Some Facts about the Colosseum

Some Facts about the Colosseum
14 September 2016 0 Comment

In part we have Hollywood with films like Ben Hur and Quo Vadis to thank for having us believe that the Colosseum was a place of Christian slaughter, delicate morsels to be ‘fed to the lions’ and martyrdom.

It was not despite the fact the Church in Rome declared it thus when in 1749 Pope Benedict XIV endorsed as official Church policy the view that the Colosseum was a sacred site where early Christians had been martyred. This is not the first time the church has rewritten history to accommodate a pressing need! Ironically two Vatican expects and Jesuit Professors, Ludwig Hertling and Engelbert Kirschbaum, with all the available material they could gather declared that there was not a scrap of direct evidence to prove that a single Christian ever died in the Roman Colosseum.

So much then for Longfellow’s poem from 1870 when he wrote, “The sand beneath our feet is saturate; with blood of martyrs; and these rifted stones are awful witnesses against a people; whose pleasure was the pain of dying men.

When it opened to the public in 80 A.D. the Colosseum measured 187 by 155 meters (204.5 by 169.5 yards) and was just over 46 meters (50.3 yards) high. It had permanent seating for 50,000 spectators and could add another 20,000 wooden seats in the upper reaches of the stadium on special event days. The famous ‘velarium’ or retractable sun-shade rested upon 240 ship-masts which projected above the whole elliptical sky-line. The Colosseum was a light and airy building in construction and graceful in design and incredibly efficient in function; its 50,000 spectators would have been able to enter or leave in a matter of minutes.

Today millions of visitors from around the world come and admire a building that is almost 2,000 years old, battered and abused with almost 50% of the original structure gone forever! Try then to imagine its construction and your appreciation of what the Romans achieved here will leave you spellbound. Just to create a level building site for the Colosseum required that an estimated 35,000 cubic meters of earth be removed, and for the actual foundation ‘hole’ a further 90,000 cubic meters would have been removed. A total of 125,000 cubic meters of earth was removed by hand to prepare the site for the construction of the great stadium! It has been calculated that it took 292,000 cartloads of travertine stone to build the external, outer perimeter wall alone. The structure as a whole required 750,000 tons of dressed stone, 8,000 tons of marble and 6,000 tons of concrete. The travertine stone (marble) was quarried and ‘dressed’ at Tivoli, some 30 kilometers (approx. 18.5 miles) to the east of Rome.

This was just the basic requirements of getting the job started and in its construction the genius of Imperial Rome was perfectly expressed. More, you want more I hear you ask? More will have to wait until I write Part 2 of “A Few Facts and Statistics about the Colosseum in Rome.” Perfect Traveller has created a wonderful Audio Tour of this amazing stadium simply called The Colosseum in Rome. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app into your iPhone today and then download the Colosseum Audio Tour using the same app; it’s that easy. Listening to it on your iPhone will instantly make you your own best guide to the mighty Colosseum!

Colosseum opening hours – 7 days a week from 8.30am until 3.30pm – Perfect Traveller suggests you get there no later than 8.45am to enter and purchase your tickets on location without the crowds.

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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