749 Pope Benedetto XIV declared the monument to be a public church dedicated to Jesus Christ and his martyrs, even though there never was any tangible evidence of Christians being killed inside the Colosseum.

The restorations of this great monument first began under the Napoleonic rule of Rome. In the years 1809 through 1815, the restoration work started to clear the amphitheatre from debris and cleared the walls that had been built between the arches. Ever since then, the Colosseum has been under constant restoration until the year 2000, when a privately funded bank restored



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