10 facts about the Colosseum
Rome’s most popular monument was built between 72-80 A.D. The Colosseum is still the largest amphitheater in the world, and stands as an iconic symbol of Rome and the great Roman architecture. The Colosseum was constructed as a gift to the Roman Citizens from the Flavian Dynasty to increase their popularity, to stage various forms of entertainment, and to showcase Roman engineering techniques to the world.
1 – The real name of the colosseum is the “Flavian amphitheater”, named after the Flavian family line of Roman Emperors. It got the name Colosseum because of a statue that was located alongside the amphitheater called ‘the colossus of Nero’. In fact, the Roman Colosseum is always capitalized and spelled differently then the generic Coliseum.
2 – About 60,000 Jewish slaves built the Colosseum in 9 years! Even today, construction of a stadium that size would be difficult to build in only 9 years. Colosseum is an elliptical building measuring 189 meters long and 156 meters wide with a base area of 24,000 m² with a height of more than 48 meter. More than 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone were used for the outer wall of Colosseum which was set without mortar held together by 300 tons of iron clamps.
3 – About 50,000 people could enter it and it would only take about 20 minutes for everybody to find their seat, due to 84 gates. The Romans had the earliest form of a Sky dome. If it rained they stretched a red canvas over the entire Colosseum!
4 – 400,000 people lost their life and over a million wild animals were slaughtered festival and games could last up to a 100 days. During the inaugural games of the Colosseum in 80 CE held by Titus, some 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered. In 107 CE, Emperor Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators within 123 days. The last gladiatorial fights occurred in 435 CE and the last animal hunts stopped in 523 CE. It was primarily due to the cost of procuring animals and gladiators and maintaining the expensive facility.
5 – The ancient Romans sometimes fled the Colosseum. The wooden floor of the Colosseum was removed and the lower cells beneath would be filled with water for mock naval battles to take place. This kind of entertainment wasn’t quite as popular as the gladiator battles, so eventually it moved elsewhere and the wooden floor became permanent.
6 – Entrance was free and food was given during the shows. The famous saying was “free bread and circus to the people of Rome”. During the middle age era a number of fruit trees grew up in the Colosseum and nobody understood why… It seems that people were either spitting out there seeds or throwing in their fruit. In fact, The Colosseum was a popular destination for botanists. As catalog began to be compiled of the the flora in 1643 and over 337 different species have taken root among the ruins.
7 – Many natural disasters devastated the structure of the Colosseum, but it was the earthquakes of 847 AD and 1231 AD that caused most of the damage you see today as all of the southern side of the Colosseum collapsed that time and was restored later on.
8 – In the early medieval era it was no longer used for entertainment purposes. Eventually the Colosseum was used for workshops, housing, a quarry, a fortress and even as a Christian shrine. The marble facade and some parts of the Colosseum were used in the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the Spanish Steps.
9 – Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Elton John have all performed concerts at the Colloseum.
10 – The Colosseum has become a symbol against capital punishment. The death penalty was abolished in Italy in 1948. Today, any time anyone in the world has their sentence of death commuted, the lights in the night time illumination of the Colosseum change from white to gold. This color change also occurs whenever a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty.