What Was The Colosseum Used for?

The most iconic landmark of Ancient Rome, the Colosseum stands as a testament to this great civilisation, reminding us of their ruthlessly ambitious nature. 

The Colosseum is by far the most recognisable landmark in all of Italy. Located east of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum was built as a testimony to the power of Rome, as well as being a patriotic move on behalf of the Flavian dynasty. They hoped to promote their family line and appeal to the people of Rome by undergoing a large construction project on the city, which included the Colosseum. Today the ruins of a once thriving stadium tower over you as you stroll through the ochre walls. This brilliant landmark illustrates the once flourishing ancient Roman Empire. It is renowned for its violent historic past, hosting a large variety of ancient Roman entertainment.

  • The History of the Colosseum

    The massive stone amphitheatre was commissioned in 72.A.D. by Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian, as a gift to the Roman People. Officially named as the Flavian Amphitheatre, it was later known as the Colosseum, named after a nearby statue called the Colossus of Nero. His statue was later pulled down, but the base can still be found near the site. Commissioned by Vespasian, the Colosseum took 8-9 years to build, being completed by his son and successor Titus.

  • Events at the Colosseum

    The first ever game to be held in the Colosseum was in 80 A.D. and ran for 100 days straight. The games continued to run until the until the 6th century. After four centuries of active use, the arena fell into neglects after the fall of the Roman Empire, being plundered and then excavated over the years, until it began to be preserved in the 18th-19th centuries.

  • The Opening Parade

    The opening parade was the first event held at the Colosseum to begin the games. This involved music, costumes, and carriages of the fighters and important people of Rome. Sacrifices were also included, to honour their religious beliefs and to wish contestants luck in their fights. The procession would tell the crowd what they were to expect from the games, with slaves leading the parade and the wild animals taking up the rear, followed by the ‘Editor’, a political authority who wore a purple toga and a golden wreath. This procession would excite the crowd, building apprehension for the coming events and preparing them for a good show.

  • Animal Hunts

    Exotic, wild animals were taken to the Colosseum for hunting and fighting. A display of the animals was also the first event, describing these unusually beats to the crowd, to create excitement. These animals were often foreign to Rome, brought from far-flung areas of the Empire, adding to the intrigue and excitement whilst also showcasing Rome’s power. Such animals, included panthers, lions, rhinos and giraffe’s, the likes of which had never been seen before by the Roman people. Hunting would follow, with animal hunters (venatores) using swords and arrows to kill the creatures, with even Emperors joining in. Animal fights are done after, involving gladiators fighting these animals one on one, usually involving tigers and leopards, with successful fighters or hunters gaining fame in their own right.

  • Chariot racing

    A popular sport that involved multiple horses drawing a carriage fit for one standing driver. A fierce race ensured around the grounds, with different coloured chariots displaying team colours. The race was notoriously fierce, and dangerous for both the drivers and horses, with a drivers receiving a large number of injuries and sometimes even death. Not dissimilar to the horse racing of the present day, people would usually cheer for their favourite teams and place bets on different chariots hoping their’s would win. Some races required more technical skills from the charioteers, such as one with teams of six or seven horses. Emperor Nero even rode with ten horses once! But this soon came to an end when he was thrown from his chariot.

  • Executions and Tortures

    An execution was a common event at the Colosseum, with a variety of different types. The type of killing was determined by the victim’s crimes, as they were all criminals, such as deserters, traitors, Christians, or runaway slaves. Roman criminals were beheaded for their crimes, as it was the only allowed way to kill a Roman citizen. Salves usually were crucified, sometimes even burnt alive once nailed up. One of the most ‘entertaining’ killings was to be thrown to the beasts, which was started by Emperor Augustus. Another entertaining kill, was making those condemned fight against well-trained gladiators, giving the audience a good show before being killed. This was a way of involving the general public with the justice system, and therefore giving the impression of political involvement.

  • Gladiator fights

    The famous Gladiators of Rome was the last event during the games and involved different stages of fights. Lightly armed, the heavily armed and the gladiator style fights. The event was a brutal display of violence, with dead bodies dragged to the side once they were brutally maimed. Although looked back on as horrifyingly bloody and cruel, the gladiator contests offered a sense of escapism for the people of Rome. Like modern audiences who go to the cinema, or attend football matches, the arena crowd enjoyed escaping their everyday lives, swapping their ordinary lifestyle for one of courage, fear, technical skill and life and death.

  • Theatre

    Theatre was popular throughout the Roman period, with important additions made to classical Greek plays. These additions included more speaking actors and elaborate stage backgrounds made possible by rich sponsors who invested in productions. Performances did not just include Greek tragedies, but other dramas, re-enactments, pantomime and comedy. Pantomimes were particularly popular with the crowd, where the actor performed and danced to simple music. The combination of new music and performance meant the public could enjoy watching and listening to a story, which would have been particularly meaningful to those who could not read in society.

Step back in time as you visit this historic monument. Learning more about the fascinating details and violence that went on at this ancient landmark.

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