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Rise and Fall of Empires



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    Mediterranean Chronology

    Roman Culture: Gladiators


    The Colosseum

    The Colosseum

    The Colosseum is one of Rome's most famous buildings. Initiated by Vespaisian, the official opening ceremonies were conducted by emperor Titus in AD 80. In its prime the huge theater consisted of four floors. The first three had arched entrances, while the fourth floor utilized rectangular doorways. The floors each measured between 10,5-13,9 meters (32-42 feet) in height. The total height of the construction was approximately 48 meters (144 feet). The arena measured 79 x 45 meters (237-135 feet), and consisted of wood and sand. (The word "arena" is derived from the Latin arena, which means "sand.") Nets along the sides protected the audience. The Colosseum had a total spectator capacity of 45,000-55,000. The main pedestals were built of marble blocks weighing 5 metric tons (11,000 pounds.) Initially the huge marble blocks were held together by metal-pins. However, the pins were soon carried off by thieves, and had to be replaced by mortar. The total amount of marble needed for the construction measured approximately 100,000 cubic meters. It was carried by 200 ox-pulled carts, which supplied a sufficient flow of needed materials. It took eight years to complete this magnificent structure.

    Back to Roman Empire Chronology

    Imagine yourself transported to the year AD 80. Titus, Emperor of Rome has just declared today an official holiday, which will be celebrated with glamorous gladiator games here in Rome. Let us hurry to the Colosseum and get a seat, because this is the most popular event of the year. The games will last ten days, and feature animals from all over the Empire There are the gladiators!! First they will warm up with wooden weapons. Then they show their skills in the main event, which is basically a fight for life. The grand prize is to survive to come back and fight another time. All the gladiators use a great variety of weapons, but are specialized in different disciplines of combat. Look at the Net man! He is armed with a fish net with weights in the corners, and a trident which is a three pointed spear. He is trying to capture his opponent, who is armed with a gladius (a short sword) and shield, in the net. If he succeeds he will turn to the crowds for a verdict. Everybody will scream with excitement, and point down with their thumbs. That is the sign for the net man to kill the other gladiator. A quick stab with the trident and it is over for the swordsman. It is not hard to understand why emperor sometimes employ gladiators as bodyguards or assassins. What a spectacular show! I am glad you came along, friend!.

    VALE! (Farewell)


    Colosseum image courtesy of S. Allay <sallay@mit.bme.hu>. Used by permission.


    Adler, P.J. World Civilizations. (St. Paul, MN; West Publishing Company, 1996).

    Bra Bocker encyclopedi.. (Hoganas, Sweden; Bokforlaget Bra Bocker, 1984)

    Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition. (Vol. 7.). (Danbury, CN; Grollier INC., 1988.).

    Honour, H. & Fleming, J. The Visual Arts: A History. (London, England: Calmann & King LTD., 1995).

    Edited by: P. Magnus Hillbo
    Researched by: Goran B. Aronsson
    Written by: Rasmus K. Gerdeman
    December 2, 1996

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