Petit Futé's opinion on COLOSSEO (COLISEUM)
The Flavian amphitheatre was completed in 80's. It hosted the Rome Games, with gladiatorial battles in particular.
The Colosseum is to Rome what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the symbol of the city, but it is also the largest amphitheatre of antiquity. It was the site of the greatest gladiatorial battles of the Roman era, then served as a residence, before being stripped of its materials, transformed into a place of Christian worship, abandoned, until finally undergoing very slow rehabilitation.
The Golden Age of the Colosseum. The Flavian amphitheatre, named after the dynasty of the emperors who erected it, was the most ambitious project of our era. It was the Emperor Vespasian (69 - 79 AD) who decided on its construction in 72 AD, completed in 80 AD, under the reign of Emperor Titus (39 - 81 AD), his son. Its objective was to provide the city with an amphitheatre worthy of the reputation of the Rome Games, which were held on the Champs de Mars in a temporary building since the great fire. Nearly 100 consecutive days were devoted to its inauguration, resulting in the deaths of dozens of gladiators and nearly 9,000 animals! It was Domitian (81 - 96 AD) who later completed the underground structures and designed the gladiator's barracks (Ludi) on the eastern slope of the valley. But damage was caused, notably by a major fire in 217 AD and earthquakes. It was therefore modified several times until the 6th century. Gladiators' fights, condemned by Christian emperors, were suspended by Honorius and abolished by Valentinian in 438 AD. The last venation took place in the year 523, the beginning of the slow degradation of the Colosseum.
Abandonment and reuse. Initially, the ground floor rooms were transformed into houses, then in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Colosseum was incorporated into the fortress of the Frangipane family. In 1345, an earthquake caused part of the arena to fall, resulting in numerous looting of building materials. The stone blocks were then torn off, the columns dismantled, the bricks recovered, the iron and lead crampons (more than 300 tons) removed, which held the travertine blocks or marble panels welded, which explains the many holes on the brick and stone walls. Many Roman monuments were built with material from the Colosseum, such as St. Peter's Basilica, the Palace of the Cancelleria, St. Mark's Church, to name but a few. Roman humanists of the 15th century claimed its protection, but it was not until 1753 that Pope Benedict XIV, who found it sad to see the monument disappear, banned the exploitation of the Colosseum on the pretext that many Christians had died as martyrs (which is false in practice because persecutions were organised at the Circus Maximus, the great stadium for tank races). But in any case, this has made it possible to preserve the amphitheatre and to organize the Way of the Cross every Good Friday, in the presence of the Pope. Marble coverings and bolster blocks were stolen, as well as everything that could be reused to build elsewhere, especially after earthquakes that destroyed part of Rome in the 14th century. In the same century, a religious order was established there. The building had become imposing, even too imposing, even destroyed in part, in a city that was becoming more attractive in the 17th and 18th centuries. Thus, Pope Clement XI (1649-1721) transformed it into a place of martyrdom for the first Christians. A Way of the Cross was built there.
The restoration. During the Napoleonic campaign of Italy, the Emperor of the French, as a great lover of ancient history, ordered, as in all his travels, that archaeological excavations be carried out there. Only in the 19th century, further excavations were undertaken to uncover the underground structures of the arena, but also major restoration work to restore the "Colossus" to its original state, up to the last, which received considerable media coverage in 2016 thanks to the generous sponsorship (25 million euros) of the Tod's group. The titanic works have made it possible to restore the ambulances, the underground, the north and south facades and bring the entire building up to standard.
Architectural aspect. The Coliseum is 188 m long and 156 m wide, covering an area of 3,357 square metres. The height of its walls rises to 48 m. The central arena measures 86 m by 54 m and is surrounded by a 4.5 m high enclosure. It is of course in travertine, the stone of Rome, that the building was built, mixed with bricks. Three levels of 80 arcades form the exterior façade, framed by semi-columns with Tuscan capitals on the first floor, Ionian on the second and Corinthian on the third. The upper arches housed monumental statues. The interior surface is called cavea, and the underground passages now discovered were covered with a wooden floor that formed the arena in the centre of the rows of tiers. Outside, a very modern system of nearly 80 numbered doors allowed the 73,000 spectators to quickly access the four levels in their place, according to their condition. As was customary in ancient times, on Egyptian or Roman buildings, flagpoles increased the height of the building. At the top, Domitian had a canvas (velarium) made of strips of fabric placed, which a team of 100 sailors pulled to protect the spectators from the sun.
Information on COLOSSEO (COLISEUM)
Open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm or 7:15 pm depending on the season. Full price 16 €. Ticket coupled with the Forum and the Palatine.
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