Events of the Colosseum
When Vespasian became the Emperor of Rome in 69 CE he promised to make a difference. He did not want to live the rich life that Nero, a previous Emperor, had. Vespasian tore down Nero’s Golden House and turned the land into a public park. He also tore down Nero’s giant gold statue called the Colossus. With the money from the statue’s gold, Vespasian built an amphitheater. He called it the Colosseum after the statue. But what exactly was it, and what went on there? The Roman Colosseum was a huge amphitheatre built between 69 and 79 CE (Mann).
The events that took place there were gladiatorial combats, wild beast hunts, vaudeville acts, and many types of theatrical entertainment. Among these, the gladiatorial combats and wild beast hunts made up most of the program. Originally, gladiatorial fights began as public funerals to show the amount of wealth a person possessed. By 104 BCE, crowds had become so large; they could only be accommodated by state affairs (Dutemple). When Rome’s republic became imperial, the emperors sought to please the people, and they did this by rewarding the plebeians, Roman common people, with entertainment.
Events of the Colosseum Essay Example
Although the original purpose of the Colosseum was entertainment, it was transformed into a medieval fortress in the sixth century CE after being damaged by an earthquake. The Roman Colosseum is situated in Rome, Italy, between the Esquiline and Palatine Hills (The-colosseum. net). Its construction was planned by Nero, who was the ruler of Rome in the beginning of the first century CE. The structure was originally intended as a larger complex, but the idea was never fulfilled and Nero died before its opening. After three more rulers and many years of anarchy, Vespasian, in 69 CE, became the authority in Rome.
He supervised the construction of the Colosseum, and his successor, Titus, finally dedicated the Colosseum in 80 CE (Time-Life Books). Vespasian founded a new dynasty called the Flavian Dynasty, which is where the Colosseum’s proper name, the Flavian Amphitheatre, originated. The term Colosseum is derived from a “colossal” 120-foot-high statue of Nero, which once stood near the amphitheatre (Crystalinks. com). It has since been demolished. Not only was the statue colossal, but the amphitheatre itself was quite a sight. Of all the amphitheatres in the
Roman Empire, the Colosseum was by far the largest, having a capacity of fifty-thousand spectators. It spanned an area of 620-feet long by 510-feet wide and was 160-feet high, with four stories (Mann). The exterior walls were of a creamy colored calcium carbonate material called travertine, the inner walls of siliceous rock deposits called tufa, and the vaulting of the ramped seating area made from monolithic concrete (Crystalinks. com). Its roof was of canvas, and could be raised and lowered as needed by specially trained, skilled Roman sailors.
Underneath the main arena, there were passageways and cells for the “performing” animals and prisoners. Although the original purpose of the Colosseum was entertainment, it was transformed into a medieval fortress in the sixth century CE after being damaged by an earthquake. In the eighteenth century its restoration was begun by several popes including Benedict XIV and is preserved as a historical monument to this day (Crystalinks. com). A typical day in the Colosseum began with a succession of bloodless duels often comic or fantastic, but others were extremely gruesome.
The Romans were obsessed with blood and gore. They enjoyed watching one man kill another man, or watching one man kill many innocent animals. What the Romans called entertainment back then is what we call murder today. All types of people witnessed the bloody spectacle, and forms of “entertainment” in the Colosseum. Among the Colosseum’s spectators were dignitaries, their guests and their slaves, common people, and foreigners, people who did not hold Roman citizenship (Time-Life Books). As far as the seating was concerned, this was not the typical amphitheatre.
The Colosseum had something like a seating chart. Where one sat depended on his/her social standing, and men and women were seated separately. The best seats, directly in front, were saved for senators and “visiting dignitaries. ” The next fourteen rows were reserved for the next highest class. The Colosseum was divided into four main “zones. ” These zones contained “magnificent ringside boxes. ” The Pontifex Maximus (the emperor) and his charges, the Vestal Virgins, were among the people who sat in these boxes. The first zone was reserved for distinguished private citizens.
The second zone was intended for the middle class while the third zone was reserved for slaves and foreigners. Finally, the fourth zone was occupied by women and the poor, who sat on wooden seats beneath a separate flat-roofed colonnade (Dutemple). During the era in which the Colosseum was used, the Romans established and organized many types of games and other forms of entertainment. However, it seemed as if the Romans were obsessed with bloody battles and death. The most popular form of entertainment was the gladiatorial combat, which was usually fought to the death.
Other forms of entertainment that did not involve blood and death were vaudeville, or circus acts, chariot racing, and various types of theatrical entertainment like mime and plays of tragedy and comedy (Mann). Despite the blood and gore of the events that took place in the Colosseum, something positive did become of it — the Roman people, poor and rich came together and had fun and, at times, were at peace. In 80 CE, Titus inaugurated the opening of the Colosseum with one-hundred consecutive days of gladiatorial contests, a sport adopted from the Etruscans.
At the beginning of the second century CE, a spectacle was held in which 4,941 pairs of gladiators fought (Mann). Gladiatorial combat was the most bloody yet entertaining event that occurred in the Colosseum. Gladiatorial vents were not annual like horse racing and theatre, just on given occasions. Gladiatorial combat was surprisingly deeper than it appeared. This combat was sometimes used for religious purposes. A duel was fought to the death by a chief’s tomb, whose spirit required the sacrifice of blood. The Romans considered the duel as a memory of death of great leaders.
Duels between gladiators became a business to invest in. Before any gladiator could fight in front of an audience, in the Colosseum, they had to attend a gladiatorial school (Times). The most renowned gladiatorial training schools were south of Rome in Capua. Lanista was the word for gladiatorial school. Going to the Lanista was similar to a punishment. Criminals were sent to gladiatorial schools instead of being exiled. Magistrates (government officials) that purchased them promised that they would be dead within a year, or criminals would be forced into the arena in groups to be butchered by gladiators.
Slaves were sometimes sent to the school if they weren’t of any use. Slaves could sometimes win freedom if they fought a good duel; however, the crowd was the judge of that (Crystalinks. com). There were many types of gladiators that fought in the Colosseum. They were divided into four main classes. The first class were the Samnite (otherwise known as Galli), heavily armed men who had a sword or lance, a shield, a helmet, and protective coverings on their right arm and left leg. The second were the Thracian, who were lighter, quicker men and carried a short sword and a buckler which was a small round shield worn on the arm.
The third were the Myrmillos, known as fishermen, who carried a fish-shaped crest. The fourth were the Retiarius or “net men” who carried a net and didn’t have any protection of the face, head, chest, or legs (Times). Some gladiators had more of an advantage over another group of gladiators. Duels were sometimes arranged in which a heavily armed gladiator fought another gladiator that would be almost weaponless. These gladiatorial combats were varied to avoid monotony. Ceremonies began with the arrival of gladiators in chariots dressed in purple, gold-embroidered cloaks.
Then the gladiators gathered around the emperor’s box and yelled out, “Ave imperato morituri te salutant! ” which meant, “Hail emperor, men soon to die salute thee! ” (Times). The gladiators then fought. Very rarely did duels not ended in death. Those that didn’t would be considered a draw. At the end of the day, only half of the gladiators remained. At the end of the gladiatorial show, lists were prepared of the gladiators who had taken part. Augustus Caesar began the spectacle where criminals were paired against animals, without weapons for protection.
It was a vast expense for the Roman government to import animals from every corner of the known world. Tigers from India, leopards from Asia Minor, lions, elephants and other creatures from Africa, and wild bulls from Northern Europe were some of the creatures shipped in for slaying (Crystalinks. com). According to the spectators, the more exotic the animal, the better they considered the fight to be. From this statement alone, it is safe to say that ancient Romans were fascinated, if not obsessed, with slaughter.
The term used for a fight between a man and a beast was venatio, which was the event that was most favored by the spectators of the Colosseum (Dutemple). Often criminals or slaves were condemned to face a starved wild beast. Lions were starved for three days prior to the event. If the beast was lucky enough to kill its prey and survive, its fate would still be to die by being put in the arena with the bestarii, a man specially trained to kill wild beasts. This led to the depletion of many “exotic” animals. Just as the audience was impressed with exotic animals, they were also entertained by different types of combat.
It was not uncommon for the arena to be flooded so that naval battles could be held (Crystalinks. com). Even more interesting was the introduction of freak fights. These fights were rare and only took place occasionally. Other surprising combinations were paired together based on the impulse of the current emperor. Apparently, it took some imagination to put on a show for the ancient Romans. The Romans were very methodical in their process of handling the wounded and dead in the Colosseum. During a battle, if one opponent became injured, he would drop his shield and raise the index finger of his left hand.
It was then up to the spectators to decide his fate. If he had displayed bravery and fought well, the crowd might wave handkerchiefs and give him a thumbs down, meaning that he deserved to be spared. However, they could also give him a thumbs up, meaning death (Mann). It was extremely rare for a gladiator’s life to be spared because the spectators almost never had mercy on their victims. After the gladiator appeared to be dead, officials dressed as Charon, the ferryman who ferried the dead across the river Acheron in the underworld, checked to make sure that he was actually completely dead.
They assured this by hitting him over the head with a mallet or burning him with a hot iron, so if he had not passed away, he would very soon. He was then dragged out of the arena to the playing of trumpets (Dutemple). An attendant would then add clean sand to the arena floor in order to absorb the blood. In fact, the Latin meaning of the word arena is “sand” (Times). All the dead-man or animal-were dragged out of the Libitinarian Gate. It was named for Libitina, the goddess of death, corpse, and funerals. It has been established that the Colosseum was an amphitheatre built in the irst century CE for the people of ancient Rome.
The most prominent of all of the events that took place in the Colosseum was the skillful, organized spectacle of slaughter by the thousands. Today the Colosseum has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment, which was abolished in Italy in 1948. Several anti¬death penalty demonstrations took place in front of the Colosseum in 2000. On July 7, 2007, the Colosseum was voted as one of New Open World Corporation’s New Seven Wonders of the World.