Tuesday, March 15, 2011

7 wonders of the world's sixth Colosseum

. Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Roman Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum was built between 70 and 80 A.D. under the reign of the Emperors Vespasian and Titus. Its original name was the Flavian Amphitheater because Flavius was the surname of both emperors. Under the Emperor Nero, Rome (and the Colosseum) burned in 64 A.D. but it was subsequently repaired. Incidentally, Nero blamed the fire on Christians. Later earthquakes caused further destruction, and at some other points the Colosseum was stripped of its stone to be used to build other buildings. It was eventually abandoned, and modern pollution in Rome causes it to further erode.
Note the spelling: it is not “Coliseum,” as is standard but “Colosseum,” much like the U.S. Capitol building is spelled like that rather than the standard “Capital.” The name Colosseum derived from a Colossus (huge statue) of the Emperor Nero that stood nearby, but which no longer exists. The Colossus (masculine form of the noun) was the statue; the Colosseum (neuter form of the noun) referred to the amphitheater. In the Middle Ages, the word “Colosseum” was corrupted to “Coliseum.”
The Los Angeles Coliseum is modeled after the Roman Colosseum and is a significant building in its own right, having hosted two Olympic games (1932 and 1984), football Super Bowls, baseball World Series, and is currently the home field of the USC football team (the Trojans, which is fitting because according to Virgil’s Aeneid, Troy was the founding ancestor city of Rome).
My perspective:
Similar to the Christ Redeemer statue, what makes the Roman Colosseum amazing is the setting. Though it does not have the expansive views of Rio de Janeiro, Rome is a city full of history and sights, such as the Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill, the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain. The amassed collection of these cultural treasures is any historian’s (or tourist’s!) dream, and I think if one could take the entire city of Rome as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, I would be more amenable to the election of this to the top Seven. But if there had to be just one building, none is more recognizable than the Colosseum.
As for the building itself, it is actually in a pretty bad state of disrepair—half of the walls are missing, and the entire floor is gone (though the exposed floor is very interesting to see—it shows a series of underground chambers where people and animals were held before being brought out to perform or die). There is a makeshift walkway (not original) that spans the diameter of the Colosseum so you can walk across it. Though the Colosseum is the largest of its kind (a circular amphitheater), perhaps a better one to see is the Roman coliseum in Arles, France, the second-largest in the world, and is mostly restored and rebuilt so it gives you a better idea of how it originally looked back then.
It is sobering thinking about what went on here—Christians martyred for their faith (being devoured by lions), gladiators fighting duels to the death, horse races and processions, executions, and the Emperor of Rome observing it all as “sport.” It was a madhouse of activity and vice, and the relative quiet of tourists walking around and taking pictures is in stark contrast to its bloody history where half a million people (and countless animals) died.
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