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Transcript
‫إلى االخوه واألخوات الكرام‪:‬‬
‫السالم عليكم ورحمة هللا وبركاته‬
‫بالنسبه للموضوع التالي يعتبر مرجع بشكل عام للمنهج وانا‬
‫نشرته للفائده و الن فيه معلومات كثيرة و مفيدة جدا ‪.‬‬
‫لذا ‪,‬قررت بان يكون مرجع فقط لتعم الفائدة‪,‬‬
‫كما اطلب منكم التعليق على الموضوع‪ ,‬ومن عنده اي مالحظات‬
‫ياليت ‪,‬ما يبخل علينا بها‪.‬‬
‫و كما أتقدم بالشكر وتقدير الالخت ‪NadaDM‬‬
‫لما قامت به من أعطى التوجيه والنصيحة إلخراج هذا المرجع‪.‬‬
‫والسالم عليكم ‪,,,,,,,,,,,.‬وباهلل التوفيق‪.‬‬
‫و التنسونا من دعواتكم‪.‬‬
‫‪Abdooooooool‬‬
‫‪The Colosseum‬‬
‫===============‬
‫‪The games‬‬
‫‪Ut quisquem vicerit occidat - Kill the loser whoever he may be‬‬
‫‪1‬‬
Romans could have free spectacles; it was a right of the citizens to
join banquets offered by the rich and famous, and to enjoy shows in the
circus or the amphitheatre. The games were offered by the emperor
and the nobility to get social consensus. Panem et circenses were given
to the public so as to distract their attention from more important
matters. The yearly schedule and the organization of the ludi, the games
in honour of the gods, were at first regulated by law, since the games
had started as religious rites. Later on, when prominent citizens took
over the expense of the "production", the sacred character of the games
was almost forgotten.
The most popular games were the ludi circenses, or chariot races, which
took place in the circus, and the naumachiae, naval battles reproduced
within special facilities. The Ludi Gladiatori in the amphitheatre were
less frequent, but immensely popular, too. They were generally
associated with a venatio, which was a staged hunt of wild animals (a
show that sometimes entailed the execution of condemned criminals). In
the amphitheatre were also staged the silvae, in which animals
populated a scenery of woods and forests, and dramas, that reproduced
famous mythological tales.
The history of The games
The origin of the gladiatorial games: is still a matter of debate. Many think that they descend from the
Etruscan custom of making human sacrifices to celebrate the death of a
nobleman, in order to appease the spirit of the dead. The Roman
historian Livy, on the contrary, stated that the games originated in
Campania, the region around Naples (where in fact there are many
funeral paintings depicting scenes of duels and chariot races), and his
statement has influenced greatly the experts. This option, however,
should not conflict with the Etruscan one, in my modest opinion, since
the Etruscans had had colonies and influence in Campania. Another
theory which has recently gained acceptance gives the Samnium, a
region in central Italy, as the place of origin of the games. Moreover, the
first gladiators wore the traditional Samnite weapons and attire. Later
on, the gladiators' types diversified into different familiae, that
sometimes reproduced the outfits of the fighters of distant countries.
The games
were at first strictly connected to religion and
magic, though later on these features became less apparent and were
almost forgotten. Whatever the origin may be, the first record of a
gladiatorial fight dates back to 264 BC, when the sons of Brutus Pera
offered such a spectacle in Rome to honour the memory of their father.
2
During the II and III century BC the popularity of the games increased;
Livy reports that in 216 the Forum hosted a combat of 22 pairs; in 183
sixty pairs of gladiators fought at the funerals of Publius Licinius
Crassus; in 174 a show lasted for three days. In 105 BC the consuls were
finally authorized to organize ludi circenses, so they became a public
event. Many private munera were nevertheless organized also after that
date. The last gladiatorial game in the Colosseum is recorded in AD 438,
when the games were abolished by the emperor Valentinian III.
The munera (games) expressed the rituals of the aristocratic class of the
Italic world; not only were they religious ceremonies, but they became
an exhibition of power and family prestige, and very soon they were
immensely popular. Their number increased very rapidly, also for
political reasons. Rich citizens who wanted to get the favor (and the
votes) of the plebeians, whose vote was decisive for public careers,
started offering games. In Rome the organisation of the games was
entrusted to magistrates, called curatores. The practical organisation
(we would say production) of the show was entrusted to an editor, who
contacted the lanista (the owner of the schools of gladiators) and
advertised the program.
The games were held,
like religious ceremonies, on fixed days
but there were also extraordinary games and ones offered by private
individuals. At the end of the Empire there were 177 "spectacle" days
per year (10 for the gladiators, 66 for the circus and 101 for theatre
plays). However, the nature of the games changed with time, until "any
pretext was good enough to regale the populace with combats"
(Auguet). The games became almost an everyday matter, and during
Caesar’s time a hunt was added to the gladiatorial combats to enrich the
spectacle.
In time,
the shows grew in quantity and splendor: Julius Caesar
himself gave a munus with more than three hundred pairs of gladiators.
The taste of the spectacles changed as well: the public wanted to be
astounded, so silver armours, exotic animals, choreographies, music
and "special effects" were used. During the games gifts were offered to
the spectators; small balls or tablets, with the image of the gift
stamped on it, were thrown to the public. One could win food, a slave, or
even a house or a ship. And then there was the sparsio: to refresh the
people petals of flowers and perfumes were thrown from above.
Many laws dealt with the matter, starting from the republican times. One
of the constant themes of the regulations seems to have been the desire
to limit the organisation of games by the newly rich. One of the main
worries of the ruling class was to limit the expenses of games, that
could ruin a household, and to curb the pretentious of the new class of
enriched merchants and liberty. This was a social phenomenon that
came with the improvement of the economy in a peaceful Mediterranean.
New classes of merchants, slave drivers, landowners made their
3
appearance on the scene and sometimes posed a threat to the
incumbent rich. They could afford enormous expenses in order to
become popular and be accepted by the public and the good society.
Later on, the dictatorship of the emperors dealt with the problem by
establishing a monopoly. The Roman Senate took measures to put some
order into the organization of the games and "check the public auction
of state posts" (Auguet). In the year 22 BC a law was passed to reduce
the number of games offered by private citizens: an authorization by the
Senate was made compulsory, and one could not organize more than
two games a year, with no more than 120 gladiators each time. In 61 BC
a law was passed which entrusted the organization of the games to the
emperors and fixed the occasions (public events and official
dedications) in which they could be produced. The production of
munera had become a matter of public interest, as it was too important
to be left to any private citizen who could exploit their popularity to gain
credits and the favor of the masses (thus being a threat to the State and
the authorities). When the new dictatorship (i.e. the emperors) was
established, it dealt with the problem by creating a monopoly.
Julius Caesar established the organisation that would survive during the
imperial age: he set up a gladiatorial school in Ravenna and introduced
some changes in the management of the gladiators, so that they could
even be trained by Roman knights and senators. Later on, the emperors
even increased the monopolistic nature of the organisation of the
munera, which became something like a public service: in Rome
practically all the games were offered to the people, at least formally, by
the emperor, through a procurator. In the provinces instead this honour
/duty was left to rich and prominent citizens, who were high priests of
the imperial cult, and the games were dedicated to the emperor, no
longer to the memory of the dead.
In the city of Rome, for the practical organisation of the games, the
emperors set up in the first century an organisation for the production of
the games. There was the ratio a muneribus, a kind of Ministry of Games
with organizational and financial powers over the venationes and the
munera. There was the ratio summi choragi, for the production of the
machines and the costumes of the shows; a knight of the equestrian
order was at the head of the Ludus Magnus, the main gladiatorial school
of Rome. The other schools in Italy and over the empire were directed by
officers called procuratores familiarum gladiatoriarum.
Given the enormous expense of the munera, and their frequency, the
emperor could renounce his privilege of offering the games in favors of
local high priests (also called magistrates) of the imperial religion. In
fact, provincial magistrates were obliged by city laws to offer munera on
behalf of the emperor. This was often for them a big financial and
organizational pain, even if they could use a fixed amount of public
money. The magistrates that had already offered games could add to
their title the one of munerarii (it seems that it was Caesar August
himself to invent the title). And when the new classes of the rich liberty
4
(ex slaves) started offering games, in the effort to imitate the behavior of
the Roman nobility, the maximum number of gladiators was restricted,
thus reducing the value of these spectacles, in comparison to the lavish
and splendid games offered personally by the emperor.
The Games/ Gladiators
Gladiators were generally slaves, criminals condemned to death or
prisoners of war, who in the Roman world had no right whatsoever, and
whose life was considered expendable. The war prisoners who were
considered fit were reserved for the ludi(laid), and if we think that the
majority of the prisoners was enslaved or quickly sent to death, such
fate was not the worst. The supply of gladiators didn’t meet the demand,
so the custom was adopted to send fugitive slaves to the schools. Since
the slave was absolute property of his master, there were many
instances in which he could be condemned ad ludum (to the fight). In
this case the condemned man received a training in the ludus like all the
other gladiators. He fought on an equal basis, and in any case after three
years he did not have to enter the arena. This situation was different
from that of the condemned to die in the arena without any hope of
surviving, like the ones condemned ad bestias or those ad gallium ludi
damnati, who were thrown in, sword in hand, to kill another captive
completely unarmed, only to be disarmed after the killing and meet
another condemned, and so on until only the last criminal remained.
In some cases, particularly cruel emperors could send people to die
on a whim: we know that Claudius ordered an officer to go down in the
arena, dressed as he was (in a toga), and that Caligula threw all the
inmates of a prison as food to the beasts, just because there was a
shortage of meat.
There was also a minority of free men who – starting from the first
century AD – took fighting in the arena as a profession. For the average
Roman, though, the spontaneous submission of a free man to the
lanista was considered to be one of the most despicable actions a
citizen could do. He renounced his state of freedom and became – for
the period of the enrolment – a slave, and was accordingly ranked in the
legal category of the infames, or pariahs. In republican times such a selfdepreciation was inconceivable, but later the attitude changed, when
5
even emperors like Nero walked the stages to obtain stardom. Caligula
acted both as a charioteer and gladiator, and Commodious showed
himself many times in the arena. Regardless of the social scorn, free
men took the gladiatorial career because of a taste for danger or love of
the arms, or just because they were financially ruined and needed the
enrolment bonus.
This bonus could sometimes solve financial problems, but in general the
reason for a spontaneous enrolment was the hope of recovering one’s
fortunes by means of a lucky career. The law ruled that free men could
enroll only after a formal declaration in front of the tribunes plebes, but
this rule – whose purpose was to guarantee free men against their own
impulsive decisions, became later on a simple formality.
Gladiators started their career by submitting (or by being sold) to the
lanista. The lanista, who in the Roman world was officially considered
one the vilest professions (even lower than pimps, actors and butchers),
had the right of life and death over them, since gladiators had to take an
oath of complete submission in order to be accepted into the school.
The gladiator swore to "endure the whip, the branding iron and death by
the sword"; these terrible punishments were meant to curb any hint of
rebellion and to "brainwash" the fighters so that they would be
convinced that overcoming any test was their only salvation. The
training lasted for years, since the public had become very demanding,
and only then was the gladiator ready to enter the arena
F A M I L I A E:
There were different specializations (familiae) of gladiators, according to
the outfit and the weapons used. With the expansion of the empire many
different kind of soldiers of the peoples conquered by Rome were
represented, and of course also the training was specialized. In the
ludus, the gladiator used for the training a wooden sword called rudis,
and also training weapons heavier than normal ones. In the school, the
future gladiator learnt the art of swordsmanship by doctors, who were
former ex-gladiators, each one specialized in a category of gladiator.
We know of 15 definite classes of gladiators (Auguet), but there are
some monuments that reproduce classes of fighters we don’t know
about, and sometimes it is difficult to categorize the different
specializations, since there must have been variations within the same
class. One must also think that gladiatorial shows lasted for five
centuries, therefore there must have been some changes during the
ages. However, scholars strongly disagree about the classification of
6
the gladiators: the documents are few and we lack a general description
of the subject.
In any case, the pairs of gladiators who fought in the arena were fixed:
usually the fight was balanced, in the sense that a gladiator provided
with more offensive weapons had less means of defense. Fighting
techniques followed traditional patterns or figures, therefore the combat
was an art well known to the public, who expected a professional
performance and could approve and disapprove of the maneuvers of the
gladiators like we do today when we watch sports. The public hated
monotony and repetition and appreciated the courage and the display of
bravery.
It seems that the first type of gladiator was the Samnite (from Samnium,
a region of Italy), later also called secutor. He was an attacking gladiator,
wearing a small shield and the gallium. In the centuries the form of the
secutor developed into the hoplomachus, with a bigger shield. Another
variation of the secutor could have been the provocator, probably
wearing a round shield and a lance, and the Thorax, or Thracian, who
was protected by metal and leather, had a small shield and the sica, a
curved sabre.
The retiarius had a net to throw on the opponent, a trident and a sword.
Sometimes, he was put against the myrmillo, that wore a fish-like helmet
(note the symbolic opposition of net and fish) and had a big shield for
defense. When he fought he was practically naked. In any case, authors
strongly disagree on the subject, given the scarcity of sources and the
subtle variations on the same themes.
There were also the scenario, fighting from chariots, like we have seen
in the movie The Gladiator, the equities, on horses covered by a cuirass,
who fought with a lance, the dimachaeri, without a shield and with a
sword in each hand, the laquearii, with a kind of lassos, the andabates,
almost impenetrable, protected as he was by a coat of mail, et cetera....
The games / Laid
Gladiators were organized in ludi (schools), directed by a lanista – a
word of Etruscan origin – who had the power of life and death over his
men. In Rome the imperial ludi (that could maintain up to 2.000 men)
were the only authorized schools: there were: the Ludus Matutinus,
where the hunters were trained, the Ludus Gallicus, the Ludus Dacicus
and the Ludus Magnus. The latter has recently been excavated (1937)
7
and its arena can be seen close to the Colosseum; some scholars think
that it was linked to it by an underground passage.
The ludi had the same basic layout all over the empire: gladiators were
lodged in small cells around the yard where they trained; the schools,
which were spread all around the empire provinces, could accommodate
from 100 to 1000 gladiators.
Private schools of gladiators were common, too, in the other provinces
of the empire, and all were submitted to the authority of a procurator, an
imperial official who controlled an entire area like Gallia (modern France)
or Asia (Turkey). The schools were essentially prisons, where discipline
was extremely strict.
In the year 73 BC, about 70 gladiators of the Capua school, led by
Spartacus, escaped, set up a revolt of slaves and created an army of
90.000. They kept in check the Roman state for three years before the
revolt was suffocated. The organization of the schools was thereupon
set to avoid such accidents. Beside every school there was a garrison of
soldiers, who delivered the real weapons to the gladiators in the
morning and took them away at night. Soldiers would intervene in any
case of disorder. The schools were considered so safe that they could
be located inside the cities. Inmates could not escape, and could only
hope to save their lives by fighting so brilliantly in the arena as to attract
the attention of some powerful person who could reverse their fortune
by freeing them. This remote chance of being liberated was the myth
that allowed gladiators to suffer their destiny.
The games / silvae
If the staged hunts were a parody of reality, inspired by the Roman
taste for fake and imitation, there were other shows that were even more
fantastic, peculiar of the Roman feeling for nature. In the silvae, painters,
technicians and stage architects reconstructed a false scenery in the
arena, with trees and bushes made to resemble a forest which was
populated by animals, that would not be necessarily massacred.
Romans liked false reproduction of nature, like many urban societies did
and still do. The same feeling can be found in different times much in
the same way. Pastoral poems appealed to the eighteenth century
public, and today the same attitude can be found in some TV wildlife
programs that feature the animals like actors in some sort of a story.
The Romans, or at least the citizens of Rome, had forgotten the hard
reality of the life in the country, and in a way that today would be
branded as mannerist and baroque, loved these fake sceneries. This
8
aesthetic attitude can also be found in poetry, when Horatius complains
about hectic city life and tells us how beautiful is to be in a small house
in the country, lighting up the fire to beat the cold, drinking good wine
and taking life easy. The emperor Nero had different environments
reproduced in his residence: a lake with fake sea villages, false
countryside with animals roaming around, and even a nymphaeum, and
Trajan had built an enormous residence near Tibur, today Tivoli, with
copies of famous buildings and wonders of the world. In the novel
Satyricon, by Petronius Arbiter, we find the description of a dinner in the
villa of an enriched ex-slave, Trimalchio’s, where the animals served at
the table were arranged and prepared so as to imitate nature by means
of ingenious devices and inventions.
In the silva the country environment was reconstructed with real trees,
sometimes dug up with their roots and transplanted. The scenery was
prepared in the area in front of the temple of Venus and Rome. It is easy
to think that the scenery could be transported under the arena by
underground passages, where it could appear from nothing through the
trapdoors on the floor. When the scene was ready, all sorts of exotic
animals were released: bears, deers, ostriches, hippos and elephants
would wander through woods and bushes, to the delight and amazement
of the public.
A less delicate version of the Silva was the reconstruction of a
mythological scene, in which the "actor", who was a person condemned
to death, really died on the scene. In this case the setting reproduced
the scene of a mythological tale, where the end of the hero - mauled by
beasts or burned alive - was dramatized but at the same time terribly
real, as it was the real death of a man.
===========================
=======================================
Did they stage hunts in the amphitheatre?
The games/Hunts
At the beginning, staged hunts (venationes) usually took place in the
morning, as an introduction and complement to the gladiators’ combats,
that started in the afternoon. However, in the last period of the Republic,
9
hunts became a show in its own right, taking place in the afternoon and
sometimes lasting for days. All sorts of wild beasts – elephants, bears,
bulls, lions, tigers - were captured all over the Empire, transported to the
different locations and kept there until the day of the show. The number
of animals slaughtered is appalling: historians tell us of thousands of
beasts killed in one day, when the Colosseum was inaugurated.
Sometimes the hunts took place elsewhere, in the Forum and in the
Circus, where a suitable space could be found. Some authors also draw
a distinction between the great spectacular hunts and the morning hunts
that became routine and took place in the Colosseum before the
gladiator combat.
At first, the animals were chained, but after Sulla’s times (about 100 BC)
they were freed and special defenses had to be built for the safety of the
audience. In the Colosseum the wall around the arena, the podium, was
13 feet tall, smooth and provided with top rollers that prevented the
beasts from climbing on top. Moreover, a system of nets all around the
podium provided an additional safety measure.
The venatores (who were slaves, criminals, or under contract, and who
were considered even viler than gladiators) received a special training in
the ludi like the gladiators. In Rome there was the ludus matutinus,
whose name seems to come from the fact that hunts took place in the
morning. They also were divided into categories according to the role
performed in the show: archers, bullfighters etc..
Venatores did not risk their lives like gladiators, nevertheless they ran
the risk of being tossed in the air by a bull, or being mauled to pieces by
a lion, and some fights gave very few chances. Proof of this is seen in
Nero’s time, when the final feat required of a gladiator who asked for
freedom was to kill an elephant in single combat.
Animals were not allowed to enter the doors of the arena, therefore they
were restricted in cages that were lifted by pulleys into cubicles placed
all around the podium. If the beasts refused to enter the arena, some
attendants (magistri) drove them out with blazing straws. If attacked by
the beasts, these attendants, who are not to be confused with the
hunters (venatores), could find safety inside little boxes placed against
the wall of the podium.
The common feature of all venationes was that there were animals in it;
they weren’t necessarily killed, and could also perform other roles:
Caesar, for instance, produced a giraffe for the first time in Rome, to the
astonishment of the citizens, and Augustus displayed all kinds of exotic
and strange animals sent for this purpose by the governors of the
provinces. Nevertheless, the usual hunt saw beasts matched one
against the other, or against men. Scholars draw a line here, and
distinguish between two very different forms of hunts: the venation in
which men provided with weapons fought the wild beasts, and another
10
"show" in which men condemned to death were thrown to the beasts
without any defense. Venationes usually ended with the show of
animals trained to perform tricks, like in today’s circuses. To keep these
animals, and also all the beasts that were condemned to find death in
the arena, it was therefore necessary to organize a kind of a zoo.
The whole system – from the capture of the beasts in the outskirts of the
Empire, to their transport and keeping – assumed the size of an
industry, given the scores of animals necessary to produce the shows.
In particular, hunts became extremely popular in Africa, where in
mosaics we can still find the pictures of famous killer beasts, that were
given names such as Omicida and Crudelis.
Most of the matches were classic: a lion against a tiger, or maybe
against a bull or a bear. Sometimes the match was very unequal:
hounds, or lions were loosed against deers , in which case the outcome
was predictable. To break the monotony the Romans resorted to strange
combination of animals: hippopotamuses, hyenas, seals and all kinds of
felines. We have records of fights of a bear against a python, lion
against crocodile, seal against bear and so on. Sometimes the animals
were chained together, which prevented them from manoeuvring.
The majority of the combats. however, staged the beasts against
specially trained men (venatores) armed with a spear. The venatores
were protected by leather bands on their arms and legs, and sometimes
they wore iron plates on their chests or even a suit of armoire (in which
case they only had a sword as offensive weapon).
Fighting techniques were many: some venatores were armed as above
described, some others were almost naked, with intermediate types of
hunters, also including some who fought with their bare hands or with
special devices e.g. the cochlea, that was something similar to our
revolving doors; behind it the venator could dodge the attack of the
beast. Sometimes men rode one of the animals which was matched
against the other.
In bullfights, like in modern corridas, bulls were goaded by successors
till they became enraged: the taurarii, the actual fighters, fought the bull
on foot, with a pike or a lance. Other bullfights involved skills similar to
those depicted in the famous Cretans pictures or contemporary rodeos:
unarmed men on horseback raced the bull to wear it down, and then
jumped on the bull in order to throw it down by twisting its neck. In other
occasions there was a comical element introduced into the combat, the
venator appearing in the role of an acrobat, or of a clown. Tame animals
would perform numbers: tigers would let themselves be kissed; lions
would catch hares and bring them back unharmed, elephants would do
tricks like dancing or walking the rope.
Venationes usually ended with the show of animals trained to perform
tricks, like in today’s circuses. To keep these animals, and also all the
11
beasts that were condemned to find death in the arena, it was therefore
necessary to organize menageries and parks.
The hunts were extremely popular, since hunting had become the sport
of the rich, and it was a proof of courage for the professionals involved.
Some venatores became so famous that we can still read their names
on some mosaics or graffiti. Will the fame of soccer heroes survive the
centuries ?
================
History/Mid-Ages
Recent studies have discovered that from as early as the IV century
materials were taken away from the Colosseum, and that some drains
were obstructed by the end of the same century. At the beginning of the
V century
the water/drainage system, at least in the southwestern
sector, had stopped working, as the lead piping and fountains had been
removed. There is evidence that in 444 or 445, on occasion of the
vicennalia of Valentinianus III, the building was still basically intact, but
50 years later it was greatly damaged, most probably by an earthquake.
89 burial places, dating back from Diocletian to Theodoric's times
(IV-VI century) have been found in the valley of the Colosseum, mainly in
the NE sector. 63 burial places have been found in and around the
amphitheatre, though only 56 have been mapped. These 56 are located
in 3 places. The 15 on the eastern side and the 18 on the northern side
were outside the travertine paving around the amphitheatre, which was
still being maintained. The third group of 23 tombs (VI century) were
found inside the northern portico, so the conclusion is that during the V
century the area was abandoned, but the amphitheatre was still in use;
later on, when the amphitheatre was closed, it was used for burials.
The inscription on the right - dating back to 484 or 508 - commemorates
the works that the Praefectus Urbi Decius Marius Venantius Basilius had
had done - at his own expense - to repair the arena and the podium,
damaged by an "abominandus" earth quake .Venantius ' repairs of the
arena meant the dismantling of the remaining colonnade, by sliding the
columns and pieces down in the underground of the arena, and filling it
up. In 519 Eutaricus Cilica held games in a Colosseum without the upper
portico or underground, not to mention other major damages to the
cavea, entrances, etc.
12
When in 1810-14 Carlo Fea excavated the arena, he found three roads on
top of each other, along the long axis. The oldest one had been built on
top of "Venantius' filling". Later on, in 1874-75, P. Rosa started the main
work on the oldest stratum of earth - dating back to Venantius' days and found 70% of the columns of the upper portico, a quantity of
inscriptions, the fittings of the vomitoria, blocks of travertine and tufa,
wooden beams and parts of the underground machinery. There were the
remains of at least 20 huge columns (together with the capitals) that had
fallen down from the top portico and had damaged the cavea mainly in
the NE-SE sectors.
The last venationes were staged in the Colosseum in AD 523, when the
king Theodoric gave permission to Anicius Maximus to celebrate his
consulate .At the same time he defined the games "actus detestabilis,
certamen infelix" and blamed Titus for having spent all that money in a
building destined to celebrate death. During his reign, the area was
reclaimed, and to connect the Celian hill to the Colosseum a road was
built level with the arena.
Later on it seems that the amphitheatre was closed by wooden barriers,
but it is uncertain if it was a closure before a possible reopening or to
defend a property. Between the VI and the XIII century the ground floor
was raised by 1,3 meters. In this layer were found walls, a basin to
prepare lime and the paved road at Venantius' level. Some openings
were made in the walls facing the arena, leading to think that the place
had become a kind of piazza along the only road between the
Colosseum and the Celian hill.
According to Rossella Rea, the first occupation of the Colosseum in
order to systematically dismantle it dates back to the period between the
second half of the VI and the second half/end of the VIII centuries; it is
certain that by then the stones of the amphitheatre were extracted and
used as building material. In those times the only stable institution was
the Church, and it was the Pope Gregorius Magnus (590-604) who
introduced the practice of recycling ancient temples, buildings and halls
and turning them into Christian churches.
The city had by now lost its importance and population because of
the repeated invasions and looting of Italy. By the end of the VI century
Rome counted only 90.000 citizens, that were reduced to 17.000 at the
end of the XIV century, when the Papal seat was transferred to Avignon,
in France (at the peak of its imperial expansion Rome counted 1 million
inhabitants or more). Rome had become a little city concentrated in a
small nucleus, surrounded by fields, orchards, ruins and farms, and this
situation lasted up to about the end of the nineteenth century.
The Colosseum was outside the centre of the medieval city, which was
concentrated on the banks of the river. Further earthquakes in 801 and
847 probably made more damage. The amphitheatre started being
13
overgrown by plants and trees, and there are even stories about wild
animals – wolves – frequenting the site. The ground level had slowly
risen over the centuries, thus submerging a good half of the ground
floor arches.
In the 11th century Rome fell into the hands of baronial families who
were at constant war. They used to live in tall towers for safety reasons
(a few of these towers are still standing as a reminder of the
quarrelsome Middle Ages). One of the strongest families, the
Frangipane, occupied the whole area around the Colosseum, which was
transformed into a fortress.
In 1144 the Roman people banned the baronial families from the
city, in an effort to free Rome from the influence of the Pope and of the
nobility and to establish a Senate like the one of the ancient Romans.
The Colosseum was then occupied and declared property of the free
municipality of Rome. In 1159, though, the Frangipane reoccupied the
building.
In 1216
the Annibaldi family challenged the Frangipane for the
possession of the fortress, and the struggle lasted to about the end of
the century, with the Annibaldi taking over the Colosseum, but being
obliged to return it to the Church in 1312. It is uncertain if the monument
was still practically intact in the XII-XIII century. There is mention of a
bullfight, organized in 1332, in which 18 youths of the Roman nobility
are said to have lost their lives, but the truth of the story is dubious
(Delehaye , entry: Colosseum, in Catholic Encyclopedia).
In 1231 part of the SW wall collapsed during a very violent
earthquake, but the great destruction took place in 1349, with more
external arches crumbling. This fact is reported in a letter of the poet
Francesco Petrarca. In the XIV century the families of the Orsini and
Colonna were granted permission to remove stones and marble. In 1439
some stones were used to build the tribune in the church of St. John's
Lateran. It was then that the removal of marble, stones and bricks really
started, and it lasted for generations. Many palaces and churches were
built with the stones of the Colosseum. It is reported (Lugli) that, in the
year 1451-1452 alone, 2.522 cartloads were taken from the site to be
used for buildings of the Vatican and for the walls of Rome.
The property was then subdivided, and sections of the amphitheatre
were donated to religious orders. The order of the Olivetani even built a
wall connecting their slice of Colosseum to the nearby convent of Santa
Maria Nova. During the illiterate Middle Ages, all recollection of the
games had gone lost, and people started to imagine that the building
had been a temple dedicated to the Sun God, or to the devil. In this
period the guides for the pilgrims visiting Rome generally described the
Colosseum as a round temple, dedicated to different gods, that once
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had been covered by a dome made of bronze - or maybe copper. It was
in this period that many legends started to circulate about the massive
round building, saying that it was a palace of Titus and Vespasian, a
temple of demons, a seat of occultism ... and more.
1300-1700
In 1381 a section of the Colosseum was donated to the religious
group called Confraternita del Santissimo Salvatore ad sancta
Sanctorum, also called del Gonfalone, which in 1490 was granted
permission to hold Passion plays in the amphitheatre. By now, the
function of the amphitheatre had been rediscovered by the humanists,
and had become commonplace to believe that it had been the place of
martyrdom for many early christians. Thousands of people crowded the
ruins of the Colosseum to participate. The Passion plays of the
Gonfalone were held until 1539, when they were banned because they
aroused hatred of the jews and were the source of many incidents and
riots.
In this period the property of the monument was split between the
Confraternity, the Roman Senate and the Camera Apostolica. The
Confraternity started to use the stones of the Colosseum in the sections
that had already fallen down, and though in the XV century the Popes
started to repair some old Roman ruins, the removal of materials lasted
for centuries.
There is evidence that in 1439 the stones were used to repair the
tribuna of the Basilica of St. John Lateran; that in 1452 alone 2.522
cartloads were taken away by a Giovanni Foglia from Como, and that ten
years later the travertines were used for the building of the Scala Santa
and for the square and the Loggia of the Blessings in St. Peter’s .
By now permission to carry away the stones was easily granted by the
Popes (under payment, of course), who also took advantage of tapping
such a vast and cheap source of building materials for their projects,
while on the other hand their edicts officially promoted the preservation
of the ancient monuments.
In the XV century the materials were used to mend the city walls,
to build the Church of San Marco, Palazzo Venezia;
in the XVI to build Palazzo della Cancelleria, Palazzo Farnese, the
Palazzi Senatorio and dei Conservatori on Capitol Hill, and in 1574
for the restoration of the Pons Emilius (a bridge that lasted only
23 years, being destroyed again in the terrible 1598 flood; since
then it is called Ponte Rotto, or broken bridge);
in the XVII century Palazzo Barberini (and many others).
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Some Popes (Sixtus V and Clemens X) planned to reclaim the building:
Sixtus wanted to use the amphitheatre as a milling factory, with the
machines on the ground floor and the houses of the workers on the top
floors. More projects were made by Clemens, but nothing was ever
concluded because of the lack of funds.
In the XVII century
the monument had again become a den of
derelicts and criminals. After long years of abandon, in 1700 Pope
Clemens XI had the arches closed, a cross placed in the arena and the
site used as a manure deposit for the manufacture of saltpetre, destined
to a nearby gunpowder factory. In 1703 three arches of the second SW
ring fell down because of an earthquake and Clemens found a way to
use the travertine for the building of the new monumental port on the
river (porto di Ripetta).
In 1749, after more decades of decay, Pope Benedetto XIV declared
the monument a public church,consecrated to the memory of the
Passion of Christ and His Martyrs; so at least the removal of the stones
was stopped. The stations of the via crucis were placed all around the
arena and a new cross was planted in the middle. The Pope also
founded a religious Arciconfraternita dedicated to Jesus and Mary,
which started holding holy processions in the amphitheatre.
What about modern days ? Is the looting over ? an interesting thread of
discussion in a newsgroup, where someone asks if it is legal to sell a
"chunk" of the Colosseum on E-Bay...
The modern architectural study of the Colosseum started with Carlo
Fontana, who around 1720 made a survey of the amphitheatre and
studied its geometric proportions. Most of the ground floor of the
building was by now almost submerged by earth and debris
accumulated during the centuries, and the arches were used as a
deposit of manure.
In 1805 the first excavations started, carried out by architects
Camporese, Palazzi and Stern, with the help of Carlo Lucangeli, an artist
of wood modelling, who needed an exact survey of the monument for
his reproduction. Were excavated the niches around the podium, parts
of the podium, the entrance of the so-called passage of Commodus, part
of the drain that runs around the amphitheatre and part of the
canalization system of the ground floor. The porticoes were liberated
from the earth, and so were the third corridor and other rooms.
In 1808 Rome was occupied by the French army, and the following
year Napoleon declared the end of the temporal power of the Roman
Catholic Church. The Pope was arrested and remained prisoner in
France until 1814. According to a French project, the Colosseum was to
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become part of a huge archaeological park including the whole centre of
Rome.
In 1809 and 1810
the works restarted, also with the help of
forced labour. In 1811 the area at the north of the monument and the
northern side of the arena were partially excavated by Carlo Fea, but in
the arena the works had to stop at a depth of 3 metres because of water
infiltrations. From 1811 to 1813 repairs were made, and the arches were
liberated from the walls that had closed them.
In 1814 the authority of the Pope was restablished; the temporary
administrations contracted out to Luigi Maria Valadier, the son of the
more famous Giuseppe, a survey of the undergrounds, before the arena
was again covered in 1814.Then it was deemed necessary to reinforce
the remains of the outer ring: in the 1820s, under Pius VII an abutment
(buttress) of bricks was built to support the arches of the NW side (Stern
abutment, Celian hill); later on, Leo XII had the other, more
photographed abutment, built by the architect Valadier. In 1828 Antonio
Nibby managed to empty all the surface drains, and in 1830 Luis Joseph
Duc made a the first complete survey of the monument with modern
means. From the 1840s on, more arches were restored and rebuilt on the
side of the Celian Hill, by Salvi and other architects (these arches are
easily recognized as they are made of bricks).
Left: the Pius VII abutment
In 1870 Rome became the capital of the new Italian state, but the
works to finally free the arena restarted only in 1874. This time a half of
the arena was at last liberated from debris and the excavations reached
the bottom, where it was found a type of paving made from brick, known
as opus spicatum. In these excavations the findings from the debris
dated back to the end of the V and the beginning of the VI century.
More restoration works were carried out by the Italian State in 1901-2,
but the arena had remained half full for many years, until in 1938-40 the
excavations made by Luigi Cozzo arrived at the very bottom, bringing to
light
the
underground
structures
of
the
arena.
Cozzo also demolished all the underground structures that had been
added to the original construction during the millennia, and rebuilt parts
of the underground structures on the western side and a small part of
the cavea – with the seats.
Constant small repairs have been made since WW2, and a major
restoration of some arches on the NW side was started in 1978. In 1981
the Roman universities focused on the study of the ancient monuments
of the city. In 1992 a private bank financed restoration works, that lasted
until 2000, with only a section restored, its cleanliness dramatically
contrasting with the rest of the monument (see that in the picture on the
main page). The future works include the rebuilding of the arena, in
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wood, also to protect the exposed underground structures from the
weather. The eastern half of the new arena was completed in 2000, and
before covering the other half studies are being carried out on the effect
of the new cover on the underground microclimate. In 1997 a very
important survey was carried out, measuring the Colosseum with laser
and infrared techniques. This research has given us some insight on the
deformation of the structures and a very precise map of the
amphitheatre, and rekindled an old controversy between the
archaeologists: is the Colosseum elliptic or ovoidal?
History/Emperors
Nero Lucius Domitius (Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus) (Antium,
37AD – Roma, June 9, 68).
Son of Domitius Enobarbus and of Agrippina Minor, who, after having
married Claudius, managed to have the young Nero adopted by him,
ensuring his succession as emperor (54). Finely educated, in the first
years of his reign Nero was closely controlled by his mother, by his tutor
Seneca and by the Praefectum Pretorii Afranius Burrus. His despotic
and authoritarian character surfaced and his dictatorial tendencies
prevailed, supported by the plebe, who adored him because of his
liberality.
Nero got rid of his brother Britannicus in 55, of his mother in 59, of his
first wife Octavia (later on he married Poppea and Messalina), of Burrus
in 62. After Rome’s fire in 64, he rebuilt the city and his own mansion,
the Domus Aurea. When he was accused of having caused the fire, he
retorted the blame on the Christians and persecuted them. Hated by the
Senators, in 65 Nero ferociously repressed a conspiracy to kill him,
organized by Lucius Calpurnius Piso and other prominent citizens.
Seneca and the poet Lucanus died in the ferocious repression, among
many others. A war campaign against the Parthians – led by Gneus
Domitius Corbulo - regained Rome’s control over Armenia; his
popularity had by now reached a peak. In Corinth, Nero solemnly
proclaimed Greece's liberty, granting fiscal immunities to many cities
and showing his favour for the eastern provinces of the empire. Revolts
in Judea, Gallia, Africa and Spain – where Galba was crowned emperor
by the Senate and by the Praetorians – caused his downfall. When Nero
realized that everything was lost, he ordered a slave to kill him.
Vespasian (Titus Flavius Vespasianus) (Reate, 17 November, 9 – Cutilia,
24 June 79)
Born from a humble Sabine family, he accomplished military missions in
Claudius’ time in Gallia and Britannia. During Nero’s rule he was sent to
Judea to repress the revolt (67) and started his campaign until the
anarchy caused by Nero’s death compelled him to stop the operations.
Vespasian was proclaimed emperor by the eastern legions. He was
acknowledged as emperor by the Senate in 69. After leaving the
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campaign in Judea to his son Titus, Vespasian returned to Italy and
started a reconstruction of the imperial image and structures. He wanted
to appear as the restorer of peace, law and order, recovering the
tradition of August. He reinforced the imperial power and ensured its
continuity to his sons Titus and Domitian. Vespasian respected the
privileges of the Senate, reorganized the army, the defence of the
borders, the judicial system, and raised the taxes in order to recover
financial stability. He extended the Roman citizenship (and rule of law)
to all Italy. He started the building of the Colosseum.
Titus (Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus). (Roma 39 - Aquae Cutiliae,
Sabina, 81) - Son of Vespasian and Flavia Domitilla, he brought to a
conclusion the war in Judea, by putting siege to Jerusalem and
destroying the Temple (70). He was brought to the power by Vespasian,
and succeeded him in 79. His brief rule was marked by calamities: the
eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and a fire and plague in Rome, on which
occasions he generously helped the population. He maintained his
father’s policy of respect for the Senate, was lavish in organizing
spectacles and avoided pronouncing death sentences, so that he was
called clemens. He died after only two years of rule.
Domitian (Caesar Domitianus Augustus, original name until AD 81, then
Titus Flavius Domitianus (b. Oct. 24, AD 51--d. Sept. 18, AD 96, Rome
[Italy])
The second son of the future emperor Vespasian and Flavia Domitilla,
was princeps juventutis (an imperial prince) and was consul six times in
Vespasian's lifetime; moreover, it was recognized that he would
eventually succeed his brother Titus, who had no son and was 11 years
older than him.
On Vespasian's death, in June 79, Domitian expected the same position
as Titus had received under Vespasian, in particular, tribunician power
and some form of imperium. These were not granted, and Domitian was
evidently antagonistic to his brother and is alleged to have hastened his
death, which occurred on Sept. 13, 81.
As emperor, Domitian was hated by the aristocracy. From the Trajanic
writers Tacitus and Pliny the Younger (Suetonius is less partisan) it is
hard to disentangle stock vituperation from genuine belief, but it seems
certain that cruelty and ostentation were the chief grounds of his
unpopularity, rather than any military or administrative incompetence.
Indeed, his strict control over magistrates in Rome and the provinces
won Suetonius' praise.
In his secretariat he used both freedmen and knights, some of whom
retained their posts after his death; and his consilium of close advisers,
including senators, involved no departure from precedent. His military
and foreign policy was not uniformly successful. Both in Britain and in
Germany advances were made by the Romans early in the reign, and the
construction of the Rhine-Danube limes ("fortified line") owes more to
Domitian than to any other emperor. But consolidation in Scotland was
halted by serious wars on the Danube.
He continued his father's policy of holding frequent consulates. A grave
19
source of offence was his insistence on being addressed as dominus et
deus ("master and god"). The execution of his cousin Flavius Sabinus in
84 was an isolated event, but there are hints of more general trouble
about 87. The crisis came with the revolt of Antonius Saturninus,
governor of Upper Germany, on Jan. 1, 89. This was suppressed by the
Lower German army, but a number of executions followed, and the law
of majestas (treason) was later employed freely against senators. The
years 93-96 were regarded as a period of terror hitherto unsurpassed.
Among Domitian's opponents was a group of doctrinaire senators,
friends of Tacitus and Pliny and headed by the younger Helvidius
Priscus, whose father of the same name had been executed by
Vespasian. Their Stoic views were probably the cause of Domitian's
expulsions of "philosophers" from Rome on two occasions. Domitian's
financial difficulties are a vexing question. Cruelty came earlier in his
reign than rapacity, but eventually he regularly confiscated the property
of his victims. His building program had been heavy: Rome received a
new forum (later called Forum Nervae) and many other works. Then
there were Domitian's new house on the Palatine and his vast villa on
the Alban Mount. Meanwhile, the increased army pay was a recurrent
cost. Probably only his confiscations averted bankruptcy in the last
years. The conspiracy that caused his murder on Sept. 18, 96, was led
by the two praetorian prefects, various palace officials, and the
emperor's wife, Domitia Longina (daughter of Gnaeus Domitius
Corbulo). Nerva, who took over the government at once, must clearly
have been privy. The Senate was overjoyed at Domitian's death, but the
army took it badly; and the next year they insisted on the punishment of
those responsible.
Trajan, also called CAESAR NERVA TRAIANUS GERMANICUS (his
original name was MARCUS ULPIUS TRAIANUS) was born in 53 in the
province of Baetica, now Spain. He was the first Roman emperor to be
born outside Italy. Son of a provincial governor enrolled by Vespasian in
the ranks of the senators, presumably the future emperor grew up either
in Rome or in various military headquarters with his father. He served 10
years as a legionary staff tribune. In this capacity he was in Syria while
his father was governor, probably in 75. He then held the traditional
magistracies through the praetorship, which qualified him for command
of a legion in Spain in 89. Ordered to take his troops to the Rhine River
to aid in quelling a revolt against the emperor [Index] Domitian by the
governor of Upper Germany, Trajan probably arrived after the revolt had
already been suppressed by the governor of Lower Germany. Trajan
clearly enjoyed the favour of Domitian, who in 91 allowed him to hold
one of the two consulships, which, even under the empire, remained
most prestigious offices.
After Domitian’s assassination on Sept. 18, 96, the conspirators had put
forward as emperor the elderly and innocuous Nerva. Nevertheless, the
imperial guard (the praetorian cohorts) forced the new emperor to
execute the assassins who had secured the throne for him. Therefore, in
October 97, Nerva adopted as his successor Trajan. Soon thereafter, on
January 27 or 28, Nerva died, and Trajan was accepted as emperor by
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both the armies and the Senate.
Trajan was a much more active ruler than Nerva had been during his
short reign. Instead of returning to Rome at once to accept from the
Senate the imperial powers, he remained for nearly a year on the Rhine
and Danube rivers, either to make preparations for a coming campaign
into Dacia (modern Transylvania and Romania) or to ensure that
discipline was restored and defenses strengthened.
When he returned to Rome in 99, he behaved with respect and affability
toward the Senate. He was generous to the populace of Rome, to whom
he distributed considerable cash gifts, and increased the number of
poor citizens who received free grain from the state. For Italy and the
provinces, he remitted the gold that cities had customarily sent to
emperors on their accession. He also lessened taxes and was probably
responsible for an innovation for which Nerva is given credit--the
institution of public funds (alimenta) for the support of poor children in
the Italian cities. Such endowments had previously been established in
Italy by private individuals, notably by Trajan's close friend, the orator
and statesman Pliny the Younger, for his native Comum (modern Como)
in northern Italy.
Trajan undertook or encouraged extensive public works in the
provinces, Italy, and Rome: roads, bridges, aqueducts, the reclamation
of wastelands, the construction of harbours and buildings. Impressive
examples survive in Spain, in North Africa, in the Balkans, and in Italy.
Rome, in particular, was enriched by Trajan's projects. A new aqueduct
brought water from the north. A splendid public bathing complex was
erected on the Esquiline Hill, and a magnificent new forum was designed
by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus. It comprised a porticoed
square in the centre of which stood a colossal equestrian statue of the
emperor. On either side, the Capitoline and Quirinal hills were cut back
for the construction of two hemicycles in brick, which, each rising to
several stories, provided streets of shops and warehouses.
Behind the new forum was a public hall, or basilica, and behind this a
court flanked by libraries for Greek and Latin books and backed by a
temple. In this court rose the still-standing Trajan's Column, an
innovative work of art that commemorated his Dacian Wars. Its cubical
base, decorated with reliefs of heaps of captured arms, later received
Trajan's ashes. The column itself is encircled by a continuous spiral
relief, portraying scenes from the two Dacian campaigns. These provide
a commentary on the campaigns and also a repertory of Roman and
Dacian arms, armour, military buildings, and scenes of fighting. The
statue of Trajan on top of the column was removed during the Middle
Ages and replaced in 1588 by the present one of St. Peter.
In 101 he resumed the invasion of Dacia that Domitian had been forced
to abandon by Decebalus, the country's redoubtable king. In two
campaigns (101-102 and 105-106), Trajan captured the Dacian capital of
Sarmizegethusa (modern Varhély), which lay to the north of the Iron
Gate in western Romania; Decebalus evaded capture by suicide. Trajan
created a new province of Dacia; this provided land for Roman settlers,
opened for exploitation rich mines of gold and salt, and established a
defensive zone to absorb movements of nomads from the steppes of
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southern Russia.
Trajan's second major war was against the Parthians, Rome's traditional
enemy in the east. The chronology of his campaigns is uncertain. In
preparation for them, in 105/106, one of his generals annexed the
Nabataean kingdom, the part of Arabia extending east and south of
Judaea. Next, about 110, the Parthians deposed the pro-Roman king of
[Index] Armenia, whereupon, in 113/114, Trajan campaigned to reinstate
him. In the following year (115) he annexed upper [Index] Mesopotamia
and, in the same or next year, moved down the Tigris River to capture
the Parthian capital of [Index] Ctesiphon. He reached the Persian Gulf,
where he is said to have wept because he was too old to repeat
Alexander the Great's achievements in India.
Late in 115, Trajan barely escaped death in an earthquake that
devastated Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey). In 116 revolts broke out
both in the newly conquered territories and in Jewish communities in
several of the eastern provinces. Trajan, discouraged and in ill health,
left Antioch for Rome. He died, in his 64th year, at Selinus (modern
Selindi) on the southern coast of Asia Minor. His ashes were returned to
Rome for a state funeral and burial in the base of his column. Just
before his death was made public, it was announced that he had
adopted Hadrian, who in 100 had married Trajan's favourite niece.
Hadrian, or ADRIAN (in full CAESAR TRAIANUS HADRIANUS
AUGUSTUS) was (until AD 117) PUBLIUS AELIUS HADRIANUS (b. Jan.
24, AD 76, Italica, Baetica [now in Spain]--d. July 10, 138, Baiae [Baia],
near Naples [Italy]).
The family of Hadrian came from southern Spain. They were not,
however, of native Spanish origin but rather of settler stock. Hadrian's
forebears left Picenum in Italy for Spain about 250 years before his birth.
Hadrian himself may have been born in Rome. There is nothing
particularly Spanish about Hadrian. He bears the stamp of education in
cosmopolitan Rome.
When Trajan was consul in 91, Hadrian began to follow the traditional
career of a Roman senator, advancing through a conventional series of
posts. In 101 Hadrian was quaestor and in 102 served as Trajan's
companion in the Emperor's first war in Dacia on the Danube. In 105
Hadrian became tribune of the plebs and, exceptionally, advanced to the
praetorship in 106. No less exceptional than the speed of promotion was
Hadrian's service as praetor while in the field with the emperor during
his second war in Dacia. In 107 he was briefly governor of Lower
Pannonia. Then, in 108, Hadrian reached the coveted pinnacle of a
senator's career, the consulate.
In 107 Licinius Sura, a powerful figure who protected Hadrian, had held
that office for the third time, an honour vouchsafed to very few. It was a
cruel blow when Sura died at an unknown date immediately following
Hadrian's consulate. Hadrian's career apparently stopped for nearly 10
years. One fact illuminates this otherwise obscure period of Hadrian's
life: he was archon at Athens in 112, and a surviving inscription
commemorating this office was set up in the Theatre of Dionysus.
Hadrian's tenure is a portent of the philhellenism that characterized his
22
reign, and it suggests that in a time of political inactivity Hadrian
devoted himself to the nation and culture of his beloved Greeks.
Somehow, however, Hadrian's star rose again, and he returned to favour
before the Emperor died. On August 9, 117 Hadrian learned that Trajan
had adopted him, the sign of succession. On the 11th, it was reported
that Trajan had died on the way to Rome, whereupon the army
proclaimed Hadrian emperor.
When Hadrian reached Rome in the summer of 118, his position was
reasonably stable. He courted popular sentiment by public largesse,
gladiatorial displays, and a formal cancellation of debts to the state. The
new emperor remained at Rome for three years. In 121 he set forth on a
tour of the empire, west and east, to inspect troops and examine frontier
defenses. This prolonged absence from the capital of the empire had its
administrative justifications. There had been disturbances in some
provinces, and the Parthians had to be dealt with; there was a general
need for imperial supervision. Nevertheless, another motive impelled the
Emperor in his journeys, namely, an insatiable curiosity about
everything and everybody. The Christian writer Tertullian called him
rightly omnium curiositatum explorator, an explorer of everything
interesting. That curiosity was bred of a keen intellect and an anguished
spirit. These together drove him inexorably, and by a roundabout path,
to the Greek East. After he left Spain early in 123, he never saw the
western provinces again. Hadrian soon came to look upon his reign as a
new Augustan age. In 123 he began to style himself Hadrianus
Augustus, deliberately evoking the memory of his great predecessor; he
announced a golden age on his coinage. The peace he so much
cherished was a latter-day Augustan peace, and he bequeathed to
posterity a public statement of his exploits that imitated the one left by
Augustus.
Hadrian spent another three years in Rome, but in 128 he set forth again.
After a visit to North Africa, he went to Athens, and from there he sailed
to Asia Minor; he penetrated far eastward into Syria and Arabia.
Crossing over into Egypt, he explored the Nile; then, for the third time,
he went to Athens. It is not certain whether Hadrian returned to Rome in
132 or a little later; he was certainly there in May of 134, but by then a
revolt in Judaea forced him abroad still another time. He went to
Palestine, not as a tourist but as a commander. That journey was
Hadrian's last.
The irrational element in Hadrian was important. He was an adept in
astrology, like many intelligent Romans of the time. He was also an
aesthete who ascended Mt. Etna, in Sicily, and Jabal Agra', near Syrian
Antioch, simply to watch the sunrise. He had a lively sense of the past,
preferring older writers to more recent ones, favouring archaism for its
own sake. He revolutionized style in the empire by wearing a beard and
setting a precedent for generations of emperors.
In Bithynium-Claudiopolis (modern Bolu) in northwestern Asia Minor,
Hadrian encountered a languid youth, born about 110, by the name of
Antinoüs. Captivated by him, Hadrian made Antinoüs his companion.
When, as they journeyed together along the Nile in 130, the boy fell into
the river and drowned, Hadrian was desolate and wept openly. A report
23
circulated and was widely believed that Antinoüs had cast himself
deliberately into the river as a part of some sacred sacrifice.
Although Hadrian himself denied this, the sober 3rd-century historian
Dio Cassius thought it was the truth. The religious character, if such
there was, of the relation between Hadrian and the boy is totally elusive.
The emotional involvement is, however, quite clear. Seeing Hadrian's
grief, the Greek world strove to provide suitable consolation for the
bereaved and honour for the deceased. Cults of Antinoüs sprang up all
over the East and then spread to the West. Statues of the boy became a
common sight. In Egypt the city of Antinoöpolis commemorated his
death.
When Hadrian left Rome in 134 for his final journey abroad, it was to
resolve a problem of serious proportions in] Judaea. Under the
leadership of Bar Kokhba (known also as Bar Koziba), the Jews were in
open revolt. What had moved them is not altogether clear. Rabbinical
literature alludes to a Hadrianic persecution that caused fear and
apostasy. The probable explanation of this kind of reference is a
universal ban on circumcision that Hadrian issued in, it seems, the early
130s. The uprising came swiftly and understandably. Hadrian's visit to
Athens in 131-132 and his residence at Rome until the summer of 134
suggest a reluctance to deal personally with the disturbance in Judaea.
He first placed an able general, Sextus Julius Severus, in charge of the
problem. In the year after Hadrian's arrival in the Near East, the revolt
was over.
Hadrian adopted the profligate Lucius Ceionius Commodus, aged about
36. The extravagant life of Ceionius, later renamed Lucius Aelius Caesar,
portended a disastrous reign. Fortunately, he died two years later, and
Hadrian, close to death himself, had to choose again. This time he
picked an 18-year-old boy named Annius Verus, the future emperor
Marcus Aurelius.
In 138 Hadrian arranged for the succession to pass to the young Verus.
His arrangements were clever. An estimable and mature senator,
Antoninus, was adopted by Hadrian and designated to succeed him. The
Emperor, however, required that Antoninus adopt both the young Verus
and the eight-year-old son of the recently deceased Ceionius. Thus, the
family of his first choice was remembered, whereas an early succession
for the older boy seemed assured. No one expected that Antoninus
would last very long. Hadrian's scheme of imposing a double adoption
upon his immediate successor looks like another imitation of the first
emperor, Augustus, who had made a similar demand of Tiberius. By an
irony of fate, Hadrian's expectations about the future were confounded.
Antoninus, like Tiberius, lived far longer than anyone would have
thought possible. He did not die until 161.
When Hadrian died at the seaside resort of Baiae, death came to him
slowly and painfully. He wrote a letter in which he said how terrible it
was to long for death and yet be unable to find it.
====================
24
The Christians & Closseum
Q-Were Christians ever tortured and killed in the
Colosseum?
The answers seems to be no. The original sources on the amphitheatre
are very few, and a connection between Christian martyrdom and the
Colosseum still has to be found, though the Church for many years has
credited the story of Christian martyrs finding death in the arena
(something similar happened, but it was in Gallia).
On the subject I prefer to quote the Catholic Encyclopedia on the net.
Entry: Colosseum, or ... Coliseum
=====================================
THE COLISEUM AND THE MARTYRS
Pope St. Pius (1566-72) is said to have recommended persons
desirous of obtaining relics to procure some sand from the arena of the
Coliseum, which, the pope declared, was impregnated with the blood of
martyrs. The opinion of the saintly pontiff, however, does not seem to
have been shared by his contemporaries. The practical Sixtus V (158590) was only prevented by death from converting the Coliseum into a
manufactory of woollen goods.
In 1671 Cardinal Altieri regarded so little the Coliseum as a place
consecrated by the blood of Christian martyrs that he authorized its use
for bullfights. Nevertheless from the middle of the seventeenth century
the conviction attributed to St. Pius V gradually came to be shared by
the Romans. A writer named Martinelli, in a work published in 1653, put
the Coliseum at the head of a places sacred to the martyrs. Cardinal
Carpegna (d. 1679) was accustomed to stop his carriage when passing
by the Coliseum and make a commemoration of the martyrs. But it was
the act of Cardinal Altieri, referred to above, which indirectly effected a
general change of public opinion in this regard. A pious personage,
Carlo Tomassi by name, aroused by what he regarded as desecration,
published a pamphlet calling attention to the sanctity of the Coliseum
and protesting against the intented profanation authorized by Altieri.
The pamphlet was so completely successful that four years later, the
jubilee year of 1675, the exterior arcades were closed by order of
Clement X; from this time the Coliseum became a sanctuary.
25
At the instance of St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Benedict XIV (1740-58)
erected Stations of the Cross in the Coliseum, which remained until
February, 1874, when they were removed by order of Commendatore
Rosa. St. Benedict Joseph Labre (d. 1783) passed a life of austere
devotion, living on alms, within the walls of the Coliseum. "Pius VII in
1805, Leo XII in 1825, Gregory XVI in 1845, and Pius IX in 1852,
contributed liberally to save the amphitheatre from further degradation,
by supporting the fallen portions with great buttresses" (Lanciani). Thus
at a moment when the Coliseum stood in grave danger of demolition it
was saved by the pious belief which placed it in the category of
monuments dearest to Christians, the monuments of the early martyrs.
Yet, after an exhaustive examination of the documents in the case, the
learned Bollandist, Father Delehave, S.J., arrives at the conclusion that
there are no historical grounds for so regarding it (op. cit.). In the Middle
Ages, for example, when the sanctuaries of the martyrs were looked
upon with so great veneration, the Coliseum was completely neglected;
its name never occurs in the itineraries, or guide-books, compiler for the
use of pilgrims to the Eternal City. The "Mirabilia Romae", the first
manuscripts of which date from the twelfth century, cites among the
places mentioned in the "Passions" of the martyrs the Circus Flaminius
ad pontem Judaeorum, but in this sense makes no allusion to the
Coliseum. We have seen how for more than a century it served as a
stronghold of the Frangipani family; such a desecration would have
been impossible had it been popularly regarded as a shrine consecrated
by the blood, not merely of innumerable martyrs, but even of one hero of
the Faith. The intervention of Eugenius IV was based altogether on
patriotism; as an Italian the pope could not look on passively while a
great memorial of Rome's past was being destroyed. "Nam demoliri
urbis monumenta nihil aliud est quam ipsius urbis et totius orbis
excellentiam diminuere."
Thus in the Middle Ages no tradition existed in Rome which
associated the martyrs in any way with the Coliseum; it was only in the
seventeenth century and in the manner indicated, that it came to he
regarded with veneration as a scene of early Christian heroism. Indeed,
little attention was paid by the Christians of the first age to the actual
place of a martyr's sufferings; the sand stained with his blood was,
when possible gathered up and treasured as a precious relic, but that
was all. The devotion of the Christian body centred wholly around the
place where the martyr was interred. Father Delehaye calls attention to
the fact that although we know from trust-worthy historical sources of
the execution of Christians in the garden of Nero, yet popular tradition
preserved no recollection of all event so memorable (op. cit., 37). The
Acts of Roman Martyrs, it is true, contain indications as to the places
where various martyrs suffered: in amphitheatre, in Teller, etc. But these
Acts are often merely pious legends of the fifth, sixth, and following
centuries built up by unknown writers on a feast reliable historical facts.
The decree formerly attributed to Pope Gelasius (492-96) bears witness
26
to the slight consideration in which this class of literature was held in
the Roman Church; to read it in the churches was forbidden, and it was
attributed to unknown writers, wholly unqualified for their self-imposed
task. Epist. Rom. Pont., I, 458).
The evidence, therefore, which we possess in the Roman Acts in favour
of certain martyrs suffering in the Coliseum is, for these reasons among
others, regarded by Father Delehaye as inconclusive. He does not deny
that there may have been martyrs who suffered in the Coliseum, but we
know nothing on the subject one way or the other. It is, of course,
probable enough that some of the Christians condemned ad bestias
suffered in the Coliseum, but there is just as ruche reason to suppose
that they met their death in one of the other places dedicated to the cruel
amusements of imperial Rome; for instance, in the Circus Flaminius, the
Gaianum, the Circus of Hadrian, the Amphitheatric Cisterns, and the
Stadium of Domitian. Even as regards St. Ignatius of Antioch, the
evidence that he was martyred in the Coliseum is far from decisive, the
terms employed by St. John Chrysostom and Evagrius in reference to
this matter convey no precise meaning (Delehaye, op. cit. 43). The same
is true of the term used by Theodore in reference to the death of St.
Telemachus, who sacrificed his life to put an end to the bloody
spectacles which, as late as the early fifth century, took place in Rome.
There is no reason to doubt the fact of the heroic death of St.
Telemachus, but there is, on the other hand, no clear proof that its scene
was the Coliseum. Theodoret, the only writer who records the incident,
says that it happened eis to stadio (in the stadium), a different place
from the Coliseum.
===================================================
The Domus Aurea
The Domus Aurea, or "golden house", located between the Esquiline
and Palatine Hills, was one of Nero's most extravagant projects. After
two-thirds of Rome were destroyed by the great fire in 64 AD, Nero used
this land as a site for his new palace. It was not so much a palace as a
series of buildings scattered over a landscaped "countryside" which
included an artificial lake. The main building was extravagantly crafted,
and boasted rooms and hallways decorated almost entirely in gold. In
the case of the Domus, we know the names of the architects in charge of
the project, Severus and Celer, and that of Fabullus, the painter who
decorated many rooms.
One of the most visible (and arrogant) features of the Domus Aurea was
the Colossus Neronis: a 36 meter (120 ft) high bronze statue of Nero
placed just outside the entrance. This monstrosity was built in imitation
27
of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient
World. The Colossus was later on affixed with the heads of several
emperors, until Hadrian moved it to the Amphitheatrum Flavium (it
seems that this could be the origin of the name Colosseum, which
started to indicate the amphitheatre in the XI century).
The area of the property was 985 feet long by 295 feet in width or depth.
Among the other things there was an amphitheatre, a market, and bathgymnasium complex, served by an aqueduct 75 Km (50 miles) long.
Baths were served by a flow of both salted water and sumptuous one
from the Albulae springs. Upon the Caelian Hill there were beautiful
gardens, zoos, woods and parks where cattle roamed . There were
hundreds of statues, grottoes, nymphaeums, porticoes painted with
romantic landscapes; multiple waterfalls flowed all over. The lake where the Colosseum was later built - was surrounded by woods and
fake sea villages, and it was so big that ships could maneuver in it. The
rooms of the palace were decorated with rare stones and mother of
pearl; in the banquet rooms the guests were inundated by flowers and
perfumes from the ivory ceilings (R. Lanciani, Rovine...). One of the most
famous of these rooms featured a circular roof painted with the stars
and the planets, that revolved mechanically imitating the movement of
the stars.
After the death of Nero, Vespasian reopened the property to the
public, and the palace of Nero was accordingly covered by the Southern
part of the baths of Titus and Trajan. Enormous foundations were placed
in the palace of Nero to support the new building, and this also helped to
preserve what remained of the Domus. The ruins have been visited since
the XV century, and its paintings have been an inspiration for many
artists (i.e. Raphael in his decoration of the Logge Vaticane) who have
left their graffiti on the walls. The Domus Aurea was then called "le
grotte", and this seems to be the origin of the term "grottesco"
(grotesque).
A part of the Domus Aurea has been recently reopened to the public,
after many years of restoration.
Famous Authors' Reflections on the Colosseum
Hans Christian Andersen
"...like a vast mass of rock
28
Venerable Bede :
"While the Coliseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Coliseum falls,
Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, the world shall fall." [Venerable Bede
(c. 673-735) quoting a prophecy of Anglo-Saxon pilgrims
Lord Byron:
"... when the rising moon begins to climb/ Its topmost arch and gently
pauses there/When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,/The
garland forest, which the gray walls wear/ Like laurels on the bald first
Caesar's head:/ When the light shines serene but doth not glare/ then in
the magic circle raise the dead:/ Heroes have trod this spot --'this on
their dust ye tread.'"
"Arches on arches! As it were that Rome,/Collecting the chief trophies of
her line,/ Would build up all her triumphs in one dome./ Her Coliseum
stands; the moonbeams shine/ As't were its natural torches, for divine/
Should be the light which streams here, to illume/ This long-explored but
still exhaustless mine/ Of contemplation; and the azure gloom/ Of an
Italian night, where the deep skies assume hues that have words, and
speak to ye haven,/Floats o'er this vast and wondrous monument,/And
shadows forth, its glory. There is given/ Unto the things of earth, which
Time hath bent,/ A spirit's feeling and where he hath learnt/ His hand, but
broke his scythe, there is a power/ And magic in ruined battlement/ From
which the palace of the present hour/ Must yield its pomp and wait till
ages are / its dower.
A ruin -- yet what ruin! From its mass/ Walls, palaces, half-cities, have
been reared;/ Yet of the enormous skeleton ye pass,/ And marvel where
the spoil could have appeared/ Hath it indeed been plundered, or but
cleared?/ Alas! developed, opens the decay,/ When the colossal fabrics
form is neared:/ It will not bear the brightness of day,/ Which streams
too much on all years, man, have/ refit away."
[4th Canto, "Childe Harold."
James Boswell:
It is "hard to tell whether the astonishing massiveness or the requisite
test of this superb building should be more admired."
Thomas Cole:
"From the great multitude of wondrous things I would select the
Colosseum as the object that affected me the most. It is stupendous, yet
beautiful in its destruction. From the broad arena within it rises around,
arch above arch, broken and desolate, and mantled in many parts with
the laurustimus, the acanthus, and numerous other plants and flowers,
exquisite both for their colors and fragrance. It looks more like a work of
nature than man; for the regularity of art is lost, in a great measure, in
dilapidation, and the luxuriant herbage, clinging to its ruins as if to
mouth its distress, completes the illusion. Crag rests over crag, great
and breezy summits mount into the sky. [Thomas Cole, 1832]
29
"The mighty spectacle, mysterious and dark, opens beneath the eye
more like some awful dream than an earthly reality -- a vision of the
valley and shadow of death.... As I mused upon its great circumference, I
seemed to be sounding the depth of some volcanic crater, where fires,
long extinguished, had left the ribbed and blasted rocks to the wild
flowers and ivy.
Charles Dickens:
"It is no fiction, but plain, sober, honest Truth, to say: so suggestive is it
at this hour: that, for a moment -- actually in passing in -- they who will,
may have the whole great pile before them, as it used to be, with
thousands of eager faces staring down into the arena, and such a whirl
of strife, and blood, and dust, going on there, as no language can
describe. Its solitude, its awful beauty, and its utter desolation, strike
upon the stranger, the next moment, like a softened sorrow; and never
in his life, perhaps, will he be so moved and overcome by any sight, not
immediately connected with his own affections and afflictions."
"To see it crumbling there, an inch a year; its walls and arches
overgrown with green; its corridors open to the day; the long grass
growing in its porches; young trees of yesterday, springing up on its
ragged parapets, and bearing fruit; chance produce of the seeds
dropped there by the birds who build their nests within its chinks and
crannies; to climb into its upper halls, and look down on ruin, ruin, all
about it; the triumphal arches of Constantine, Septimus Severus, and
Titus; the Roman Forum; the Palace of the Caesars; the temples of the
old religion, fallen down and gone; is to see the ghost of old Rome,
wicked wonderful old city; haunting the very ground on which its people
trod. It is the most impressive, the most stately, the most solemn, grand
majestic, mournful, sight, conceivable. Never, in its bloodiest prime, can
the sight of the gigantic Coliseum, full and running over with the lustiest
life, have moved one heart, as it must move all who look upon it now, a
ruin. God be thanked: a ruin!"
As it tops the other ruins: standing there, a mountain among graves: so
do its ancient influences outlive all other remnants of the old mythology
and old butchery of Rome, in the nature of the fierce and cruel Roman
people...."
"... the most impressive, the most stately, the most solemn, grand,
majestic mournful sight conceivable."
Nathaniel Hawthorne:
The moonlight which "filled and flooded the great empty space glowed
upon tier above tier of ruined, grass-grown arches, and made them even
too distinctly visible. The splendors of the revelation took away that
inestimable effect of dimness and mystery by which the imagination
might be assisted to build up a grander structure than the Coliseum, and
to shatter it with a more picturesque decay. Byron's celebrated
description is better than the reality."
30
Henry James:
"One of course never passes the Colosseum without paying it one's
respects -- without going in under one of the hundred portals and
crossing the long oval and sitting down awhile, generally, at the foot of
the cross in the centre. I always feel, as I do so, as if I were seated in the
depths of some Alpine valley. The upper portions of the side toward the
Esquiline look as remote and lonely as an Alpine ridge, and you raise
your eyes to their rugged sky-line, drinking in the sun and silvered by
the blue air, with much the same feeling, with which you would take in a
grey cliff on which an eagle might lodge. This roughly mountainous
quality of the great ruin is its chief interest; beauty of detail has pretty
well vanished...."
Longfellow:
"Silence, and the quiet moonbeams, and the broad deep shadows of the
ruined wall... At length I came to an open space where the arches above
had crumbled away, leaving the pavement an unroofed terrace high in
the air. From this point, I could see the whole interior of the
amphitheater spread out beneath me, half in shadow, half in light, with
such soft and indefinite outline that it seemed less an earthly reality than
a reflection in the bosom of a lake... I did not conjure up the past, for the
past had already become identified with the present." [1828]
"... A thousand wild flowers bloom/ From every chink, and the birds,
build their nests/ Among the ruined arches, and suggest/ New thoughts
of beauty to the architect." [Longfellow, "Michel Angelo"]
Stendhal:
"It is the most beautiful of ruins; there breathes all the majesty of
ancient Rome. Memories of Titus Livius filled my soul; I saw before
Fabius Maximus, Publicola, Menenius Agrippa."
For the Romans
The games weren't just a moment of leisure, but were also an occasion
in which people, institutions and the powers congregated. Roman
society was divided into classes, and the classes were separated also
on occasion of the games. In amphitheatres, circuses and theatres the
seating was separated for the different ranks. We know that in 490 BC
Manius Valerius Maximus got the right, valid also for all his
31
descendants, to place his seat in a particular place of the Circus
Maximus. Scipio the African proposed in 194 BC that the senators, as
such, had seats separated from those of the commoners. In 87 BC a law
assigned to the knights the first 14 rows of seats in theatres.
Later on, Augustus passed the Lex Iulia Theatralis, which brought order
in this matter by establishing a place for all the classes in public places
like theatres, amphitheatres and circuses; of course the senators had
the seats nearest to the action, then came the knights, military men,
married men, boys and their teachers, non-citizens, the plebs and - last women. These rules were enforced everywhere in the Empire.
The Colosseum itself was planned in order to keep the different classes
of spectators separated. They had different entrances and seats in the
cavea. The entrance on the north side seems to have been connected
with the Esquiline by a porticos. A wide passage led directly from this
entrance to the imperial box (pulvinar) on the podium. A corresponding
box on the opposite side of the podium was probably reserved for the
Praefectus Urbi. The entrances at the ends of the major axis led directly
into the arena.
==================
There were five orders of seats :the sector reserved to the senators, with wide and low steps
where the privileged could place their personal chairs,
the maenianum primum
the maenianum secundum imum (lower),
the maenianum secundum summum (upper),
the maenianum summum in ligneis (it's the top portico with
wooden seats, not indicated in the picture on the right).
As an example of the division of places, one very important document
we have are the minutes of the proceedings of the Fratres Arvales,
which was an ancient college or priesthood of 12 members elected from
the highest ranks, whose chief original duty was to offer annual public
sacrifice for the fertility of the fields.
96 of their Acta, or minutes, of their proceedings, inscribed on stone,
were discovered in the grove of the Dea Dia Temple near Rome. In the
proceedings of 80AD there is a precise description of the spaces
reserved to the Arvales in the different sectors of the Colosseum (in fact
reserved to their friends, clientes and servants, since the 12 Arvales
were probably sitting in the senatorial sector). They had in total about
130 ft, corresponding to 37 metres. Considering 40-50 cm for each
person, the Arvales could accommodate 70-80 people. Many fragments
of the marble seats bear the indication of the class to which they were
destined. Most of the fragments date back to the III or IV century, and
many bear names of families and senators who were already known to
the experts from different sources. Some fragments only have the name
of the family, and it seems that related families (we would call them
32
clans) sat nearby, showing the unity of the group in front of the
community. When seats were assigned to a different person or family
the inscription was erased and the new name engraved in the stone. A
recent research on the fragments shows that one of the seats could
have belonged to Iobius Philippus Ymelcho Valerius, perhaps the same
Valerius who was consul in 521, and this should prove that the
amphitheatre was still in use in the VI century.
The system of entrances and stairs has also been studied. The image on
the right shows one quadrant of the amphitheatre with the 5 paths a, b,
c, d and e, which are repeated symmetrically all around the building. The
12 "b type" paths led to the lower senators' seats, and 16 "d" paths led
to the upper senators' seats. 20 "a" paths led to the maenianum primum
and to the upper ones.16 "c" and 16 "e" paths led to the same corridor
of the "a" path. The only real physical separation seems to have been
merely between the senators and all the rest. As it is generally taken for
granted that in the Roman society there was a strict class separation,
some authors believe that probably there were other signs or ushers
inside the amphitheatric to show the spectators how to reach their
assigned seats.
In the year 73 BC a group of thirty:
or maybe seventy gladiators from the school of Lentulus, in
Capua, near Naples, revolted and fled on the Vesuvius. They chose as
leaders Spartacus, Crissus and Enomaos. Spartacus was a gladiator,
from Thrace; little is known of him; the historian Appianus says he was
a Roman soldier, then prisoner and slave, while Florus says he was a
mercenary, then a soldier, then a deserter, then outlaw and at the end
gladiator.
Soon the number of the fugitives increased; many slaves left (or killed)
their masters and fled to join the army of Spartacus. They were mostly
from Italy, but there were also many slaves from Gallia, Thrace and
Germany. They started raiding the region of Campania, taking over
several cities; the Italic cities did not support the rebels, so they
occupied them by violence. At first the Senate did not take the revolt
seriously, and did not even think that such a bellum servile (war of the
slaves) could be worth a real legion. So it happened that Spartacus and
his men could hold in check the Roman forces and were free to roam the
South of Italy.
Later on, they went up north, up to Mutina (today Modena) where the
army of the slaves defeated again the Roman army of Cassius.
Spartacus then tried to force his way towards Rome, but was stopped by
Crassus, so he took the long way around and passed east of Rome,
back south to Lucania. It seems that he was directed to Sicily, but could
not cross the strait between Italy and Sicily and was stuck at the end of
33
the peninsula, near Reggio. Crassus then tried to close Spartacus in the
tip of Italy by digging a trench from coast to coast; during a stormy
winter night the rebels amassed earth, branches and materials to fill up
the trench, and one third of the army managed to escape in this way.
In the meantime the Romans had understood the danger of the war, and
took drastic measures. Crassus, for instance, punished the soldiers who
had fled by applying the decimatio, i.e. the execution of one soldier out
of every ten. After one defeat by Spartacus, Crassus killed 4.000 of his
soldiers. They had to fear their general more than the enemy; in any
case the system worked, and in the following battle the soldiers attacked
furiously an army of 10.000 and killed two thirds of the enemies. More
slaves were killed in a battle at the Lacus Lucanus, but the final
confrontation took place near Brundisium. Plutarch tells that before the
battle Spartacus killed his horse: if he won, he could get all the horses
of the Romans; if he lost, a horse would have been useless. 60.000
rebels were killed, and 6.000 were made prisoners and crucified all along
the road from Rome to Capua. The body of Spartacus was never found.
Revolts of the slaves were frequent in the Roman world, in the years
from 133 and 72 BC. In the middle of the second century BC there were
many: in 132 BC and in 104 BC in Sicily (a revolt which lasted until 99),
and in fact the one of Spartacus was the last great revolt of the slaves.
The reason for the turmoil was mainly caused by the great amount of
slaves that had been brought to Italy from all over the Mediterranean. In
those years the Romans had managed to control the slave trade of the
Mediterranean, which can be compared to the oil market of today. Slaves
were energy. And the trade was flourishing: in the greatest slave market
of the antiquity, the island of Delos, 10.000 slaves could be sold in one
day. In Italy, this enormous intake of cheap labors contributed to the
disappearance of the Roman farmer/soldier and to the concentration of
enormous estates in few hands. The slaves were mainly owned by big
landowners, and small farmers could not withstand the competition from
the slave owners. Slaves were often kept in subhuman conditions on
these huge estates, which were fertile ground for the revolts.
Seneca wrote that in Rome there were so many slaves that a proposal of
law to have them all dressed in the same way was soon withdrawn
because the slaves could have understood how many they were.
Expense For The Games
Games were important to the people:- What a character from Petronius
Arbiter's Satyricon says about it. The expense was enormous, and the
problem must have been a grave one, because at the times of Tiberius
the Senate forbade the organization of games to the citizens with a
patrimony of less than 400.000 sestertia (which was the equivalent of the
34
wealth needed to be part of the census equities, or knighthood). People
even established foundations in their wills, intended to finance games
after their death with the money from the interests.
The business must have been a big one ,and a good one for the
emperors, because the lanistae were heavily taxed (at the end of the II
century the lanistae owed the imperial treasury millions of sestertii).
Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus put a limit to the expense of
the shows, and to the price of gladiators. The price for gladiators was
linked to the overall expense of the show, so that the cost of a first class
gladiator could be of 5.000 sestertii in a 30.000/60.000 sestertii show, but
could reach 15.000 sestertii in a 200.000 sestertii editio.
The prohibition to hold games, or their limit, could in any case be
overruled by a Senate decision. The Syracuse's appealed to the Senate
to have a greater number of gladiators than normally allowed, and a
magistrate in Presario gave 8 (eight!!) games, but he did it under direct
permission of the emperor (ex indulgentia Augustii).
Thousands of animals were necessary for the games: when the
Colosseum was inaugurated, 9.000 animals were killed, and Suetonius
affirms that 5.000 wild beasts were presented to the audience in one
single day. Even if these figures are exaggerated, nevertheless North
Africa witnessed the disappearance of lions and elephants, hunted for
centuries in order to provide for the games.
The task of collecting the beasts and transporting them in good
condition for thousands of miles was enormous: animals were chased
all over the Empire, and hunting, which was not popular in the late
Roman civilization, became an established tradition, from what we can
gather from late Empire mosaics and pictures. Moreover, the animals
had to be captured alive, and this added to the dangers of the hunt. The
beasts had to be trapped, put into cages, sometimes embarked on ships,
fed all the way to destination and kept in good condition. The big hunts
became legendary, and were the origin of many stories embroidered by
popular imagination. That is why we can still find so many
representations, in mosaics and elsewhere, of expeditions, captures,
transport and murderous accidents.
In the time of the Republic the organizers of the games had to rely on
the collaboration of African or Asian governors, who in turn relied on
natives for the actual capture of the animals. The authorities only had to
arrange the transport to Rome. Later on, under the Empire, the
enormous expenses involved prompted the State to organize it own
supply system. The legions on the outskirts of the Empire provided the
labor force for the capture of the animals, and there were special units
exempted from regular service for this purpose. The towns along the
way had the task of providing shelter and food for the beasts (some
towns protested against this obligation which had became a heavy
burden, since the escorts of the beasts could take it easy and stay in
35
one city for weeks and weeks). At the end of the journey the beasts
could rest in the menageries around Rome, near the Castrum Pretorium,
or at Ardea and Laurentum. Some calculations show that during
Augustus’ time about 3,500 animals passed through the emperor’s
menageries: 400 tigers, 260 lions, 600 panthers, and other animals of all
sorts: seals, bears, eagles, etc. The costs were enormous, so high that
in hard times some emperors had to cut back on expenses, by giving
away the animals to private citizens as a present.
The Empire had in fact a monopoly on the trade of lions and elephants,
but other beasts were supplied by private merchants. In a mosaic at
Piazza Armerina there is a representation of a typical hunting
expedition: animals embark and disembark from ships moored to two
different sides of a promontory while an important personage watches
the operation. Two characters seems to represent Africa and – maybe –
Armenia, and other details are not realistic at all: probably the mosaicworkers had never seen a real hunt or some of the beasts, since their
representation is inaccurate (there is even a griffin), though this can be
ascribed to the legendary character of the hunting expedition, that hit
the Roman imagination.
===========================================================
----------------------------------------------------------------------------==
Descripion:Architecture:Q-Is it true that the wild beasts were
lifted up to the arena by elevators?
The Colosseum is roughly
elliptical in shape, with its long
axis, oriented WSW-ESE, which
measures 188 m and the short one
156. The building stands on a base
of two steps; above it there are
three floors of arcades built in
travertine stone and a fourth storey
with windows. There were eighty
arches on every floor, divided by
pillars with a half column.
The four arches on the axes of the
building were the main entrances,
36
and were probably decorated with a little porch and a statue. The other
76 arches were numbered for an easier access to the seats. Only 31
arches of the outer ring, from number XXIII to LIV, have remained intact.
The ground floor half columns are Doric in style, those of the second
floor are ionic and those of the upper floor Corinthian. The attic is
divided into panels by Corinthian columns, with a rectangular window
every second panel. Ancient authors mention - and the images that we
have confirm it - that a series of bronze shields (clipea) was affixed all
around the attic on the panels without the windows.
The arches are 4.20 m. (13’9") wide and 7.05 m (23’1") high on the
ground floor, while on the upper floors they are only 6.45 m (21’2") high.
Including the cornices between the floors and the attic, the overall
height of the building is 48,5 m.
The arena, in which took place the shows, gladiatorial games (ludi
gladiator) and fights against wild bests (venationes) measures 76 by 44
metres and it was made of wood, covered with yellow sand taken from
the hill of Monte Mario. Over 100.000 cubic metres of travertine stone
(45.000 only for the external wall), quarried near Tibur (today Tivoli),
were employed for the building. A road was built from the quarries to
Rome for this purpose. Tufa blocks, bricks and opus cementicium
(concrete made of small lumps of tufa in mortar) were also employed,
thus adapting the resistance of the materials to the loads and thrust that
had to be supported. The combination of different materials improves
the elasticity of the whole: the main pillars are made of travertine, radial
walls are of travertine and tufa, the vaults are cast in cementwork, and
the walls were plastered and painted white and red (most of the
stuccoes have disappeared). The passages corresponding to the main
entrances were decorated with paintings and stuccoes, which have
hardly survived the centuries.
All around the top there were the sockets for 240 wooden beams which
supported the awning (velarium) that covered the spectators from the
sun and was maneuvered by a unit of sailors of the imperial fleet,
stationed nearby.
The Colosseum was surrounded by an area paved with large travertine
slabs and delimited by boundary stones set in the ground with a slight
inclination inwards, which are supposed to have been supports of some
sort for the ropes of the awning (Some others think that they were gates
for crowd control). Beyond these stones began the street paving of big
gray blocks of basaltic lava.
The square around the Colosseum is probably one of the few places in
Rome that is at the same level as the ancient times. Remember that
Rome is about 2600 years old, and that during all this time layers and
layers of buildings and roads have accumulated. The level of the ancient
city is about 8-15 metres below the current one (since the birth of Rome,
37
the average annual growth of the city has been calculated at about 7.5
millimeters per year). But when you walk on the cobblestones around
the Colosseum you are walking on the same stones as the ancient
Romans.
===============-==============
What is left of the original building?
The north side of the outer wall is still standing (including 31 of the
original 80 entrances, together with the part of the building that is
between it and the inner wall supporting the top floor colonnade) and
practically the whole skeleton of the structure between this inner wall
and the arena, that is, the encircling and radiating walls on which rested
the cavea with its marble seats, that instead have disappeared.
Inside
The seating was all in travertine, now almost completely lost, and was
raised 3.60 m above the arena. Part of the floor of the arena was made of
masonry and part of wood, with removable sections for the entrance/exit
of scenarios, beasts and materials. There were marble decorations
around the podium, at the vomitoria that gave on to the cavea for the
passage of people, and perhaps also on the niches beside the main
entrances on the arena.
Under the arena there were all the services necessary for the shows:
cages for the animals, stores, tools, and lifts that raised the beasts to
trapdoors placed on the floor of the arena. When wild beasts were in the
amphitheatre a fence was erected all around the podium. The fence had
wooden rollers on top, in order to prevent the beasts from climbing over.
Inside, the seating has a gradient of 37°, and the overall height of 48.5 m
(159’) was calculated to give a good view of the arena even to the
spectators in the upper seats.
The corridors and stairs were planned in order to allow the public,
calculated between 50.000 and 75.000, swift
access and exit and
to keep the different classes of spectators separated. The two
main entrances on the short axis led directly to the central boxes, while
a series of obligatory pathways, symmetrically repeated in each
quadrant of the stand, led the other spectators to their assigned places.
Between the arena and the wall surrounding it, called podium, there was
a service tunnel, with niches. Their function is uncertain; some say they
housed archers who protected the spectators from the risk of wild
animals reaching the public, some say they were latrines, and some say
38
that there was a water channel meant to give supplementary protection
from the beasts. In any case, it seems that these niches could be
reached only through some entrances located in the fourth ring of the
cavea, accessible only to service personnel. Another mystery of the
Colosseum...
Before The Colsseum:
Once there was a lake... The site of the Colosseum is in fact a
depression among the hills of Rome: the Palatine on its south-western
side, the Velia on the western side, the last slopes of the Esquiline hill,
also called Colle Oppio (now a park) on the northern side and the Celio
on the Eastern side. The Velia, however, has disappeared: during the
thirties, the hill – which was in fact a ridge between the Colle Oppio and
the Palatine – was razed to the ground in order to build the modern Via
dei Fori Imperiali, the road that connects Piazza Venezia to the
Colosseum cutting through the forums of old Rome. Mussolini
demanded a straight road from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, and
that was the end of the Velia.
The valley collected the waters, which created a marsh or a lake,
depending on the season. The small lake was fed by the waters of the
Rio Labicano, a stream flowing down the Labicana valley, more or less
along modern day Via Labicana. The stream can still be seen
underground when visiting the Church of St. Clemente in Via di San
Giovanni. There you can descend about 30 feet under modern ground
level and walk on the cobblestones of old Roman alleys, enter shops
and houses, visit a Mithraic temple and listen to the soothing sound of
running water. The stream is still there and the water runs clear and fast,
enclosed inside a conduct built in the 19th century in order to drain the
underground of the Basilica.
The emperor Nero (right) took advantage of the lake in order to
embellish his palace, the Domus Aurea (Golden House), which occupied
an enormous area in the centre of the city. Many people, rich and poor
alike, were dispossessed of their properties for Nero to build a house
that he described as "worthy of an human being". It is difficult to
understand the magnitude of the Domus Aurea: there were so many
buildings that Nero actually never managed to visit all the rooms in his
mansion.
The lake thus became part of a huge park provided with all sorts of
amenities, including houses around the lake built in the style of sea
villages. In his palace Nero also placed a colossal bronze statue of
himself (120 feet high, work of Zenodorus), whose face was later
modified many times to represent different emperors.
39
After the death of Nero in 68 AD, and after a period of turmoil,
Vespasian came to power. The new emperor established a new dynasty,
the Flavians, and wanted to gain popularity with the Roman citizens,
showing that the times of tyranny and despotism were over: He made a
point of giving back the area of Nero’s Domus Aurea to the Romans. The
amphitheatre then – a public building donated by the emperor to the
Roman citizens – stood on the former site of Nero’s mansion as a
splendid symbol of the new political order.
-----------------------------------------------------------
The Romans called the Colosseum "Caesar's
Amphitheatre" or "hunting theatre"; the name Colosseum
dates back to the XI century, and it is origin is uncertain. The most
popular version is that the name comes from a colossal statue of Nero,
called indeed Colossus Neronis, that at first was in the Domus Aurea.
The statue was one of the most visible (and arrogant) features of Nero's
residence: a 36 meter (120 ft) bronze statue of Nero placed just outside
the entrance. This monstrosity was built in imitation of the Colossus of
Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Colossus
was later dedicated by Vespasian to the Sun God - after replacing its
face - and then affixed with the heads of several emperors, until Hadrian
moved it near the amphitheatre. The transfer of the statue in itself seems
to have been an admirable feat. Discussion among the experts is still
open, though, because some have argued that 1) there is no substantial
evidence of the presence of the statue near the amphitheatre; 2) the
name Colosseum appears only from the XI century, when the statue had
long disappeared.
Another theory maintains that the name might have come from the Collis
Iseum, a nearby hill where a temple dedicated to Isis once stood. And
according to another curious theory, it might even be the corruption of
Colis eum? ("do you worship him?"), a question that was part of a
satanic rite. Legend has it that, up to the late Renaissance age, the
Colosseum used to be a chosen site for performing pagan and black
magic rituals at night-time.
=================================================
This self-explanatory image is taken from C.F. Giuliani
"L’edilizia nell’antichità"
To build the amphitheatre the original site was deeply transformed. First
of all, some enormous drains were built in order to ensure an adequate
drainage towards the Circus Maximus (a part of these drains was lost
when the underground line was built).
40
After the area was completely drained, the excavation started, and it
lasted until it reached the clay bed of the lake. In the firm clay bed an
elliptical ring was excavated, 31 metres wide, 6 metres deep, with a
perimeter of 530 metres. This enormous excavation was filled up with
Roman cement, i.e. mortar made with pozzuolana and lime, mixed with
coarse crushed stones. Layers and layers of mortar and stones were
laid, and the concrete was compacted by hammering. It seems that on
the SW side the clay bed wasn't as firm as on other sides, and this could
be the reason why that side collapsed first.
Then the foundation was raised for a further 6 metres, so that the
thickness of this enormous doughnut is over 12 metres. All around the
foundations a reinforcement brick wall was built, 3 metres wide and 6
metres deep, and a similar wall was built inside. On the internal side of
the brick wall were arranged 32 cells, that are visible all around the
underground of the arena. The drillings recently carried out have shown
that, contrary to what Ingegner Cozzo thought (and it is still widely
believed) there is no underground storey of travertine arches beneath
the ground floor. The only foundation is this formidable ring of cement,
and the only underground arches at the bottom of the arena are the ones
on the main axis.
All the surrounding buildings were demolished (probably also including
many buildings of the Domus Aurea) and with these materials and earth,
the valley was filled up to the level we see today. It is believed that the
only thing surviving from the former arrangement was the meta sudans
(the sweating post), an ancient fountain that was placed at a crossroad
where the borders of four traditional boroughs of the city met.
The drillings have demonstrated that the top of the foundation reaches
up just beneath the ground floor. The foundation can be also seen from
the so-called Passage of Commodus, a fifth tunnel decorated with
stuccoes which was excavated after the Colosseum was completed.
This passage has never been explored completely, and is believed to
connect the amphitheatre and some imperial palace on the side of the
Celian Hill.
In the foundations and in the external wall – along the axis
- there are the four underground tunnels and – below them – four big
drains (1.3 by 3.8 metres). These passages were made during the
building of the foundations, by casting the concrete around a wooden
boxing. Some remains of the boxing, which were made of non-seasoned
oak timber, have been dated back - quite obviously - to about the year 70
AD. More large underground rooms, necessary for the services and the
preparation of the shows, were made along the main axis.
Underground tunnels connected the amphitheatre to the surrounding
buildings: the NE passage, under the Porta Libitinensis, reached the
Ludus Magnus, and it was interrupted by a modern drain in the 19th
century; the one on the opposite led to the Temple of Venus, where the
41
scenarios of the shows were prepared, and it was – probably – sliced by
the works for the underground railway in the 19th century. Quite
surprisingly, it seems that the other passages haven't been explored yet.
The cubicles built all around the bottom of the arena were, according to
many, used to keep the wild beasts during the shows. Cozzo actually
thought that the beasts were restricted to the narrow underground
corridor along the sides of the bottom of the arena, so that they were
obliged to reach their respective cages by a system of gates. Moreover,
with the animals confined along the sides, the central corridors could be
free for transit.
Small differences in some details of the construction have convinced
the archaeologists that the building of each quadrant of the Colosseum
was entrusted to four different contractors, who worked side by side
sharing the four main entrances. The name of the architect, like that of
many others of the antiquity, is not known. The money necessary to
finance the building came most probably from the booty of the
Palestinian war and the plundering of the Temple of Jerusalem. This was
widely accepted before as commonsense, but now the theory is
corroborated by a recent study on a marble inscription. On the stone,
"underneath" the inscription, there are still the holes used to lodge the
metal letters of a precedent inscription, that was later erased. The holes
were recently interpreted by Prof. Geza Alfoldy of Heidelberg University,
who, working with Italian archaeologists, deciphered the puzzle. He
concluded that the first inscription read: "Imp. T. Caes. Vespasianus
Aug. Amphitheatrum Novum Ex Manubis Fieri Iussit", that means
"Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus had this new amphitheatre
erected with the spoils of war".
Scholars have debated at length if forced labour had been employed to
build the amphitheatre. In fact, slave labour was widely used then,
however the concept that only slaves were employed has been rejected,
since the quality of the construction is evidence of a skilled work force.
Once completed, the foundation base was covered by a travertine floor,
90 cm thick in average. On this stone floor were marked the reference
points for the main pillars, and the base blocks of the pillars were
anchored to the floor by a pivot and melted metal. This skeleton of
pillars was raised up to the second floor, and the pillars were connected,
at the top, by big arches made with 2 feet long bricks, placed so as to
allow the construction of many rampant vaults, which all together make
up the big cavea, destined to support the marble seats. Some remaining
vaults can be seen in the picture of the arena as it is today.
The system of having a first basic structure built up to the second floor
allowed the builders to carry out the rest of the works above and below
the cavea at the same time, leaving only some vaults open for the lifting
up of the materials. The space between the pillars was filled by tufa opus
quadratum on the ground floor, and by cement aggregate with a brick
facing for the second floor. The tufa structures and the bricks ones
42
which constitute – together with the pillars - the radial walls of the
amphitheatre are indeed independent from the pillars themselves and
from the big vaults, and it is thought that they were built after the pillars.
In general, the different materials used (travertine, tufa, brickwork and
cement) were utilized by exploiting to the full their respective qualities of
lightness, resistance and ease of installation. The combination of
different materials has also improved the resilience of the whole
structure. For an interesting study about the structural behaviour of the
Colosseum over the centuries.
There are many outstanding structural elements in the Roman
Colosseum: the formal elegance, the solidity of the construction, the
organisation of the spaces (the entrance/exit system, the underground
rooms which were like the backstage of a theatre). In my opinion one of
the most astonishing feats is the building technique, i.e. the system of
making first the main arches in travertine, so that the rest of the
construction could be carried out at the same time above and below this
first structure.
Amazingly, it took less than 10 years to build it! Ingegner Giuseppe
Cozzo, one of the most important scholars to study the Colosseum,
wrote (the translation is mine): "This building procedure, both simple
and evident, allowed to terminate very rapidly the construction of the big
cavea and to cover the second floor of ambulacros; at the same time it
allowed for the coexistence of two vast building yards on the same site;
a first one, below, completely covered, sheltered from the rain, and a
second upper one, above the cavea, in order to build the upper part of
the amphitheatre. Below, under coverage, all the walls between the
travertine pillars, the rampant bridging of the stairs, the vaults of the
ground floor ambulacros, the plastering and the stuccoes could be
completed; above, work could be carried out on the walls of the
remaining two floors of the amphitheatre, the podium, the seats, and the
wooden upper portico".
The travertine blocks were all connected to each other by iron clamps,
which have long disappeared and have left the holes one can see
everywhere. It has been calculated that 300 tons of metal were used only
for this purpose. The upper external wall (see the photo) shows that
many of the travertine blocks were recycled from other buildings: their
internal face is in fact irregular, and they have been leveled only on the
external and contact sides. We are not sure if the wall was constructed
in this way so as to save time or if these irregularities depend on later
restorations. The external wall was once coupled and supported by a
thick brick facing, and it is another mystery of the Colosseum how the
wall you see can still stand. Some answers to the questions about the
solidity of the monument can be found in this interesting paper on the
structural behavior of the Colosseum during the centuries.
43
Image of the Colosseum
It is reasonable to think that the ancients considered the Colosseum
an architectural wonder as well, and that its image circulated in the
ancient world. As far as we know, the only images of the amphitheatre
we have from the antiquity are on some coins. We have coins with the
image of the Colosseum minted during the reigns of Titus, Severus
Alexander and Gordianus, and they are very precious not only
because they are rare, but also because they are in fact the only
contemporary documentation of the Flavian amphitheatre.
The first one is the Titus 80 AD bronze sententious (above). One can
see the heads of the spectators in the cavea, which is divided both
horizontally, for the different classes, and vertically by the staircases.
The imperial throne is the half circle in the middle of the cavea (the
lonely dot in its centre should be the emperor). The representation is
rather accurate; even the alternance of the clypea on the cornice of the
fourth floor is observed. One can see the wooden structure of the roof,
and the presence of the quadriga, which is supposed to have been on
top of the main NE entrance, is evident. The other particulars are also
interesting: on the left there is a representation of the Meta Sudans, a
fountain that survived until 1934, and on the right a two-storey portico.
The latter is perhaps a representation of Titus' baths, or a covered
passage that connected the baths to the amphitheatre.
After Titus' death, another bronze sestertius was coined by the mint of
the Senate. It is very similar to the previous one, but Luciani sees a
detail in it which maybe wasn't in the first coinage: a set of garlands, or
festoons all around the top (I say: could these be the rolled awnings of
the velarium?). The important thing is that the amphitheatre appears
fully completed, and this disproves the traditional story of the fourth
order (storey) of the Colosseum being completed by Domitian.
About 150 years passed before the Colosseum was again represented
on a coin. In 223, during Severus Alexander's reign, the Senate mint
produced gold, silver and bronze coins, all of the same type, probably
to celebrate the restoration of the amphitheatre.
This coin appears in many variations: in some cases the clypea are
missing, or the number of the staircases is different; however, the Meta
Sudans and the portico are still there (150 years have passed by!) but
behind the Meta there is the statue of the Triumphant Sun (which later
was called Colossus) and the portico has only one floor.
44
Around AD 240 another coin appeared, this time minted by the imperial
mint of Gordian III. It is not really a coin, but a celebrative medallion,
produced in a limited series. It seems that there are only two specimens
left of this coin, and I happen to have two pictures of two different coins.
Are they the ones ?
This time we can see the arena, and there is some action. There is a bull
challenging an elephant, led by a man. Outside, the usual Meta Sudans
(why did Mussolini have to destroy it?) and the Colossus. On the right,
the portico.
The
archaeologists
consider
as
contemporary representations of the
amphitheatre also the bas-relief of the
famous tomb, called of the Haterii family
(above) and the remaining pieces of the
Forma Urbis, which was a marble map of
the ancient city.
The Haterii tomb in my opinion is a rather
fanciful design of the Colosseum (judge
for yourself, the picture is here on the
right). The Haterii were builders and they
glorified their trade in the reliefs of the
tomb. The tomb is important also for the
relief of the building machine. In fact,
archaeologist
s
are
still
discussing
the matter of
the buildings represented.
---------------------------The Colosseum has recently made a
comeback on coins, with the Euro. In Italy
the back of the 5 cents coin bears the
typical postcard image of the monument.
The colors pictures of the ancient coins are
45
taken from Luciani, Il Colosseo. The B&W ones from AA.VV., Anfiteatro
Flavio
In the XVIII century
it became fashionable among the rich to collect models of buildings,
ruins and famous monuments, made of wood or cork. This craft, that
originated in Naples in the XVI century with the scenarios of the cribs,
developed to the benefit of wealthy collectors and travelers who only
then had started to consider old ruins interesting and romantic. In 1778
the architect Thomas Hardwick had a model built by the Neapolitan
master Giovanni Altieri, in scale 1:120, to exhibit at the Society of
Antiquaries as a complement to the study he had made on the
amphitheatre. Hardwick made some drawings, which we still have, but
the model has been lost. There is also evidence of another model being
made in 1789, based on the measurements carried out by the French
architect Antoine Désgodetz (1653-1728). The same Désgodetz drawings
were used by Antonio Chiti for the models that he sold all round Europe;
two of these models of the Colosseum are still in Kassel and Darmstadt.
The most famous model of the Colosseum is without any doubt
the wooden reconstruction by Carlo Lucangeli (right). Lucangeli worked
on it for 22 years, starting in 1790. He was the one who undertook the
first scientific survey of the Colosseum in order to identify the
architectural details. His studies led to the discovery of hidden parts of
the monument, like the wall of the retropodio and the so-called
Passaggio di Commodo. Lucangeli's notes were published after his
death and circulated among the intellectuals, becoming one of the main
sources of knowledge about the Colosseum. Between 1792 and 1805
Lucangeli had completed another cork model of "the actual state" of the
Colosseum, which is now in Paris, at the École des Beaux-Arts. When
Lucangeli died in 1812 the first wooden model still wasn't finished; it
was completed only in 1815 by his son-in-law Paolo Dalbono and other
artists. They added to it the ipogei of the arena (that were excavated
after Lucangeli's death and by his will), the seats and the velarium.
Lucangeli's model had a tormented life: it was transported to London
from 1815 to 1819; when it was shipped back the boxes were impounded
at the Port of Rome because of customs problems. Lucangeli's heirs
sold it to the rich collector Emanuele Godoy, who placed it in his house
on the Celian hill. The model passed through several hands, until in 1855
the count Zeloni proposed to the (then Vatican) State to exhibit the
model for a fee inside the Colosseum, even though he had pawned it at
the Monte di Pietà (the Roman official pawnshop in 1851). The newborn
Italian government remained unmoved: in 1874 it was proposed that the
State should redeem the model from the Monte di Pietà, but nothing
happened. In 1879 the archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani planned an
Antiquarium - a Museum - on the first floor of the amphitheatre, but the
works started only in 1883. By now, the model was considerably ruined,
because its detachable sections had been "heaped up like firewood",
46
therefore it had to undergo restoration. In the end, in 1895 it was placed
in the Colosseum, where it still is, and "inaugurated".
In Germany the reproductions of Carl May, who copied Chichi's models
in Kassel, and of his sons Georg and Maximilian were very popular.
They made a model in 1:60 scale, finished in 1853, that is now in
Aschaffenburg. The model preserved in Altenburg is attributed to the
Roman shop of Luigi Carotti.
The Amphitheatre
The amphitheatre is a Roman invention, but ... What is an amphitheatre?
IMO nobody has explained it better than Bill Thayers in his page on the
subject:
Now before we start, repeat after me: an amphitheatre and a theatre are
different types of buildings.
Amphi-theatres are "theatres in the round": amphi- means "around" in
Greek.
A theatre is a space with a stage, and the audience is on one side of it.
People need to hear, so a theatre is relatively small.
An amphitheatre is for action: it's a sports arena, where the spectators
sit around the field. They need to see, but they don't really need to hear,
so an amphitheatre can be much larger.
The picture on the right shows a Roman theatre and an amphitheatre,
still preserved. The city is Arles, in southern France
As explained in the games page, the first record of a gladiatorial fight
dates back to 264 BC, when the sons of Brutus Pera offered such a
spectacle in the Forum Boarium in Rome (an area on the left bank of the
Tiber used as a cattlemarket) to honour the memory of their father.
Again in 216 the Forum hosted a combat of 22 pairs of gladiators; in 183
sixty pairs of gladiators fought at the funerals of Publius Licinius
Crassus; in 174 a show lasted for three days. For a long time in Rome,
for lack of a proper amphitheatre, the shows were organized in the
Forum or in the Circus Maximus.
In the Forum stalls and awnings were prepared for the spectators. In 384
BC censor Gaius Maenius had wooden balconies built on top of the
shops around the Forum, and since then the word "maenianum"
indicated the stalls of an amphitheatre (this according to the
grammatician Sextus Pompeius Festus, as reported by AA.VV. Il
Colosseo, Electa).
The oldest amphitheatres have been built in Campania; some (at Capua,
Literno and Cuma) can be dated at the end of the II century BC; some
others (Avella, Pozzuoli, Telese) at the middle of the first century BC.
In Rome the law prohibited the building of structures for shows.
Pompeius in 55 BC managed to build a theatre only by justifying it as an
47
extension of the Temple of Venus, thus overcoming the ban.
Pliny the Elder reports that in 53 or 52 BC C. Scribonius Curio gave
games and shows in Rome, and for the occasion he invented an original
machine. It was composed of two theatres which could rotate and form
one arena. In the morning the public sat in the theatres, then the
semicircles were rotated to close the space, so that in the afternoon the
people could enjoy the gladiatorial games. Pliny also deplores the fact
that the Romans after the first day did not budge from the seats, even
while they were being rotated, so that the arena was a less dangerous
place than the stalls:
Provisional buildings were built in Rome for the games, nevertheless the
habit of organizing them in public spaces continued.
In the meantime the word amphitheatre started to indicate the thing that
was previously called spectacula, or in Greek Theatron kynegeticon
(hunting theatre). The first mention belongs to Vitruvius (De
Architectura, I,7,1). When giving directions for the layout of a city, he
says that "If there be neither amphitheatre nor gymnasium, the temple of
Hercules should be near the circus."
The first stone amphitheatre of Rome
is that of Statilius
Taurus, built in 29 BC somewhere in the Campus Martis, its precise
location being a matter of fierce debate. It seems that wooden structures
continued to be popular; in 27 AD in Fidene, just outside Rome, one of
these collapsed killing 20.000 spectators (Suetonius), or killing and
wounding 50.000 (Tacitus).
Taurus' amphitheatre, though still in use for a long time, had become
inadequate for the splendid shows of the imperial capital. It seems that
Caligula hosted the shows in the Saepta, a big public space, and then
Nero in 57 AD actually had a wooden one built - it only took one year for his shows. It was magnificent: the awning was blue, and it used the
longest wooden beam ever seen in Rome: 120 ft. long and 2 ft wide. The
descriptions of it mention gems, gold, ivory. The wall around the arena
had ivory rollers on top, that stopped the wild animals from jumping
over, and for more protection a golden net was cast all around, with big
pointed tusks leaning inwards. It seems that this theatre disappeared in
the most famous of the roman fires: the one of 64 AD.
How many spectators were there in the
amphitheatre?
48
Gladiators were organized in ludi (schools), directed by a lanista – a
word of Etruscan origin – who had the power of life and death over his
men. In Rome the imperial ludi (that could maintain up to 2.000 men)
were the only authorized schools: there were: the Ludus Matutinus,
where the hunters were trained, the Ludus Gallicus, the Ludus Dacicus
and the Ludus Magnus. The latter has recently been excavated (1937)
and its arena can be seen close to the Colosseum; some scholars think
that it was linked to it by an underground passage.
The ludi had the same basic layout all over the empire: gladiators were
lodged in small cells around the yard where they trained; the schools,
which were spread all around the empire provinces, could accommodate
from 100 to 1000 gladiators.
Private schools of gladiators were common, too, in the other provinces
of the empire, and all were submitted to the authority of a procurator, an
imperial official who controlled an entire area like Gallia (modern France)
or Asia (Turkey). The schools were essentially prisons, where discipline
was extremely strict.
In the year 73 BC, about 70 gladiators of the Capua school, led by
Spartacus, escaped, set up a revolt of slaves and created an army of
90.000. They kept in check the Roman state for three years before the
revolt was suffocated. The organization of the schools was thereupon
set to avoid such accidents. Beside every school there was a garrison of
soldiers, who delivered the real weapons to the gladiators in the
morning and took them away at night. Soldiers would intervene in any
case of disorder. The schools were considered so safe that they could
be located inside the cities. Inmates could not escape, and could only
hope to save their lives by fighting so brilliantly in the arena as to attract
the attention of some powerful person who could reverse their fortune
by freeing them. This remote chance of being liberated was the myth
that allowed gladiators to suffer their destiny.
Abdoooooooooooooooooool
2005
‫هذه اسئله عامة‬
Part-1:Architecture
49
1-Where can I find a page with all the figures?
2-Who was the architect of the Colosseum?
3-How big is the Colosseum?
4-How high is the Colosseum?
5-How many cubic metres of stones did they use?
6-How deep are the foundations of the Colosseum?
7-How many spectators were there in the
amphitheatre?
8-How many people visit the Colosseum every year?
9-Why are there all those holes on the stones?
10-Was the floor of the arena made of wood?
11-Are there underground passages from the
Colosseum?
12-Is there un underground storey of travertine arches
beneath the ground floor?
13-Did they use a particular building technique?
14-What materials did they use to build the
amphitheatre?
50
15-Is it true that the underground line twists around
the Colosseum?
16-What is left of the splendid marble of the
Colosseum?
17-How old are the marble remains?
18-How were the drains made?
19-How long did they take to build it?
20-How many times has it been restored?
21-How can I make a model?
==============================================================================
Part-2:History
1-Where the name Colosseum comes from?
2-What was there before?
3-Who had the Colosseum built?
4-Were Christians ever put to death in the Colosseum?
5-When was the last gladiatorial game?
6-Is it true that in the middle ages the Colosseum was a
den of wild animals?
7-Is it true that a family occupied the Colosseum and
transformed it into a fortress?
8-Was the Colosseum a temple to the Sun God ?
51
9-Who started to take away the stones?
10-Who stopped the removal of the materials?
11-Has the flora of the Colosseum ever been studied?
12-When did they start to restore the Colosseum?
=======================================================================
Part-3:Games
1-Did the public receive gifts?
2-Is it true that the public was sheltered from the
sun?
3-What kind of games were held in the
amphitheatre?
4-Who were the gladiators?
5-Who paid for the games?
6-On what days did they hold the games?
7-Why is Julius Caesar mentioned here?
8-Did gladiators do it for the money?
9-Were there different kinds of gladiators?
10-Is it true that the wild beasts were lifted up to
the arena by elevators?
11-Did they stage hunts in the amphitheatre?
52
12-Where did gladiators learn their fighting
techniques?
------------------------ -----------------------------------------=-=
‫بعض الحلول لالسئله‬
Where the name Colosseum comes from?
T heater : the name Colosseum dates back to the XI
century, and it is origin is uncertain. The most popular
version is that the name comes from a colossal statue of
Nero, called indeed Colossus Neronis, that at first was in
the Domus Aurea. The statue was one of the most visible
(and arrogant) features of Nero's residence: a 36 meter
(120 ft) bronze statue of Nero placed just outside the
entrance. This monstrosity was built in imitation of the
Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the
Ancient World. The Colossus was later dedicated by
Vespasian to the Sun God - after replacing its face - and
then affixed with the heads of several emperors, until
Hadrian moved it near the amphitheatre. The transfer of
the statue in itself seems to have been an admirable feat.
53
Discussion among the experts is still open, though,
because some have argued that 1) there is no substantial
evidence of the presence of the statue near the
amphitheatre; 2) the name Colosseum appears only from
the XI century, when the statue had long disappeared.
Another theory maintains that the name might have come
from the Collis Iseum, a nearby hill where a temple
dedicated to Isis once stood. And according to another
curious theory, it might even be the corruption of
Colis eum? ("do you worship him?"), a question that was
part of a satanic rite. Legend has it that, up to the late
Renaissance age, the Colosseum used to be a chosen
site for performing pagan and black magic rituals at nighttime.
This self-explanatory image is taken from C.F. Giuliani
"L’edilizia nell’antichità"
To build the amphitheatre the original site was deeply
transformed. First of all, some enormous drains were built
in order to ensure an adequate drainage towards the
Circus Maximus (a part of these drains was lost when the
underground line was built).
After the area was completely drained, the excavation
started, and it lasted until it reached the clay bed of the
lake. In the firm clay bed an elliptical ring was excavated,
31 metres wide, 6 metres deep, with a perimeter of 530
metres. This enormous excavation was filled up with
Roman cement:, mixed with coarse crushed stones.
Layers and layers of mortar and stones were laid, and the
concrete was compacted by hammering. It seems that on
the SW side the clay bed wasn't as firm as on other sides,
and this could be the reason why that side collapsed first.
Then the foundation was raised for a further 6 metres, so
that the thickness of this enormous doughnut is over 12
54
metres. All around the foundations a reinforcement brick
wall was built, 3 metres wide and 6 metres deep, and a
similar wall was built inside. On the internal side of the
brick wall were arranged 32 cells, that are visible all
around the underground of the arena. The drillings
recently carried out have shown that, contrary to what
Ingegner Cozzo thought (and it is still widely believed)
there is no underground storey of travertine arches
beneath the ground floor. The only foundation is this
formidable ring of cement, and the only underground
arches at the bottom of the arena are the ones on the
main axis.
All the surrounding buildings were demolished (probably
also including many buildings of the Domus Aurea) and
with these materials and earth, the valley was filled up to
the level we see today. It is believed that the only thing
surviving from the former arrangement was the meta
sudans (the sweating post), an ancient fountain that was
placed at a crossroad where the borders of four traditional
boroughs of the city met.
The drillings have demonstrated that the top of the
foundation reaches up just beneath the ground floor. The
foundation can be also seen from the so-called Passage
of Commodus, a fifth tunnel decorated with stuccoes
which was excavated after the Colosseum was completed.
This passage has never been explored completely, and is
believed to connect the amphitheatre and some imperial
palace on the side of the Celian Hill.
In the foundations and in the external wall – along the axis
- there are the four underground tunnels and – below them
– four big drains (1.3 by 3.8 metres). These passages
were made during the building of the foundations, by
casting the concrete around a wooden boxing. Some
remains of the boxing, which were made of non-seasoned
oak timber, have been dated back - quite obviously - to
55
about the year 70 AD. More large underground rooms,
necessary for the services and the preparation of the
shows, were made along the main axis.
Underground tunnels connected the amphitheatre to the
surrounding buildings: the NE passage, under the Porta
Libitinensis, reached the Ludus Magnus, and it was
interrupted by a modern drain in the 19th century; the one
on the opposite led to the Temple of Venus, where the
scenarios of the shows were prepared, and it was –
probably – sliced by the works for the underground railway
in the 19th century. Quite surprisingly, it seems that the
other passages haven't been explored yet.
The cubicles built all around the bottom of the arena were,
according to many, used to keep the wild beasts during
the shows. Cozzo actually thought that the beasts were
restricted to the narrow underground corridor along the
sides of the bottom of the arena, so that they were obliged
to reach their respective cages by a system of gates.
Moreover, with the animals confined along the sides, the
central corridors could be free for transit.
Small differences in some details of the construction have
convinced the archaeologists that the building of each
quadrant of the Colosseum was entrusted to four different
contractors, who worked side by side sharing the four
main entrances. The name of the architect, like that of
many others of the antiquity, is not known. The money
necessary to finance the building came most probably
from the booty of the Palestinian war and the plundering of
the Temple of Jerusalem. This was widely accepted
before as commonsense, but now the theory is
corroborated by a recent study on a marble inscription. On
the stone, "underneath" the inscription, there are still the
holes used to lodge the metal letters of a precedent
inscription, that was later erased.
56
Scholars have debated at length if forced labour had been
employed to build the amphitheatre. In fact, slave labour
was widely used then, however the concept that only
slaves were employed has been rejected, since the quality
of the construction is evidence of a skilled work force.
Once completed, the foundation base was covered by a
travertine floor, 90 cm thick in average. On this stone floor
were marked the reference points for the main pillars, and
the base blocks of the pillars were anchored to the floor by
a pivot and melted metal.
The system of having a first basic structure built up to the
second floor allowed the builders to carry out the rest of
the works above and below the cavea at the same time,
leaving only some vaults open for the lifting up of the
materials. The space between the pillars was filled by tufa
opus quadratum on the ground floor, and by cement
aggregate with a brick facing for the second floor. The tufa
structures and the bricks ones which constitute – together
with the pillars - the radial walls of the amphitheatre are
indeed independent from the pillars themselves and from
the big vaults, and it is thought that they were built after
the pillars. In general, the different materials used
(travertine, tufa, brickwork and cement) were utilized by
exploiting to the full their respective qualities of lightness,
resistance and ease of installation. The combination of
different materials has also improved the resilience of the
whole structure.
There are many outstanding structural elements in the
Roman Colosseum: the formal elegance, the solidity of the
construction, the organization of the spaces.
In my opinion one of the most astonishing feats is the
building technique, i.e. the system of making first the main
arches in travertine, so that the rest of the construction
could be carried out at the same time above and below
57
this first structure.
Amazingly, it took less than 10 years to build it! Ingegner
Giuseppe Cozzo, one of the most important scholars to
study the Colosseum, wrote (the translation is mine): "This
building procedure, both simple and evident, allowed to
terminate very rapidly the construction of the big cavea
and to cover the second floor of ambulacros; at the same
time it allowed for the coexistence of two vast building
yards on the same site; a first one, below, completely
covered, sheltered from the rain, and a second upper one,
above the cavea, in order to build the upper part of the
amphitheatre. Below, under coverage, all the walls
between the travertine pillars, the rampant bridging of the
stairs, the vaults of the ground floor ambulacros, the
plastering and the stuccoes could be completed; above,
work could be carried out on the walls of the remaining
two floors of the amphitheatre, the podium, the seats, and
the wooden upper portico".
Q-Who had the Colosseum built?
The Amphitheatrum Flavium, a.k.a. Colosseum or
Coliseum (though in the antiquity Romans referred to it as
to Amphitheatrum Caesareum or hunting theater), was
built by the Flavian emperors in the first century AD as a
gift to the Roman citizens, in the place where the previous
Emperor Nero (37-68 AD) had built his residence, the
Domus Aurea.
The city needed an amphitheatre, as the only one with a
(partially) stone structure had been built by Statilius
Taurus in 29 BC and it was too small.
The emperor Caligula (12-41 AD) had started the works
for a new amphitheatre, but Claudius (10-54 AD) stopped
them when he came to power. Nero, too, refused to use
the old Statilius' facility and preferred to have his own
58
amphitheatre built in the Campus Martis. It was a beautiful
one, according to the historians, but it was destroyed,
probably in the famous fire of AD 64.
Nero's death in 68 marked the end of the Julio-Claudian
dinasty; the Flavian family came to power. The emperor
Vespasian was acknowledged as emperor by the Senate
in 69, and wanted to make a political gesture to reconcile
the Roman citizens with the new masters. So he gave
back to the Romans most of the land that Nero had
occupied in the centre of the city, and the Colosseum was
built in the place where before was an artificial lake, in the
park of Nero's residence.
It took about ten years to build the amphitheatre.
Vespasian started the works in 72 AD and his son Titus
(see him smiling in the statue on the right) dedicated it in
the year 80 with magnificent games that lasted one
hundred days. It is generally accepted that the building
was completed by the following emperor, Domitian, Titus'
brother.
In the amphitheatre, a Roman invention, were held
games; the most popular were the venationes (hunts) and
the munera (gladiatorial games). The Roman ruling class
was obliged, by law and by the expectation of the people,
to organize games, also to gain the favour of the citizens.
The organization of the games, which involved great
expenses, became a matter of public interest and was
regulated by many laws.
The whole area was dedicated to the games; near the
Colosseum Domitian also built four ludi, the prisons where
gladiators had their training. The bestiarii, who fought
against the beasts, were in the Ludus matutinus, so called
because the show with the animals was held in the
morning. Then there was the Ludus Gallicus, the Ludus
Dacicus and the Ludus Magnus.
The Colosseum remained in service for four and a half
59
centuries; there is evidence of many changes, additions
and repairs. Once, in 217, the upper floors went on fire
because of a thunderbolt, and for five years the shows
were held at the circus. There also were many
earthquakes (in 442 and 470, 847). The last gladiatorial
combat is recorded in 404, and the last hunt in 523.
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. Nobody could bear
anymore the colossal expenses needed to organize the
shows, and this made the function of the building
obsolete. Perhaps some venatio was held until the end of
the VII century (Gentili), but in the VIII-IX centuries the
amphitheatre was completely abandoned.
During the middle ages houses and churches were built in
the Colosseum, that was also used as a fortress/residence
by the barons of Rome. Its destruction was hastened
during the renaissance and later by its use as a source of
building materials, until restoration started again in the
eighteenth century, and has never stoppe.
==================================
=====
Q-Is it true that in the middle ages the
Colosseum was a den of wild animals?
plants and trees, and there are even stories about wild
animals – wolves – frequenting the site. The ground level
had slowly risen over the centuries, thus submerging a
good half of the ground floor arches.
In the 11th century Rome fell into the hands of baronial
families who were at constant war. They used to live in tall
towers for safety reasons (a few of these towers are still
standing as a reminder of the quarrelsome Middle Ages).
60
One of the strongest families, the Frangipane, occupied
the whole area around the Colosseum, which was
transformed into a fortress.
In 1144 the Roman people banned the baronial families
from the city, in an effort to free Rome from the influence
of the Pope and of the nobility and to establish a Senate
like the one of the ancient Romans. The Colosseum was
then occupied and declared property of the free
municipality of Rome. In 1159, though, the Frangipane
reoccupied the building.
In 1216 the Annibaldi family challenged the Frangipane for
the possession of the fortress, and the struggle lasted to
about the end of the century, with the Annibaldi taking
over the Colosseum, but being obliged to return it to the
Church in 1312. It is uncertain if the monument was still
practically intact in the XII-XIII century. There is mention of
a bullfight, organized in 1332, in which 18 youths of the
Roman nobility are said to have lost their lives, but the
truth of the story is dubious (Delehaye, entry: Colosseum,
in Catholic Encyclopedia).
In 1231 part of the SW wall collapsed during a very violent
earthquake, but the great destruction took place in 1349,
with more external arches crumbling. This fact is reported
in a letter of the poet Francesco Petrarca. In the XIV
century the families of the Orsini and Colonna were
granted permission to remove stones and marble.
In 1439 some stones were used to build the tribune in the
church of St. John's Lateran. It was then that the removal
of marble, stones and bricks really started, and it lasted for
generations. Many palaces and churches were built with
the stones of the Colosseum. It is reported (Lugli) that, in
the year 1451-1452 alone, 2.522 cartloads were taken
from the site to be used for buildings of the Vatican and for
the walls of Rome.
61
The property was then subdivided, and sections of the
amphitheatre were donated to religious orders. The order
of the Olivetani even built a wall connecting their slice of
Colosseum to the nearby convent of Santa Maria Nova.
During the illiterate Middle Ages, all recollection of the
games had gone lost, and people started to imagine that
the building had been a temple dedicated to the Sun God,
or to the devil. In this period the guides for the pilgrims
visiting Rome generally described the Colosseum as a
round temple, dedicated to different gods, that once had
been covered by a dome made of bronze - or maybe
copper. It was in this period that many legends started to
circulate about the massive round building, saying that it
was a palace of Titus and Vespasian, a temple of demons,
a seat of occultism ... and more.
In 1381 a section of the Colosseum was donated to the
religious group called Confraternita del Santissimo
Salvatore ad sancta Sanctorum, also called del
Gonfalone, which in 1490 was granted permission to hold
Passion plays in the amphitheatre. By now, the function of
the amphitheatre had been rediscovered by the
humanists, and had become commonplace to believe that
it had been the place of martyrdom for many early
Christians. Thousands of people crowded the ruins of the
Colosseum to participate. The Passion plays of the
Gonfalone were held until 1539, when they were banned
because they aroused hatred of the jews and were the
source of many incidents and riots.
In this period the property of the monument was split
between the Confraternity, the Roman Senate and the
Camera Apostolica. The Confraternity started to use the
stones of the Colosseum in the sections that had already
fallen down, and though in the XV century the Popes
started to repair some old Roman ruins, the removal of
materials lasted for centuries.
62
There is evidence that in 1439 the stones were used to
repair the tribuna of the Basilica of St. John Lateran; that
in 1452 alone 2.522 cartloads were taken away by a
Giovanni Foglia from Como, and that ten years later the
travertines were used for the building of the Scala Santa
and for the square and the Loggia of the Blessings in St.
Peter’s .
By now permission to carry away the stones was easily
granted by the Popes (under payment, of course), who
also took advantage of tapping such a vast and cheap
source of building materials for their projects, while on the
other hand their edicts officially promoted the preservation
of the ancient monuments.
In the XV century the materials were used to mend
the city walls, to build the Church of San Marco,
Palazzo Venezia;
in the XVI to build Palazzo della Cancelleria, Palazzo
Farnese, the Palazzi Senatorio and dei Conservatori
on Capitol Hill, and in 1574 for the restoration of the
Pons Emilius (a bridge that lasted only 23 years,
being destroyed again in the terrible 1598 flood;
since then it is called Ponte Rotto, or broken bridge);
in the XVII century Palazzo Barberini (and many
others).
Some Popes (Sixtus V and Clemens X) planned to reclaim
the building: Sixtus wanted to use the amphitheatre as a
milling factory, with the machines on the ground floor and
the houses of the workers on the top floors. More projects
were made by Clemens, but nothing was ever concluded
because of the lack of funds.
In the XVII century the monument had again become a
den of derelicts and criminals. After long years of
63
abandon, in 1700 Pope Clemens XI had the arches
closed, a cross placed in the arena and the site used as a
manure deposit for the manufacture of saltpetre, destined
to a nearby gunpowder factory. In 1703 three arches of
the second SW ring fell down because of an earthquake
and Clemens found a way to use the travertine for the
building of the new monumental port on the river (porto di
Ripetta).
In 1749, after more decades of decay, Pope Benedetto
XIV declared the monument a public church,consecrated
to the memory of the Passion of Christ and His Martyrs; so
at least the removal of the stones was stopped. The
stations of the via crucis were placed all around the arena
and a new cross was planted in the middle. The Pope also
founded a religious Arciconfraternita dedicated to Jesus
and Mary, which started holding holy processions in the
amphitheatre.
=========================================
In 1805 the first excavations started, carried out by
architects Camporese, Palazzi and Stern, with the help of
Carlo Lucangeli, an artist of wood modelling, who needed
an exact survey of the monument for his reproduction.
Were excavated the niches around the podium, parts of
the podium, the entrance of the so-called passage of
Commodus, part of the drain that runs around the
amphitheatre and part of the canalization system of the
ground floor. The porticoes were liberated from the earth,
and so were the third corridor and other rooms.
=====================================
In 1808 Rome was occupied by the French army, and
the following year Napoleon declared the end of the
64
temporal power of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope
was arrested and remained prisoner in France until 1814.
According to a French project, the Colosseum was to
become part of a huge archaeological park including the
whole centre of Rome.
===========================================
In 1809 and 1810 the works restarted, also with the
help of forced labour. In 1811 the area at the north of the
monument and the northern side of the arena were
partially excavated by Carlo Fea, but in the arena the
works had to stop at a depth of 3 metres because of water
infiltrations. From 1811 to 1813 repairs were made, and
the arches were liberated from the walls that had closed
them.
==================================
In 1814 the authority of the Pope was restablished; the
temporary administrations contracted out to Luigi Maria
Valadier, the son of the more famous Giuseppe, a survey
of the undergrounds, before the arena was again covered
in 1814.Then it was deemed necessary to reinforce the
remains of the outer ring: in the 1820s, under Pius VII an
abutment (buttress) of bricks was built to support the
arches of the NW side (Stern abutment, Celian hill); later
on, Leo XII had the other, more photographed abutment,
built by the architect Valadier. In 1828 Antonio Nibby
managed to empty all the surface drains, and in 1830 Luis
Joseph Duc made a the first complete survey of the
monument with modern means. From the 1840s on, more
arches were restored and rebuilt on the side of the Celian
Hill, by Salvi and other architects (these arches are easily
recognized as they are made of bricks).
Left: the Pius VII abutment
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In 1870 Rome became the capital of the new Italian
state, but the works to finally free the arena restarted only
in 1874. This time a half of the arena was at last liberated
from debris and the excavations reached the bottom,
where it was found a type of paving made from brick,
known as opus spicatum. In these excavations the
findings from the debris dated back to the end of the V and
the beginning of the VI century.
More restoration works were carried out by the Italian
State in 1901-2, but the arena had remained half full for
many years, until in 1938-40 the excavations made by
Luigi Cozzo arrived at the very bottom, bringing to light the
underground structures of the arena.
Cozzo also demolished all the underground structures that
had been added to the original construction during the
millennia, and rebuilt parts of the underground structures
on the western side and a small part of the cavea – with
the seats.
Constant small repairs have been made since WW2, and
a major restoration of some arches on the NW side was
started in 1978. In 1981 the Roman universities focused
on the study of the ancient monuments of the city. In 1992
a private bank financed restoration works, that lasted until
2000, with only a section restored, its cleanliness
dramatically contrasting with the rest of the monument.
The future works include the rebuilding of the arena, in
wood, also to protect the exposed underground structures
from the weather. The eastern half of the new arena was
completed in 2000, and before covering the other half
studies are being carried out on the effect of the new
cover on the underground microclimate. In 1997 a very
important survey was carried out, measuring the
Colosseum with laser and infrared techniques. This
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research has given us some insight on the deformation of
the structures and a very precise map of the amphitheatre,
and rekindled an old controversy between the
archaeologists: is the Colosseum elliptic or ovoidal?
Q-What kind of games were held in the
amphitheatre?
Romans could have free spectacles; it was a right of the
citizens to join banquets offered by the rich and famous,
and to enjoy shows in the circus or the amphitheatre. The
games were offered by the emperor and the nobility to get
social consensus. Panem et circenses were given to the
public so as to distract their attention from more important
matters. The yearly schedule and the organization of the
ludi, the games in honors of the gods, were at first
regulated by law, since the games had started as religious
rites. Later on, when prominent citizens took over the
expense of the "production", the sacred character of the
games was almost forgotten.
The most popular games were the ludi circenses, or
chariot races, which took place in the circus, and the
naumachiae, naval battles reproduced within special
facilities. The Ludi Gladiatori in the amphitheatre were less
frequent, but immensely popular, too. They were generally
associated with a venatio, which was a staged hunt of wild
animals (a show that sometimes entailed the execution of
condemned criminals). In the amphitheatre were also
staged the silvae, in which animals populated a scenery of
woods and forests, and dramas, that reproduced famous
mythological tales.
Q-Did gladiators do it for the money?
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Gladiators were generally slaves, criminals condemned to
death or prisoners of war, who in the Roman world had no
right whatsoever, and whose life was considered
expendable. The war prisoners who were considered fit
were reserved for the ludi, and if we think that the majority
of the prisoners was enslaved or quickly sent to death,
such fate was not the worst. The supply of gladiators didn’t
meet the demand, so the custom was adopted to send
fugitive slaves to the schools. Since the slave was
absolute property of his master, there were many
instances in which he could be condemned ad ludum (to
the fight). In this case the condemned man received a
training in the ludus like all the other gladiators. He fought
on an equal basis, and in any case after three years he did
not have to enter the arena. This situation was different
from that of the condemned to die in the arena without any
hope of surviving, like the ones condemned ad bestias or
those ad gladium ludi damnati, who were thrown in, sword
in hand, to kill another captive completely unarmed, only
to be disarmed after the killing and meet another
condemned, and so on until only the last criminal
remained.
In some cases, particularly cruel emperors could send
people to die on a whim: we know that Claudius ordered
an officer to go down in the arena, dressed as he was (in a
toga), and that Caligula threw all the inmates of a prison
as food to the beasts, just because there was a shortage
of meat.
There was also a minority of free men who – starting from
the first century AD – took fighting in the arena as a
profession. For the average Roman, though, the
spontaneous submission of a free man to the lanista was
considered to be one of the most despicable actions a
citizen could do. He renounced his state of freedom and
became – for the period of the enrolment – a slave, and
was accordingly ranked in the legal category of the
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inflames, or pariahs. In republican times such a selfdepreciation was inconceivable, but later the attitude
changed, when even emperors like Nero walked the
stages to obtain stardom. Caligula acted both as a
charioteer and gladiator, and Commodus showed himself
many times in the arena. Regardless of the social scorn,
free men took the gladiatorial career because of a taste for
danger or love of the arms, or just because they were
financially ruined and needed the enrolment bonus.
This bonus could sometimes solve financial problems, but
in general the reason for a spontaneous enrolment was
the hope of recovering one’s fortunes by means of a lucky
career. The law ruled that free men could enrol only after a
formal declaration in front of the tribunus plebes, but this
rule – whose purpose was to guarantee free men against
their own impulsive decisions, became later on a simple
formality.
Gladiators started their career by submitting (or by being
sold) to the lanista. The lanista, who in the Roman world
was officially considered one the vilest professions (even
lower than pimps, actors and butchers), had the right of
life and death over them, since gladiators had to take an
oath of complete submission in order to be accepted into
the school. The gladiator swore to "endure the whip, the
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2005
RIYADH
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