The reason behind the construction of the Colosseum. This term is quite often in the minds of most people. They keep wondering, so why was the Colosseum built? One of the main reasons was controlling the raging “mobs” or crowds of Rome. Along with this, it was also used as a political mouthpiece to help the senators garner public votes. Another reason is that Rome became safer after the Colosseum was built as the structures meant for events prior to the Colosseum were made of wood and used to catch fire easily.
In the end, it was all the more for primal reasons like being surrounded by tens of thousands of people an hour after sunrise. The nervousness in the room is so excruciating it can be cut with a knife. Suddenly, the entire amphitheater roars to life as the gladiators enter the Arena.
The Colosseum Construction
Before trying to understand why the Colosseum was built, it is important to understand when the Colosseum was built.
Even though history is often romanticized, life in Ancient Rome was anything but romantic. Just like how it’s today, life in Ancient Rome was difficult for the common man. As they worked from sun up to sundown, the idea of weekends hardly existed. As a form of escape from reality, the Roman emperors decided to hold gladiator matches so as to keep everyone entertained.
They knew beforehand that if they don’t provide the citizens of Rome their much-needed distraction, they would revolt. Hence the expression: “Give them Bread and Circuses”. People wouldn’t start an uprising if they were set up in a good welfare system and provided their mode of entertainment.
The Vespasian Empire
In the reign of the Vespasian empire in 72 AD, a revolt broke out in Jerusalem that yielded endless spoils and slaves. Soon after, it was quelled by Vespasian Flavian as he commissioned an ambitious project of building the largest amphitheater ever known to mankind. His prime goal was to make his subjects happy so he could continue expanding the Empire.
After Emperor Nero’s assassination, Vespasian became Roman Emperor in 69 A.D and was the fourth Emperor that year. That was the year of civil unrest. Rome soon realized stability was key for the nation’s growth and it shouldn’t appoint another emperor anytime soon after having introduced the fourth one in the span of a year.
Even though we are unaware of who was the architect of the Colosseum or the people involved in constructing it, what we know for sure is that tens of thousands of slaves were involved in building this massive structure.
The only surety that stands in this regard is that it only took eight years to build it and the materials used were travertine, brick, wood, and tufa.
Today, the Colosseum stands almost 2000 years old. It would’ve looked even better had it not been for the pillaging that it succumbed to for 1000 years and becoming like a quarry for stone.
Purpose of the Colosseum
- Creation of a massive, breath-taking structure that accurately conveys the wealth, might, and power of Ancient Rome.
- To serve as a gift to Roman citizens by providing a permanent purpose-built arena in the heart of Ancient Rome. This, was for the primal purpose of staging various forms of entertainment for the Ancient Romans.
- To create a diversion for the unemployed and unruly Plebs by seating up to 80,000 Romans in an unobstructed setting.
- To appear as a showcase for wild and exotic animals brought from all corners of the Roman Empire and open their chains against the gladiator warriors. There were also group battles and one-on-one competitions that took place. This, once again conveys the height of Rome’s power by conquests of different countries.
- To maintain the popularity of the Emperors Vespasian and Titus (members of the Flavian dynasty of emperors) and ensure the support of the Plebs (the ‘Mob’) for their rule.
- To boast of the latest Roman building techniques and engineering by showcasing a labyrinth of tunnels built under the arena. This tunnel contains about 32 animal pens and lifts systems. The system is operated by ropes and pulleys that facilitate the fast movement of gladiators, animals, prisoners, and stage scenery in and out of the Colosseum arena.
- To encourage Roman patriotism by staging reconstructions of the famous Roman battles and their victories. This includes sea battles that required the arena to be flooded.
- To develop an advanced crowd control system by making 76 separate entrances. This was to ensure a proper line and arrangement of the massive crowds who flocked up to the Gladiator games.
While our modern minds may deem it cruel, gladiators were worshipped as idols, and the game went on for over three hundred years as a testament to their popularity.