The New Student's Reference Work/Colosseum

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Colosseum (kŏl′ŏs-sē′ŭm), the largest of the Roman amphitheatres. Amphitheatres were oval-shaped buildings, used by the Romans for combats of gladiators and for wild beast fights. In the theatre, where plays were performed, the seats faced the stage in a half-circle; in the amphitheatre the seats entirely surrounded the place of performance; hence the name, from amphi, meaning all around. The Colosseum, besides being the largest of these buildings, is the best preserved, and is one of the most interesting ruins in the world. It was begun by Vespasian, and finished by Titus in 80 A. D. It covers about five acres of ground, and was able to seat 87,000 persons. It is 612 feet in length, and 515 feet wide. When Titus dedicated it, 5,000 wild beasts were slain and the games lasted for a hundred days. On the outside it is 160 feet high, built in three rows of columns and surrounded by a row of pilasters. Between the columns are arches, forming open galleries running throughout the entire building. On the inside the open space in the center was covered with sand or sawdust, while the games were going on, and so was called the arena, from the Latin word for sand. Around the arena was a gallery where sat the emperor, senators and vestal virgins. Above were three other tiers of seats, corresponding with the three rows of columns on the outside. The Colosseum in the middle ages gave rise to the saying: “While stands the Colosseum Rome shall stand; while Rome shall stand, the world.”