The Colosseum


The Colosseum is located in Rome and dates from the first century A.D.


The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built (620 x 513 feet) and is constructed out of concrete and sand. It was commissioned by emperor Vespasian and completed under his sons, emperors Titus and Domitian, all of whom were members of the Flavian dynasty. Hence, the Colosseum is otherwise titled the Flavian Amphitheater. It did not get the name ‘Colosseum’ until around the year 1000. One link can be found in the colossal statue of emperor Nero, which was derived from the Colossus of Rhodes and located outside of the amphitheater, which was built on the site of a great palace which Nero had built for himself. Another link can be found in the eighth century saying “as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome…”, which was misinterpreted to refer to the amphitheater.

The Colosseum is a free standing amphitheater and is decorated with a four story facade of around eighty arches. The progression of these tiers of arches follow the classical order of decoration: the arches of the lower register are adorned with Doric capitols, while the middle register are adorned with Ionic capitols and the third register with Corinthian capitols. The uppermost fourth register of the original amphitheater contained two hundred and forty masts which supported the awning which would protect up to fifty thousand spectators from the sun. The Colosseum was active for four centuries and held events ranging from gladiatorial battles, wild animal hunts, public executions to naval reenactments (which saw the amphitheater flooded with water). 

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After the Colosseum fell into neglect it became a source of building materials. One such building which utilized the materials was St. Peters Cathedral. As a result of its use as a quarry and due to natural disasters, such as lightning strikes and earthquakes, the Colosseum we see today only consists of only a third of the original amphitheater. The restoration of the Colosseum only began in the 1990s.

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