Rome Reborn

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Rome Reborn

Flavian Amphitheater

Flavian Amphitheater

Known since the middle ages as the “Colosseum” because of the 100-foot-tall statue of the Sun god moved next to it by Hadrian (A.D. 76-138), this amphitheater was built by Vespasian in the valley between the Velia, the Esquiline and the Caelian Hills. The area had been a pond in the private gardens of Nero's Golden House. Vespasian restored it to public use for the popular animal hunts and gladiatorial games. The complex, which could hold ca. 45-50,000 spectators, replaced an earlier amphitheater elsewhere in the city that was destroyed in the great fire of A.D. 64. Despite the protest of Christian thinkers, the gladiatorial fights continued until well into the Christian period, ending in the fifth century A.D. The animal hunts continued a century longer.

Amphitheatrum Flavium

From Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, rev. Thomas Ashby. Oxford: 1929, p. 6-11.

Ordinarily known as the Colosseum, built by Vespasian, in the depression between the Velia, the Esquiline and the Caelian, a site previously occupied by the stagnum of Nero's domus Aurea (Suet. Vesp. 9; Mart. de spect. 2.5; Aur. Vict. Caes. 9.7). Vespasian carried the structure to the top of the second arcade of the outer wall and of the maenianum secundum of the cavea (see below), and dedicated it before his death in 79 A.D. (Chronogr. a. 354, p146). Titus added the third and fourth stories (ib.), and celebrated the dedication of the enlarged building in 80 with magnificent games that lasted one hundred days (Suet. Titus 7; Cass. Dio LXVI.25; Hieron a. Abr. 2095; Eutrop. vii.21; Cohen, Tit. 399, 400). Domitian is said to have completed the building ad clipea (Chron. ib.) which probably refers to the bronze shields that were placed directly beneath the uppermost cornice (cf. Cohen, Tit. 399) and to additions on the inside (HJ 282).

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