Souvenirs from Rome, Italy
Viewed as one of the greatest achievements of Roman Empire and a masterpiece of ancient engineering, the Colosseum (or Coliseum) is an amphitheatre of elliptical shape located in the heart of Rome, close to the Roman Forum. The name of the building comes from a colossal statue of Emperor Nero, later changed to resemble Apollo, the God of Sun, which was placed close to the Monument and was believed to have supra -natural powers. The Colosseum was built during the Flavian dynasty in the 1st century AD and its ruins still preserve an ancient splendor of utter magnificence; visitors can now admire this iconic landmark of the Eternal City and keep a resin fridge souvenir as a reminder.
Colosseum, a Roman Empire Masterpiece
The Colosseum was probably the most spectacular entertainment venue of the Ancient world: with an impressive capacity of 50,000 people, the Monument was a famous place for gladiator fights, public shows and games, animal hunts, executions and even plays of famous mythological scenes. The construction of the monument started in 70 AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian and it was officially opened in 80 AD with 100 days of game during which 9,000 animals were killed. It is believed that Vespasian used the treasures confiscated by the Romans after defeating the Great Jewish Revolt. Later on, Domitian amended the original design by adding a new gallery and several tunnels for keeping animals and slaves (the so-called hypogeum). During the Middle Ages, the Colosseum was shortly re-opened to house religious ceremonies.
The Arena of Gladiator Fights and Entertainment
Throughout centuries, the construction has been affected by fire, earthquakes and stone dismantle; still it holds a symbolic place for the Catholic Church and the Pope includes the location in his Way of the Cross ceremony. The Colosseum was last used for gladiator fights in the 6th century and for hundreds of years these brutal shows aimed to win popular support by offering free entertainment for both the rich and the poor of Rome. The gladiator fights were scheduled tirelessly one after another; when needed a layer of sand was used to cover the blood so the show would go one. In the Middle Ages, the Monument was transformed into a cemetery and even a private Castle for the Frangipani family. In the 18th century, Pope Benedict XIV baptized the building and honored the memory of all Christians killed in the Colosseum.
Restoring a Roman Symbol
The design of the Colosseum was an architectural revolution: unlike its Greek predecessors, the Monument was built as a free standing complex whose walls used cubic stones held together by iron clamps. Between the 14th and 19th century some parts of the Colosseum housed a religious order; the interior parts of the building have been damaged through the years as large amounts of wall stones were used for other constructions. Unpopular projects included Pope Sixtus V’s 16th century initiative to turn the Monument into a wool factory where Roman prostitutes could work and in 1671, the Colosseum even served as a short term bullfighting venue. Today only the Northern part of the outside wall is still standing to display the original design. It was the Catholic Church initiative to restore the Monument during the 19th century and in the 1930s Mussolini inaugurated its freshly repaired arena. A massive preservation project was initiated in 1993 to diminish the effects of pollution on the Colosseum. The monument is also used symbolically in the campaign against capital punishment: its lights turn golden whenever a death sentence is abolished around the world.