What Happened in the Colosseum?

Visited by more than 4 million people every year, the Colosseum is among the most popular tourist attractions in Rome. Its construction began in 72 AD and was completed in 80 A.D. This monumental part of the Roman Empire is, to date, still one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering in the world. The founder of the Flavian Dynasty, Emperor Vespasian, decided to build it as a gift to the Roman people. It was named the Flavian Amphitheater pertaining to this Dynasty. Vespasian’s son, Titus, opened the Colosseum with its elliptical structure measuring a massive 188 meters long, 156 meters wide and 48 meters tall. Sadly, two-thirds of the original Colosseum was destroyed over time due to a combination of natural disasters, weather, vandalism and neglect.

When first built, the Colosseum was the largest available venue, capable of holding about 70,000 spectators. The front row seats were occupied by those of higher social status, and men were seated separately from women. Entry was free for all Roman citizens. So, what exactly went on inside this historical amphitheater? In fact, the Colosseum had a number of purposes during its lifetime, and here are just a few of them.

When first opened, Titus declared a 100 day celebration of games that included gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights. Around 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered during this event alone. The gladiatorial shows or battles were a demonstration of both power and prestige and were very popular with the crowd. Another crowd pleaser was the animal hunts. A large number of wild beasts like bears, hippos, tigers, leopards, crocodiles and rhinoceros were imported from the Middle East and Africa. Animal hunts were generally massive and often involved up to 11,000 animals with 10,000 gladiators for a period of over 123 days. That is entertainment! Sea battles were even said to be simulated in the arena. How is this even possible? Well, they literally flooded the Colosseum with water to re-enact the famous sea battle between the Greeks and Corinthians and show off the animals, mainly horses and bulls, that were specially trained to swim. The arena was sometimes used for executions as well, where the person sentenced to death was left in the arena with the ferocious beasts…

Thankfully, not all the events that took place in the Colosseum were based on violence, fighting and killing. Recreational fun for the whole family included exhibiting exotic animals doing some tricks or the simulation of natural scenes. Architects, painters and technicians would work together to make a replica of a forest with real bushes and trees that they planted on the arena floor. Animals were then paraded through. For the urban setting of Ancient Rome, this scenic display was enjoyed by all.

Summarizing all the events that took place amongst the walls of this magnificent piece of Roman history is not an easy task. The wonders of its architecture are immeasurable and rather unbelievable. The Colosseum became a real symbol of Ancient Rome, its culture, and lifestyle. Of course, it continues and will continue to be a major attraction for tourists around the world.

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