Italy’s most visited monument has become an icon, by its exceptional architecture, the fame of the gladiators and spectacles, its popularity through the centuries, from its medieval and Christian reuse and the ideological versions that have made it the symbol of an empire and today of the city of Rome and the world.
The building became known as the Colosseum because of a colossal statue that stood nearby. It was built in the 1st century CE at the behest of the emperors of the Flavian dynasty. Until the end of the ancient period, it was used to present spectacles of great popular appeal, such as animal hunts and gladiatorial games. The building was, and still remains today, a spectacle in itself. It is the largest amphitheatre in the world, capable of presenting surprisingly complex stage machinery, as well as services for spectators.
In 438, with the abolition of the gladiatorial games by order of Valentinian III, the amphitheatre underwent a slow and steady decline. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance it even became a quarry for building materials, part of it being used for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica, and a shelter for animals and containing craft workshops and houses, while it was also Christianised over a long lapse of time. After the Romantic period, when the charms of the ruin attracted writers and artists, it soon became a place of systematic excavations and restoration work.
The Arch of Constantine, built on the route followed by the triumphal processions, in the stretch between the Circus Maximus and the Arch of Titus, is the largest honorary arch that has come down to us. It is a synthesis of Constantine’s ideological propaganda. The arch celebrates the triumph of the emperor Constantine over Maxentius on October 28, 312 AD following the battle at the Milvian Bridge. The inscription on the central vault tells us that the monument was solemnly dedicated by the Senate to the emperor in memory of that triumph and on the occasion of the empire’s decennalia, at the start of the tenth year of his reign, on July 25, 315 AD.
The Circus Maximus was a chariot racetrack in Rome constructed in the 6th century BCE. Used for other events such as the Roman Games and gladiator fights, it last hosted chariot races in the 6th century. Partially excavated in the 20th century and then remodelled, today it continues as an important public space, hosting music concerts and rallies.parcocolosseo.it