The Colosseum Posted by on Sep 28, 2009 in Latin Language

One of the most famous examples of Roman architecture is the Colosseum. Originally the Colosseum was called the Amphitheatrum Flavium. The emperors of the Flavian dynasty were responsible for its construction and henceforth, so it was named. The name Colosseum came from a statue believed to be next to the Colosseum. The statue was considered to be magical to the point where it was believed to hold Rome’s well being. Eventually the statue was melted to be used for its bronze, but the Amphitheatrum Flavium remained and was coined as the Colosseum.

The exterior of the Colosseum is quite grand. The outer walls are composed of arcades, which are arches that are supported by columns. Originally there was a valarium, or a type of curtain to protect the audience from the sun and the rain. There were eighty exits and entrances at ground level so that audiences could exit and enter quickly. The outer wall of the Colosseum was built with stone without mortar. This is an amazing feat, considering how long the Colosseum has stood the test of time. The Colosseum has suffered some damage from natural disasters. There was the Magnum Incendium Romae (Great Fire of Rome) in AD 64, and a major earthquake in 443 AD.

The interior of the Colosseum is just as interesting. It’s estimated that around 50,000 people can be seated all at once in the Colosseum. Seating in the Colosseum was arranged by rank and social class. The emperor got the best view of the arena. At the very top of the building there was also a level for women, slaves, and poor laborers. The people in this social strata probably viewed the arena standing up. This differed with the senatorial seats, where the Senators could bring their own chairs and cushions. If there was any seating for the poorer classes, it was often made of wood, unlike the seats for nobles, which were made of stone or marble.

The arena itself was covered in sand. This was where the gladitorial fights took place. There were hypogeum or underground tunnels in which the gladiators were brought forth. There were also hegmata or hinged platforms where animals such as lions and elephants were brought to the arena. These animals were used for a type of show called a venatio or animal hunt. Ancient written reports even talk of navalia proelia, or naval combat. Supposedly these aquatic shows took place through a series of drainage systems that were linked between a natural body of water and the Colosseum.

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