Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine

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Colosseum (or the Coliseum) is one of the Rome’s best-known monuments, the most popular tourist attraction in the city. It is a ruin of originally the Flavian Amphitheatre (Amphitheatrum Flavium), the largest that had ever been built in the Roman Empire. The Colosseum is depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.

The construction of the Colosseum started between 70 and 72 AD under the reign of Vespasian and was finished in 80 AD under Titus. Both of them belonged to Flavian dynasty, hence Flavian Amphitheatre (the name Colosseum has long been believed to be derived from a statue Colossus of Nero nearby. By the year 1000 the name "Colosseum" had been coined to refer to the amphitheatre. The statue itself was largely forgotten). During the Domitian reign there were some modifications done on the construction. The Colosseum was destroyed by earthquakes and stone-robbers.

The Colosseum has an elliptical structure, 189 metres long and 156 wide. The height of the outer wall is 48 metres. The central arena is an oval surrounded by a wall above which rose tiers of seating. The outer wall was made of travertine stone held together only by iron clamps. The north side of the perimeter wall is still standing. It comprises three stories of superimposed arcades surmounted by a podium on which stands a tall attic, both of which are pierced by windows interspersed at regular intervals. The arcades are framed by half-columns of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, while the attic is decorated with Corinthian pilasters. Each of the arches in the second- and third-floor arcades framed statues (probably figures from Classical mythology).

The amphitheatre was ringed by eighty entrances at ground level. People were seated in a tiered arrangement. There were special boxes provided at the north and south ends respectively for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins, providing the best views of the arena. The arena comprised a wooden floor covered by sand, covering an elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum (still clearly visible today).

The original purpose of the Colosseum was to be the place for gladiatorial games and other public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The Colosseum could hold 50,000 spectators and it was in use for nearly five centuries. In later periods it was used for many different purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry and a Christian shrine.

The Colosseum today is now a major tourist attraction in Rome. There is now a museum dedicated to Eros located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building. Part of the arena floor has been re-floored. It has also been the site of Roman Catholic ceremonies in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome, the latest of all the existing triumphal arches in Rome. It is situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. The arch spans the Via Triumphalis, the way taken in past by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph.

The Arch of Constantine was erected to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. The arch was dedicated three years later, in 315. From the Christian point of view, it was a major turning point in the history of the western world. According to the historians, Constantine had the Christian vision the night before the battle and he had his soldiers carry the Christian symbol into the battle and they won. Thereafter, Constantine adopted Christianity for himself and declared the religion officially tolerated throughout the Roman Empire.

The Arch of Constantine was modeled after the Arch of Septimius on the Roman Forum. The arch is 21 metres high and 25.7 metres wide. It has three archways, the central one 11.5 metres high and 6.5 metres wide and the side ones 7.4 metres by 3.4 metres. The construction is made of two parts, the upper one is also known as attic. The bottom part was made of marble, the attic is brickwork riveted with marble. Some sources claim that the lower part of the arch is reused from an older monument (from the time of the emperor Hardian). There is a staircase in the arch as well. It is entered from a door at some height from the ground and it ends towards the Palatine Hill.

The decoration of the arch is mainly the one that was used on the older monuments. These decorations are given new meaning in the Constantinian context. Another interpretation of their use is that due to the lack of time the architects used existing artwork instead of creating new one. And the third but the least improbable interpretation suggests that the Romans of the 4th century lacked the artistic skill to produce acceptable artwork so they used the ancient one.

During the Middle Ages, the Arch of Constantine was incorporated into one of the family strongholds of ancient Rome. Works of restoration were first carried out in the 18th century; the last excavations have taken place in the late 1990s.
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