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The Colosseum

Free «The Colosseum» Essay Sample

Architecture played a central role in the Roman period of ancient art. Romanian monuments are still conquering the imagination of tourists with their beauty and perfection. The Roman architects started a new era in world architecture in which a leading position is occupied by public buildings, which were designed for a huge number of people, and embodied the idea of the Romanian world. In this case, the Colosseum (Appendix 1) was a symbol of Roman power that was represented in a monolithic construction, the purpose of which was not only to entertain and to unite people from different social classes, but also to show a real political power of the Roman Empire.

There were about 250 amphitheaters in the Roman Empire, so the appearance of the Colosseum was nothing new for the Romans (Hopkins 2012); however, its scope was qualitatively distinguished among the other designs. It was also a result of the unrestrained extravagance of the Roman emperor Vespasian (69-79 years), who decided to strengthen his position with construction of the amphitheater, resulting from the repression of the uprising of the Jews (Hopkins 2012). The construction started in 72 AD, and was completed by Emperor Titus in 80 AD (Keith, and Beard 2). The gladiator fights accompanied the grand opening of the Colosseum. The Roman historian Suetonius wrote: “At the consecration of the amphitheater and hastily built nearby baths he [Titus] showed gladiatorial battle splendidly rich and lush” (“The Colosseum” 2015). Hence, the Colosseum was a political symbol of the Roman authorities.

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The Colosseum was associated with restoring the former glory of Rome, which was lost after the civil war as well as Nero’s death (Edmondson, Mason, and Rives 145). The emperor also expected to begin minting new coins with the image of new buildings: the Temple of Light, Sanctuary of Claudius, and the Colosseum. The building of the Colosseum had certain political goals, the most important of which was to show that Rome was still a center of the ancient world. Therefore, it was a cultural manifestation of Roman social values, which also presented its policy on the international arena. One of these features was courage and the willingness to die for Roman ideas. Accordingly, Beard states that gladiator fights perfectly embodied this principle since they concerned the courage, bravery, and loyalty to ideals (108). They died for the emperor who symbolized Rome. Thus, hundreds of casualties and deaths were brought for to display the power of the empire. Moreover, the Colosseum was a place where various public events were organized. Typically, they glorified the Roman emperors, power, and greatness of the Roman army (Edmondson, Mason, and Rives 146).

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In the ancient Rome, in order to earn the respect of ordinary people, the ruling class had to organize mass spectacles. The Colosseum was the best place for this purpose. Hence, the gladiatorial combats (munera), hunting animals (venationes), and sea battles were often arranged in the walls of the amphitheater (Edmondson, Mason, and Rives 152). The organization of the latter was one of the most difficult goals for engineers, because they had to create an effective system for water arena. Furthermore, there also was a complex system of directions for individual citizens, gladiators, and animals. Thus, since the 1st century BC, the free citizens of Rome (auctorati) could become gladiators voluntarily to fight in the arena of the Colosseum as professionals. Gladiator swore “to endure branding, chains, flogging or death by the sword” (Hopkins 2012). These terrible punishments were designed to prevent any sign of disobedience and instilled belief that overcoming any test is the only means of survival. In the last period of the Roman Empire existence, about half of all the gladiators consisted of the free citizens of Rome.

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The Colosseum reflected traditions and norms of new political structure in Rome. For example, the emperor occupied a central place in the Colosseum. He had the best place in the amphitheater, and was surrounded by guards and most respectable Romans (Byrnes 1045). The main principle of placing the audience was grounded on the social status of individuals. Only free citizens could visit the Colosseum. It also was created with certain political purpose, because in this way the Roman power showed its openness and support of the people. For the Romans, a visit to the Colosseum was not only a way of recreation and entertainment, but also a chance to conclude a social contract (Keith, and Beard 102). Roman society was divided into classes, and the amphitheater was a place where the public could meet with the emperor, and even refer to him. Not only in the amphitheater, but also in the circus and theater, certain places were provided for every category of citizens. People with from high social class could sit closer to the arena. At the same time, women occupied the lowest rank in the Roman society, and, therefore, they sat away from the arena (Hopkins 2012). Alcohol was forbidden in the stands, so writer Lampridius criticized the emperor Commodus, when he sometimes drank alcohol (Hopkins 2012). Such expensive events required not only high material costs, but also the special rules and governing laws. Thus, Roman emperors created the Ministry of games, which also dealt with these issues.

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The Colosseum was different from other Roman buildings, particularly in the political and aesthetical context. The architecture of the Colosseum was typical Roman banker’s arcade. It had many entrances, evenly spaced around the perimeter of the building, allowing the public to quickly fill and leave the arena. This technology is still used in the construction of stadiums. Flavian amphitheater is an ellipse in the plan the center of which is occupied with arena (also of elliptical shape) and concentric rings of seats that surround it (Edmondson, Mason, and Rives 152). The seats for spectators were located around the arena in the form of four tiers.

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