Rome - The Colosseum
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Colosseum, The.— The Flavian amphitheater at Rome, known as-the Colosseum, was begun by the Emperor Vespasian, and was finished by the Emperor Titus, A. D. 80. It covers about five acres of ground, and contained seats for 87,000 persons and standing room for 15,000 more. It was in the form of an oval, the longer diameter being G12 feet and the shorter diameter 515 feet, and the height of the walls from 160 to 180 feet. The arena where the gladiators fought and the deadly conflicts with wild beasts took place was 281 by 178 feet. The exterior consists of three rows of columns, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, and above, a row of Corinthian pilasters. Between the columns there are arches which form open galleries throughout the whole building, and between each alternate pilaster of the upper tier there is a window. There were four tiers or stories of seats, corresponding to the four external stories. The first of these is supposed to have contained twenty-four rows of seats, and the second sixteen. These were separated by a lofty wall from the third story, which is supposed to have contained the populace. Statues, sculptures, figures of chariots, metal shields, and other embellishments adorned the niches and salient points. On the occasion of the dedication of the Colosseum by Titus, 5,000 wild beasts were slain in the arena, the games having lasted for nearly 100 days. There were means by which, when the combats were ended, the immense arena could be filled with water for the exhibition of sea-fights. During the various persecutions of the early Christians many of these were thrown to the wild beasts in this amphitheater. One of the first of these was St. Ignatius, who was torn to pieces by lions. In the sixth century, when Christianity gained the ascendancy, the Church put an end to the use of the Colosseum. It still stood entire in the eighth century, but subsequently large quantities of the marble was used in the construction of public and private buildings. It was consecrated as a monument to the martyrs who had suffered within its walls by Pope Benedict XIV., who erected crosses and oratorios within it, and so put an end to the process of destruction.