Dark Secrets Of The Colosseum

By Jack Clark 10 months ago

1. Dark Secrets Of The Colosseum

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The Colosseum was truly a magnificent feat of engineering, innovation and skill. It has stood the test of time and has been around for nearly 2,000 years. However, the Colosseum has some truly dark secrets about it, and learning about its true purpose will send shivers down your spine. Discover the dark secrets of the Colosseum and learn all about its history!

2. It Wasn't Originally Called The Colosseum

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A lesser-known fact about the Colosseum is that it originally had a different name. It was constructed during the reigns of Emperor Vespasian, Titus and Domitian over the course of around 8 years. It stands as a symbol of ancient Rome's greatness, but it is rooted in the Flavian dynasty's pursuit of power. Whilst the Colosseum is a sight to behold, it is good to be reminded of the political and imperial ambition behind it.

3. It Was Constructed Between 72 And 80 AD

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The Colosseum was constructed over the course of 8 years, between the years of 72 and 80 AD. It truly is an impressive feat of engineering for its time, and experts still marvel today at how they managed to build such a structure in such a short period of time. However, the construction was fueled by the spoils of war along with slave labor, many of whom were enslaved during the Jewish War.

4. It Was Used For Gladiatorial Contests

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The Colosseum has been used for many different events and spectacles since its construction nearly 2,000 years ago. However, its primary use was for gladiatorial contests. The arena witnessed the clash of gladiators, often slaves or prisoners, fighting for their lives. Games were held until 438 AD when they were officially abolished, though criminals still had to fight wild animals for another 100 years.

5. It Could Hold 80,000 Spectators

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Yep, you read that right. 80,000 spectators could call pile into the Colosseum to watch the brutal contents below. It rivals the capacity of football stadiums in America, and they were all built within the last century. However, it's hard to ignore the dark side of the Colosseum - 80,000 people got to witness life and death situations all the time, and it essentially became the norm for hundreds of years.

6. The Velarium Was An Engineering Marvel

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Another impressive engineering feat of the Colosseum was the 'Velarium" - a massive retractable awning that could be used to shield its spectators from the hot Italian sun. Along with it being a great design, it served a practical, albeit sinister purpose. Providing a shelter from the sun essentially encouraged the Roman crowds to stay at the Colosseum longer, spending more money and witnessing more contests.

7. It Had Underground Tunnels

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Believe it or not, the Colosseum actually had a network of underground tunnels (an amazing engineering achievement) that served a couple of different purposes. The network of tunnels allowed the organizers to keep the gladiators, wild animals and props out of sight of the crowd until they made their entrance to the arena floor. Imagine being in one of these tunnels knowing you could be about to die!

8. The Contests Didn't Always End In Death

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On a lighter note, it's important to know that not every single gladiator contest actually ended with someones head being removed from their body. Some contests were fought until blood was drawn, or until a gladiator yielded. This allowed valuable gladiators to remain in training and mitigated the risk of the most popular gladiators all being killed.

9. Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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We've all seen the movies where the sadistic Roman Emperor cues the potential death of a gladiator with a thumb gesture. However, the thumbs-up and thumbs-down gestures given by the Emperor in the Colosseum are likely a Hollywood invention. Historical evidence actually suggests that the Roman Emperors would have signalled their disapproval with a closed fist.

10. It Hosted Naval Battles

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This sounds like another Hollywood invention, but these naval battles, known as 'Naumachiae', took place in the Colosseum. It involved flooding the arena to recreate sea warfare, and large ships engaged each other in combat right in the heart of the Colosseum. This really showcased their engineering prowess along with their lust for grandiose and bloody entertainment.

11. The Trapdoors Were Real

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The Colosseum boasted a sophisticated system of elevators and trap doors that were used to introduce gladiators, animals and props into the arena. The Romans really put these to good use - the allowed for surprise attacks and reveals, adding to the drama of the events. These elevators and trap doors really proves the mastery the Romans had over architecture and engineering.

12. The Last Gladiatorial Games Took Place In 438 AD

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The Roman Empire lasted for over 1,000 years, but the bigger something is the harder it falls. All empires eventually come to an end, and it was no exception for the Romans. As their empire began to decline, so did their customs. The last recorded gladiatorial games occurred in 438 AD, and it was then used for other non-violent events, such as speeches and political gatherings.

13. After The Roman Empire Fell It Wasn't Used

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The Roman Empire officially ceased to exist around 476 AD, and by that point the Colosseum wasn't used for violent games. The political and cultural landscape aggressively shifted in favor of a non-violent Colosseum. In fact, it wasn't used at all for a good long while, though eventually it found its place hosting non-violent events, and even became a fortress during the medieval period.

14. It Was Used As A Fortress

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The Colosseum is absolutely massive. If you're ever lucky enough to visit Rome, take a walk around the Colosseum and take in the true size of it. Unsurprisingly, the Colosseum was repurposed as a fortress during the medieval period, offering protection to the locals in times of war. Housing was also built inside the Colosseum's wall, redefining its historically bloody purpose.

15. The Marble Seats Were Removed

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Back in its heyday, the Colosseum was donned with marble seats for the spectators. Marble! What a luxury. A marble kitchen top will set you back 1,000 bucks nowadays. The people of Rome were way ahead of us - they scavenged the marble and used it as a building material for new homes and buildings across the city. The grandeur of the Colosseum slowly fell into ruin over the years.

16. The Pope Wanted To Turn It Into A Factory

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During the 16th century, the then Pope Sixtus V actually thought about turning the once-violent amphitheater into a wool factory. Gladiator battles to wool production - not quite the evolution you'd expect. However, the plans never came to fruition, and the Colosseum remained standing as a symbol of the Roman Empires glorious but violent past.

17. It Had An Earthquake In 1349

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The Colosseum, once revered as the epitome of engineering and grandeur, suffered immensely at the hands of Mother Nature. In 1349, a large earthquake rattled Rome, causing a lot of death and damage. It also did a substantial amount of damage to the Colosseum, crumbling parts of the outer wall and damaging the integrity of the structure - damage that can still be seen today.

18. It Used To Have A Massive Bronze Statue

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This thing was big. It was called the 'Colossus of Nero', and this statue gave the Colosseum its name. It was meant to be a symbol of Nero's ambition and power, and the bronze figure looked out over the Roman landscape, dwarfing neighbouring structures. The statue is now lost, either destroyed in the sack of Rome or tumbled in an Earthquake, but you can still see its foundations today.

19. The Cross Of Christ Appeared

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Legend states that after Emperor Constantine was victorious as the 'Battle of Milvian Bridge' in 312 AD, the cross of Christ was discovered in the Colosseum's arena. According to historians, this event inspired Constantine to convert to Christianity and led to his future support to the faith. This miraculous event marked a significant shift in Roman culture and religion.

20. Christian Martyrs Might Have Been Executed Here

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Historians don't know this to be 100% true, though it is strongly believed that many Christians were executed within the Colosseum's walls. Early Christianity was condemned in Ancient Rome for a long while, and Christians faced a lot of persecution, and some appeared to choose death over renouncing their faith. Many believe the Colosseum to be a symbol of Christian martyrdom.

21. The Pope Made It A Sacred Site In 1749

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Recognizing the significance of the Colosseum's vast Christian history, in 1749, Pope Benedict XIV transformed the Colosseum into a sacred, hallowed site. This transformed the once-bloody amphitheater into a hallowed ground, and acted as a place of remembrance for the Christian martyrs who sacrificed their lives for their faith.

22. Part Of It Collapsed

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The Colosseum hasn't had much luck over the years when it comes to deterioration. In 2011, part of the ancient walls collapsed due to heavy rain fall. However, the Colosseum is subject to continuous preservation efforts and experts are trying to protect the structure from further deterioration. The Colosseum brings in a lot of tourism to Rome, so the structure is in good hands.

23. It Has Been On A Number Of Coins

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Interestingly, the Colosseum has actually appeared on the face of a number of different coins. In fact, it featured a lot on several Roman coins throughout their Empire - they were paying homage to the impressive innovation that went into building the Colosseum, and what it stood for. You can view these coins in several museums across the world, and it is an interesting thing to view.

24. It Has Inspired The Design Of Stadiums

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Beyond its historical significance, the Colosseum's architectural brilliance has had a huge influence on architects who design modern stadiums. The concept of tiered seating and the elliptical shape was invented and perfected by the Romans, and has been used for the majority of major stadiums across America and Europe. Even thought it is 2,000 years old, it still inspires building design today.

25. People Still Call It 'Amphitheatrum Flavium'

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Its most popular name is the 'Colosseum', and it is known as this globally. However, its original latin name 'Amphitheatrum Flavium' is still occasionally used by the locals. As we know, the name stems from its relation to the Flavian dynasty, forever connection it to the emperors who commissioned its construction and the ancient Roman world it represented.

26. Mussolini Used It For Open-Air Opera Performances

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Benito Mussolini was Italy's fascist leader during the 1930s, and had ties to Adolf Hitler and the axis force of World War 2. During the 1930's, Mussolini sought to harness the Colosseum's iconic status for power and political gain, and he organized grand performances in the amphitheater to evoke nationalistic pride. Luckily, facism no longer exists within our government (aside from extreme and fringe groups).

27. It Is A World Heritage Site

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Back in 1980, UNESCO added the Colosseum to its list of World Heritage sites. This prestigious award has ensured that the Colosseum is protected and preserved for future generations to visit. The Colosseum's inclusion on this list is a testament to the sites historical and cultural importance, along with its amazing engineering and architecture.

28. Stone Robbers Have Tried To Ruin It

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With all the great things and people in the world, you can expect bad people to crop up every now and then. The Colosseum has endured and withstood numerous damaging events, some natural and some man made. Stone robbers have unfortunately wreaked havoc on the Colosseum, ruining the architecture and structural integrity of the building.

29. We Didn't Know About The Underground Part Until 19th Century

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Up until the 19th century, we didn't understand the extent to which the Colosseum's underground network of tunnels went, and how intricate they were. Extensive excavations in the 19th century begun revealing just how impressive the underground structure was, and we were finally able to understand how the events at the Colosseum could have taken place.

30. It Still Faces Challenges

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Air pollution and erosion continue to pose threats to the Colosseum. The atmosphere and smog in modern-day Rome have unfortunately taken their toll on the stone and structure of the Colosseum, and it has gradually deteriorated over the years. Preservation efforts are ongoing, and they're trying to keep the Colosseum standing for as long as possible.