Below are a dozen interesting insights on the Coliseum of Rome
Although the typical Coliseum of Rome combatants were trained gladiators, convicted criminals and prisoners of war, occasionally glory-seeking individuals volunteered to fight. Often they overrated their skills and suffered the consequences.
At least one emperor ordered his guards to toss unsuspecting spectators into the arena, for various reasons. The victim may have previously angered the emperor. Or, the victim may have been a complete stranger but the emperor disliked the way he was behaving in the Coliseum of Rome. Sometimes the emperor's motive was simply to amuse himself by randomly selecting a spectator to meet his death in the arena.
Commodus was the only emperor to fight in the Coliseum of Rome, which he did many times. He killed but was never killed. His matches were rigged by selecting opponents who were under-armed, poorly skilled or physically impaired from previous fights). He is the person portrayed as the malicious emperor in the Academy Award winning movie, Gladiator.
Spectators were seated in the Coliseum of Rome by rank, social class and gender. The emperor had his own "court side" box. Senators were allocated choice ringside seats. The rich & well-connected had the next best seats. Male commoners (the largest audience segment) sat behind them. Woman were relegated to the upmost tier – except for those trying to survive in the arena.
A gladiator was a valuable asset to his owner. Understandably, the owner tried to keep his gladiators alive as long as possible because training a replacement was an expensive endeavor. The owner was usually reluctant to enter a gladiator in combat unless the chances of him surviving were high (even if he lost the fight). The Coliseum of Rome event organizers recognized that they had to keep the death rate down if they were to have enough gladiators show up (but not too low lest the spectators stayed home).
Gladiators were specialized in the Coliseum of Rome.
A Coliseum of Rome gladiator could be matched against an opponent within or outside his category.
If a gladiator earned a reputation for fighting well and bravely in the Coliseum of Rome, the roaring crowd would implore the emperor that he be liberated. If the request was granted, the gladiator was handed a wooden sword, signifying that he was a free man and would never have to fight again.
The managers of the Coliseum of Rome imported animals to fight from as far away as Africa and India. The wild beasts included fierce lions, tigers, leopards, elephants, hippos and rhinos.
The animals were kept in cages and cells directly underneath the wooden floor where the combats occurred. Because the wooden floor no longer exists, the network of underground rooms and corridors is now visible to Coliseum of Rome visitors.
To add excitement to the spectacles, trap doors were strategically hidden locations in the wooden floor. Suddenly, one would spring open, releasing a charging lion or other savage animal, ready to attack anyone who happened to be in the Coliseum of Rome arena. The crowds loved this gimmick.
The Ancient Wonders of the World list was composed in the 3rd century BC, roughly 200 years before the Coliseum of Rome was built. Had it then existed, the Coliseum of Rome would probably have made the list.
The link below takes you to my Seven Wonders of the Ancient World web page. It includes pictures and descriptions plus my analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the ancient list.
During the days of the Roman Empire, the Coliseum of Rome was called the Flavian Amphitheatre (after the emperor dynasty that built it). Eventually, people nicknamed it the Coliseum, which derives from a Roman word for gigantic. Language sleuths are not sure whether the Romans were referring to the immense scale of the Coliseum of Rome or to the fact that it stood near the colossus ("tall statue") of Nero.
The Romans built numerous other amphitheaters around their far-flung empire – and the one in Nimes, France is in better physical shape than the Coliseum of Rome. What makes the latter superlative is its unrivaled size and historical background.
The renowned 19th century English poet Lord Byron penned this prophecy regarding the Coliseum in his "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" composition:
While stands the Coliseum,
Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum,
Rome shall fall;
And when Rome falls
- the World.
The Coliseum of Rome could shelter spectators and participants with an immense awning on drizzling and sizzling sunny summer days.
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