Villa Morgagni Hotel Rome · The Coliseum

The Coliseum, or Colosseum, originally called the Amphitheatrum Flavium, is surley the largest and undoubtably the most famous ancient monument in Rome. Measuring 189 meters long and 156 meters wide with a height of 47 meters this three storied arcade is surrmounted with a fourth story pierced with window like openings.

The Roman emperor Vespasian, who ruled Rome from ad 69 to 79, began construction of the city's Colosseum on the site of the stagnum or artificial lake of Nero's Domus Aurea, almost as if he wished to restore to the Roman people what Nero had stolen from them when he expanded his enormous dwelling, construction continued by his son, the Roman emperor Titus, who deicated it in A.D. 80 and was completed by Vespasian's younger son, Domitian, who succeeded Titus as emperor in 81.

It is not absolutely certain that Christians suffered martyrdom in this amphitheatre for we know that the chapels which at one time stood in the unexcavated arena were stations of the Via Crucis and were not built until the eighteenth century.

Each of the three arcaded stories originally had 80 arches. A broad pavement of travertine, a whitish calcium carbonate frequently used as building stone, bordered by travertine posts, once surrounded the entire Colosseum, which was entered through the arches of the lowest arcade. The outer wall and the skeleton of the interior up to the second story were constructed of large blocks of travertine bonded with metal. Elsewhere, softer stones, concrete, and bricks were used.

The withstanding columns have openings framed with impressive Tuscan, Ionic, and Corinthian enablements. Corinthian pillars and enablements are also used to decorate the fourth story as well. The spaces between the arches were once filled with statues and the spaces between the enormous windows contained shields of metal. Sockets were cut into a row of consoles which ran along the top of the windows for masts which supported awnings for sun protection. The seating capacity of the Colosseum is believed by modern scholars to have been about 50,000.

Modifications and restorations necessitated by fires and earthquakes were made to the Colosseum until the early 6th century. In succeeding centuries the Colosseum suffered from neglect, earthquakes, and damage done by builders. Still, slightly more than one-third of the outer arcades, comprising a number of the arches on the north side, remain standing. The inner skeleton, which supported the cavea or seating space, is also substantially intact. All marble, stucco, and metal decorations, however, are gone but its true history still remains.

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