Friday, August 04, 2006

Amazing discovery (to me) regarding the Colosseum in ancient Rome 

Did you know who mostly built the Colosseum in ancient Rome?

An estimated 12,000 Jewish slaves.
I had never heard of this in my life!

more on the Colosseum from wiki:

Construction of the Colosseum began under the rule of Emperor Vespasian[1] in 72. It was completed by his son, Titus, in 80[1], with later improvements by Domitian. It was built at the site of Nero's lake below his extensive palace, the Domus Aurea, which had been built covering the slope of the Palatine after the great fire of Rome in 64. Dio Cassius recounts that 9,000 wild animals were killed in the one hundred days of celebration which inaugurated the amphitheatre opening.

After the Colosseum's first two years in operation, Vespasian's younger son (the newly-designated Emperor Domitian) decided to sacrifice the ability to flood the arena in return for a hypogeum (literally meaning "underground").

I watched a great documentary on how the Roman emperors strategically built everything from palaces to baths to temples as political and power consolidation maneuvers. The whole Nero episode of lunatic but profoundly complex mega-building is mind-blowing. The Nero complex makes Versailles look like a shanty ;-)

Late Roman history
The Colosseum was in continuous use until 217, when it was damaged by fire after a lightning strike. It was restored in 238 and gladiatorial games continued until Christianity gradually put an end to those parts of them which included the death of humans. The building was used for various purposes, mostly venationes, until 524. Two earthquakes (in 442 and 508) caused massive damage to the structure.

Medieval and Renaissance
In the Middle Ages, it was severely damaged by further earthquakes (847 and 1349), and was then converted into a fortress and a Christian church erected in one small part.

The marble that originally covered the façade was reused in constructions or burned to make quicklime.

During the Renaissance, but mostly in the 16th and 17th centuries, the ruling Roman families (from which many popes came) used it as a source of marble for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica and the private palazzi of Roman families such as the Barberini: Quod non fecerunt Barbari, Barberini fecerunt; "What the Barbarians didn't do, the Barberini did"

nice little anecdote ;-)

The destructive forces of the circuses in the arenas kept growing and growing in attempts to satisfy the discontent of the Roman masses.

The first century of the Christian era probably marked the high point of the games. The spectacles had grown to such an extent that it seemed incredible that they could ever be surpassed. The dictator Sulla (93 B.C.) presented one hundred lions in the arena. Julius Caesar had four hundred. Pompey had six hundred lions, twenty elephants and four hundred ten leopards fighting Gaetulians armed with darts. Augustus in 10 A.D. exhibited the first tiger ever to be seen in Rome and had 3, 500 elephants. He boasted that he had ten thousand men killed in eight shows. After Trajan’s victory over the Dacians, he had eleven thousand animals killed in the arena.

Some say that Julius Caesar could be called the father of the games because under his regime they ceased to be an occasional exhibition of fairly modest proportions and became a national institution.

By the time of Augustus, the people regarded the games not as a luxury but as their right. Under the old Republic, the games lasted for sixteen days: fourteen chariot races, two trials for horses, and forty-eight theatricals. By the time of Claudius (50A.D.), there were ninety-three a year. This number was gradually increased to 123 days under Trajan and to 230 under Marcus Aurelius.

Augustus and several of the other emperors tried to limit the number of games, but it always produced mob uprisings. Marcus Aurelius disliked the games, but in his official position he had to attend. He used to sit in the royal box and dictate letters to his secretaries while the games were going on. The Roman crowds resented his negative behavior; and although he was one of the best emperors Rome ever had, as a result of his contempt for the games, he was also one of the most unpopular.

Both Caligula and Nero, probably the two worst rulers in Roman history, were greatly mourned by the crowds when they died because they always put on such extravagant games.

Where did the Romans get all of the animals they used in their entertainment of violence, sex, and bloody gore?

Emperor Trojan gave one set of games that lasted 122 days during which 11,000 people and 10,000 animals were killed. Emperor Titus had 5,000 wild animals and 4,000 domestic animals killed during the one hundred-day show to celebrate the opening of the Colosseum. In 249 A.D., Philip celebrated the one thousandth anniversary of the founding of Rome by giving games in which the following were killed: one thousand pairs of gladiators, thirty-two elephants, ten tigers, sixty lions, thirty leopards, ten hyenas, ten giraffes, twenty wild asses, forty wild horses, ten zebras, six hippos and one rhino.

Chronology summary

64 AD Rome Burns- The city of Rome was nearly destroyed in a catastrophic fire. The fire is said to have been set by Nero. Legend has it that 'Rome burned while Nero fiddled'.
66 AD Judaea Rebels Against Rome- A rebellion broke out in Jerusalem against Roman rule. The Roman fortress of Antonia in Jerusalem was captured and the soldiers killed. The Romans dispatch an army from Syria to quell the revolt, but it was destroyed on the way to Jerusalem.
68 AD Year of the Four Emperors- The year 69 A.D. is known as the year of the four emperors. Nero was assassinated and civil war erupted to determine who would succeed him. In the course of that tumultuous year, Nero was succeeded by Galba who was followed by Otho. Otho was defeated by Vitellius and Vespasian finally established a new dynasty. Vespasian himself was the son of a tax collector from Reate. He represented a complete break with the Augustinian dynasties that preceded him.
70 AD Jerusalem Falls- Rome sent an enormous army under the command of Vespasian, to retake Judea. The Roman army quickly subdued the Jewish forces in the Galilee and laid siege to Jerusalem. Vespasian was recalled to Rome and the siege continued by his son, Titus. Titus succeeded in capturing Jerusalem on the ninth day of Ab (according to the Jewish calendar). He burned Jerusalem, killing or selling into slavery tens of thousands of Jews.
73 AD Masada Falls- The Fortress of Masada, occupied by Jewish zealots opposed to Rome, held out for three years. Masada was located in the Judean Desert near the shores of the Dead Sea. When it became clear that they could hold out no longer, the defenders of Masada committed mass suicide rather then become captives of the Romans.
78 AD Kushan Dynasty- The Kushan Dynasty was established by Kanishka. The Kushan Empire extended from Benares and Kabul to the Vindhayas. The Kushan capital was at Peshawar. The Kushans thrived on the Chinese-Roman trade that passed through their Empire.
79 AD Mount Vesuvius Explodes- In 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted. The eruption destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Most of the cities' populations managed to flee, but 20,000 inhabitants were killed.
80 AD Coloseum Dedicated-Vespasian had ordered the Colosseum built, but it fell to his son Titus to dedicate it. It was used for gladiator games until 404 AD.
89 AD Domitian's Reign Of Terror- Domitian who succeeded Titus Vespasianus (his older brother), commenced a reign of terror after an abortive coup against him. Domitian levied heavy taxes on the provinces. Domitian was assassinated in 96 A.D.
96 - 180 AD Five Good Emperors - Starting with Emperor Marcus Nerva, Rome was ruled by five individuals who became known as the "Good Emperors". The Emperors maintained both domestic tranquility and relative peace on the borders. They were known for building roads and other large civil projects.

The Five Emperors were:
96-98 A.D. Marcus Nerva
98-117 A.D. Marcus Traianus
117-138 A.D. Publiius Hadrianus (Hadrian)
138-161 A.D. Antoninus Pius
161-180 A.D. Marcus Aurelius

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