Tuesday, June 10, 2008

History of Colosseum

The Colosseum was used to host gladiatorial shows as well as a variety of other events. The shows, called munera, were always given by individuals rather than the state. They had a strong religious element but were also demonstration of power and family prestige, and were immensely popular with the population. Another popular type of show was the animal hunt, or venatio. This utilised a great variety of wild beasts, mainly imported from Africa, and included creatures such as rhinoceros, hippos, elephants, giraffes, lions, panthers, leopards, crocodiles and ostriches. Battles and hunts were often staged amid elaborate sets with movable trees and buildings. Such events were occasionally on a huge scale; Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia in 107 with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days.

During the early days of the Colosseum, ancient writers recorded that the building was used for naumachiae (more properly known as navalia proelia) or simulated sea battles. Accounts of the inaugural games held by Titus in AD 80 describe it being filled with water for a display of specially trained swimming horses and bulls. There is also an account of a re-enactment of a famous sea battle between the Corcyrean (Corfiot) Greeks and the Corinthians. This has been the subject of some debate among historians; although providing the water would not have been a problem, it is unclear how the arena could have been waterproofed, nor would there have been enough space in the arena for the warships to move around. It has been suggested that the reports either have the location wrong, or that the Colosseum originally featured a wide floodable channel down its central axis (which would later have been replaced by the hypogeum).

Sylvae or recreations of natural scenes were also held in the arena. Painters, technicians and architects would construct a simulation of a forest with real trees and bushes planted in the arena's floor. Animals would be introduced to populate the scene for the delight of the crowd. Such scenes might be used simply to display a natural environment for the urban population, or could otherwise be used as the backdrop for hunts or dramas depicting episodes from mythology. They were also occasionally used for executions in which the hero of the story — played by a condemned person — was killed in one of various gruesome but mythologically authentic ways, such as being mauled by beasts or burned to death.

The Colosseum today is now a major tourist attraction in Rome with thousands of tourists each year paying to view the interior arena, though entrance for EU citizens is partially subsidised, and under-18 and over-65 EU citizens' entrances are free. There is now a museum dedicated to Eros located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building. Part of the arena floor has been re-floored.

The Colosseum is also the site of Roman Catholic ceremonies in the 20th and 21st centuries. For instance, Pope John Paul II would perform his new form of the Stations of the Cross called the Scriptural Way of the Cross (which calls for more meditation) at the Colloseum on Good Fridays. From:wikipedia.com

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