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... or changes of attitude towards Christians came with the Constantine the Great. He last exchanged the purple pagan robes for the white robes of Christian faith. However paganism continued until 392, when Theodosius I and Valentinian II prohibited any form of pagan sacrifice. However it was Honorius who abolished the games of the Colosseum, but criminals were still persecuted there for more than one-hundred years. 11 After that it was generally used up until the end of the sixth century for concerts, sermons, and bullfights.
The structure itself of the Colosseum can be summarized as the symbol of Rome and it's respect across the world: mammoth. The overall plan is a huge elliptical structure measuring about 617 by 512 feet: the measure of the actual arena are 280 by 180. 12 Estimates of capacity range from 45, 000 to 50, 000 spectators. It is believed to be made of two half circles in order for the accoustic's to be amplified. The building incorporates many Roman influences with some Greek past, and some of its own technologies that are some of the most wonderful creations of man.
The most important of aspects of this monument are in its arches, columns, vaulting, technological advances, and in its mere magnitude. The arches and barrel-vaulting are typical of Roman buildings and architecture, but should be given more thought. The Colosseum is built as four stories which was unprecedented in its day. The arch was a great Roman architecture innovation which allowed for great amounts of weight to be carried over long spans. The arches allowed for the great load bearing required to support a monument such as the Colosseum.
Arches are built by a series of stones or bricks placed side by side in such a manner that they can support one another and weight while bridging a wide space. A barrel-vault is a half cylinder created from the continuation of the arches. The outermost walls of the structure sat on eighty piers connected by stone barrel-vaults. The four stories symbolized the basic Roman orders: Tuscan (variation of Doric), Ionic, Corinthian, and tall Corinthian pilasters on the fourth story. The outer walls on the bottom were faced in Doric columns faced with travertine with an Ionic entablature which ran all around the building.
Inside the building the columns on the bottom were Doric and contained two parallel corridors barrel-vaulted in concrete which surrounded the building. The second level and third level were similar to the first, except the outer walls were separated by lined up columns of the Ionic order, and the third level outer wall was Corinthian. The fourth level is different than the first three and this had much to do with the covering of the Colosseum which will be discussed later. It consisted of a flatter surface with Corinthian pili stars and in alternating sections contained windows. The roof of the upper corridor seems to have formed a flat wooden platform below the top of the outer wall.
The sailors who operated the roof used this platform. The seating was sat at a 37 degree angle 13, and had a stairway system to enter the three levels as shown by the cutouts of the four levels below. The building was not made all of travertine, but was made of lighter and porous pumice stone and also of brick and concrete. The seating on the bottom was covered in marble and brass, and higher levels were made of wood. Some of the technology employed at the time of this building is very similar to today's buildings of similar uses for games. For instance there were 76 entrance gates of the 80 piers.
The latter four were used for emperors and gladiators (one of which was used to drag the bodies to an unmarked grave). The entrance gates were numbered and corresponded to numbers stamped on the fan's tickets much like todays sporting events. With 80 gates one could easily maneuver to their correct gate. In the ground floor contained an intricate labyrinth of cells which housed the gladiators, animals, and workers. There were splendid uses of machinery in which to lift the gladiator or animal to the surface of the battle arena. But the most amazing construction at the Colosseum had nothing to do with the show.
It was designed purely for the benefit of the audience, to keep them calm and content as the violent spectacle unfolded below. It was a roof. The roof of the Colosseum was one that was retractable and much like a sailor. So much in fact, sailors who lived in a nearby town managed the velarium, or colored awning. This was a remarkable feat considering that most stadiums now days are still not fully enclosed (such as the Cowboy's stadium). The use of the corbels on the uppermost deck and the use of a pulley system brought about this feat of ingenious.
Some archeologists thought that the roof was non-existent or was a web of ropes, but it is now believed to be made from masts and pulleys. The masts would hold horizontal masts on which to pull the awning over. It is believed that it did not cover the whole structure, but at least the most important seatings of the emperor for the whole day. 14 Hebrew prisoners and slaves of the time employed the building of the Colosseum. All the details of the actual construction are unknown, but it is based upon a barrel-vaulted scheme that circles around.
The builders used travertine blocks to construct a framework of piers, arches, and linked walls and vaults. The cement posts go deep into the ground to support the great weight. The lower level vaults were constructed of tufa or pumice. On the upper floors the walls were built with brick and concrete (utilizing volcanic sand to dry). Travertine was used to surround the outside and was held in place by iron clamps. 15 The experience of being outside the Colosseum was plain except for the added statues. The outside of the building was paved with boundaries and roads.
One could make out the hundreds of semicircles and arches. The arches increased upwards from Tuscan, Doric, and Corinthian columns to the Corinthian Pillars and wall of the fourth deck. The outside was a brilliant travertine that must have been a spectacular sight. Next to the building one would feel he is nothing but a little gnat compared to the great building.
To get inside one must enter their gate, and proceed up the stairway to the designated level much like a modern stadium. Since there were 80 entrances, many people could occupy the great Amphitheater. Inside the Colosseum the arena floor was wooden and covered with sand to soak the blood. There was a great podium made of marble on the sidelines housed the dignitaries. Above that were marble seats for distinguished private citizens. The second held the middle class, the third held slaves and foreigners, and the fourth levels were for women and the poor who sat on wooden seats. 16 The great velarium was multicolored and must have been a spectacle on the inside of the Colosseum when raised.
This would also shadow and protect the fans from nature. The arches allowed for great ventilation, stability, and passageways to keep the crowd comfortable all day. On a whole the Colosseum is symbolized by its size which represents the greatness of Rome. The name may be attributed to its size, or some believe to the colossal statue of Nero nicknamed the "crowned colossus" that was nearby.
With all of the circular motifs used by the arches, and of the building itself, some believe it symbolizes the sun. This also makes sense considering part of the Colosseum was built from the Golden House of Nero, also known as the solar statue, or sun statue. Many symbols used in the Colosseum were of Pagan descendent. This included the sacrifices, purple robes, battle-axes, and hammers of the Etruscan Pagans.
The cross was erected to commemorate the early Christians who are believed to have died here (although there is no evidence to support this belief). The great arch beside the Coliseum was erected in the third century in honor of Constantine, although much of its decoration was pilfered from monuments to other emperors. Since one of the symbols was of the sun, the arches created natural and splendid light and shadows as shown in the picture. Much poetry has been written of the light, shadows, and even smoke from the arches of the Colosseum. When it was not noon the light would create long shadows and yet have bright instances which accentuate the arches and columns in the bright light.
It shows an alternating natural pattern of shadows. One of the first natural changes of the Colosseum came in 320 when lightning struck and damaged the building. In 422 it was damaged by an earthquake. However Theodosius II and Valentitian III repaired it only to be again damaged by an earthquake in 508.
After the sixth century the city of Rome and the Colosseum went downhill because of some devastating disasters. Towards the end of the sixth century grass was starting to grow rampant at the Colosseum, . Bibliography:
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