Colosseum - Vestiges of the great Roman Empire (29 May)
Interesting Facts about Colosseum
THE COLOSSEUM is one of the world’s most instantly identifiable edifices; a symbol of the Roman Empire at the peak of its power and—some would say—its decadence. The ancient stone amphitheater, commissioned by the Roman emperor Vespasian and built in the first century A.D., is certainly colossal, but that’s not how it got its name. The public auditorium was constructed on the site of Nero’s lavish private palace (the Golden House) in part to efface that emperor’s legacy of excess. But ironically, the Colosseum is thought to have picked up its name from Nero anyway—specifically, from its then proximity to the Colossus of Nero. The setting of the arena is magnificent. It abuts the Forum, where visitors walk the same streets once trod by Caesars and senators. It’s hard to overestimate the influence these ancient sites had on Western culture.
While the Colosseum, officially called the Flavian Amphitheater, is impressive at first sight, one needs to visit to fully appreciate it. The stadium, which seated 50,000, probably feels vaguely familiar. Modern arenas still borrow from the design. The tiers along the perimeter once held rows of seats, and the now exposed cells beneath the partially rebuilt floor held wild animals and gladiators. Both were brought in front of screaming crowds to fight, often to the death.
A Colosseum ticket also provides entrance to the adjacent Forum, the civic, political, and social center of the Roman Empire. The Forum at its prime teemed with lawyers, slaves, and elected leaders. Many would have been heading to the Curia Julia, or Senate house. The brick building was later converted to a church, which is why it still stands today. Nearby is where Julius Caesar was cremated after his assassination.
In the middle of the Forum stands the house of the Vestal Virgins and the Temple of Vesta. Here lived revered priestesses, who were buried alive if they broke their vow of chastity. Their most important duty was tending a sacred fire, which was believed to protect the city. The 75-foot-tall (23 m) Arch of Septimius Severus honors an emperor who ruled during the second and third centuries A.D. Even in ruins, the arch is impressive: It must have had a profound effect on conquered foes who were hauled back from the battlefield to be paraded down these streets after another Roman legion victory.