The Roman Colosseum: From Cruelty to Perfection

As magnificent as the Roman Colosseum may be, it has seen more death than any other place in history and the world.

The Roman Colosseum – one of the most impressive ancient structures known to modern man. When built in antiquity – an arena of cruel entertainment, which took the lives of more people than any other place in the world. A place that gathered all the evil genius of man, unfolded in countless bloody spectacles for the insatiable Roman public.

In its heyday, the Roman Colosseum accommodated up to 70,000 spectators with over 80 entrances through which to enter. From battles between humans and animals, through the famous gladiator battles, to public executions of criminals and even Christians, this was the center of entertainment in ancient Rome.

Even today, the Colosseum looks huge, but in ancient times it simply had no analog. When it was built it was white with countless dark arches, large hanging shields, and densely stacked stakes on top. In the middle of each arch, there was a sculpture – of a deity, a hero, a legendary person, or a cult animal.

The Roman Colosseum – Built to Last

The original ground floor of the Colosseum does not exist anymore revealing the underground complex.
The original ground floor of the Colosseum does not exist anymore revealing the underground complex.

The Roman Colosseum was and still is the largest amphitheater in the world. It was a huge complex with many outbuildings and service rooms. Beneath the ground floor were dungeons of the same size with a variety of purposes, from storage rooms and infirmaries to morgues, torture chambers, and other horrific sections.

An interesting fact about the construction of the Roman Colosseum is the sacrifice of many slaves. When they began to build it, 77 living slaves were thrown into the foundations. Their purpose was to be built into the structure as an offering that would preserve it for 77 centuries. Thus was born the prophecy that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand, but if it falls, Rome will fall and the world will come to an end.

Main Spectacles in the Theater of Cruelty and Brutality

Naked men, armed with only a single spear, faced lions, tigers, or leopards. Few managed to defeat their wild rival.

Criminals sentenced to death, thrown into the arena without any protection, with their hands tied, subjected to brutal humiliation before being eaten alive. Many prisoners sought ways to commit suicide before being thrown into the arena for the most brutal deaths to entertain the Roman public.

Of course, the center of entertainment was gladiatorial battles. They did not always end in death, but we all know what they were. Countless fighting techniques, all kinds of weapons, numerous warrior classes… The scenarios ranged from shockingly cruel to simple murders. It was a whole new theatrical experience created for the enjoyment of the bloodthirsty Roman society.

Myths and legends came to life in the arena in the bloodiest way possible. What was most brutal was that these performances were not part of sacraments, as in many other parts of the world at the time. They were a pure spectacle, nothing more than entertainment.

And when there was a reason to celebrate, then it got really scary. For example, to commemorate the victory of Emperor Trajan over the Dacians, celebrations were held at the Colosseum, killing 11,000 wild animals and 10,000 gladiators in just 120 days. Criminals or Christians sentenced to death are not even mentioned – they were literally countless.

There is hardly another place on Earth where there has been so much death in such a small area. It is estimated that at least 500,000 people and more than a million animals lost their lives in the Roman Colosseum.

Post-Imperial History

Imagine building such a massive structure and not being able to see it from above. How lucky we are with modern technology! Credit: Pinterest
Imagine building such a massive structure and not being able to see it from above. How lucky we are with modern technology! Credit: Pinterest

The first performance at the Colosseum took place around 80 AD, and the latter is supposed to have been in 435.

During the Middle Ages, its underground floors were used for housing and workshops, and the arena was turned into a cemetery. A small church was even built into its construction.

In the 9th century and in the 13th century, there were strong earthquakes that caused significant damage. Interestingly, the stone pieces dropped from the Roman Colosseum were later used for the construction of many buildings in Rome, including the Basilica of St. Peter.

Apart from being a powerful tourist magnet, the Roman Colosseum is also a symbol of the international campaign against the death penalty. Every time a person sentenced to death is pardoned or a country decides to abolish the death penalty, the color of the night light of the Colosseum changes from white to gold.

At least now, after countless lives have been sacrificed at the Colosseum, it is associated with a positive modern initiative. And as for its ancient purpose, it is as spectacular an architectural success as it is a shameful part of Rome’s history.

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