Colosseum and his history II

A huge amount of beasts were needed for the performances in the Colosseum. Animals like tigers, elephants, panthers, rhinoceroses, antelopes, ostriches, cheetahs, crocodiles, jackals, giraffes, hippopotamuses and bears.

Big game hunt mosaic    Hunters    Villa Romana del Casale big game hunt Wikipedia

Villa Romana del Casale big game hunt
photos: Andrea Schaffer and hunters: Robur.q

Mosaic supply of wild animals Villa del Casale

Thousands of animals such as elephants, panthers, leopards, rhinoceroses, antelopes and crocodiles were killed in the Colosseum. An entire organization was set up to handle the hunting and transportation.   Read more? See also Caroline Wazer The Atlanticscience

Elephant being loaded onto a ship, 3rd-4th century AD Roman mosaic Veii and detail

Mosaic Veii: Elephant loaded onto ship
photos: Carole Raddato (Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, Germany)

The enormous amount of wild animals used for the games resulted in the problem of getting rid of all the dead bodies. Fik Meijer wrote a great book about gladiators, posing the following question: ‘Corpses: to eat or to discard?’

“The more animals, the larger the logistical problem of getting rid of the bodies. Animals that weighed up to ninety kilograms could be thrown onto carts like their human counterparts and carried away; yet this wasn’t the solution for larger wild animals. Weighing a few hundred kilograms, lion and tiger corpses were more difficult to transport; let alone the problems caused by dead hippos, rhinos or elephants. Still, a large portion of the corpses ended up the same way as the dead arena victims. Their final resting place became deep ravines, desolate places or specially dug pits. Also, the trained predators had to be fed. Next to getting their precious protein from smaller, living animals, they were also fed the remains of deer, antelopes and other animals that were killed during the arena games. Doing so reduced the costs. […] Transporting the corpses was so time-consuming that many animals were just left there, along with all the risks of maggots, insects, disease and rotting. Every possible solution to reduce the corpse pile had to be tried, and so consumption of the dead animal meat was one of them. The potential consumers were by no means the prominent citizens of Rome. […] Hares, rabbits and pheasants could be collected immediately after the games, but a piece of deer, wild board, bear or lion took a bit longer, likely until the next day so the butchers had enough time to cut them open and process the meat. At presenting a ticket one would be given his prize.”
Cited and translated from: Fik Meijer, Gladiatoren Volksvermaak in het Colosseum, Athenaeum-Polak&Van Gennep, Amsterdam, 2003 pp. 183-187.

Around 1995, archaeologists discovered that the Jewish treasures from the temple of Jerusalem largely financed the Colosseum. The evidence was a stone of one of the amphitheatre’s entrances.
The text on this stone could be reconstructed using the small holes left behind by the nails of the copper letters. “Imp. T. Caes. Vespasianus Aug. Amphitheatrum Novum Ex Manubis Fieri Iussit.”The translation is: “The Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus had this new amphitheatre erected with the spoils of war. There is no doubt what war this was, the sack of Jerusalem,” said Cinzia Conti, the director of surface restoration at the Colosseum. Source

C. van Wittel ‘Colosseum from Southeast’ c. 1700, oil canvas, 72 x 125 cm. Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge Massachusetts    Piranesi ‘Colosseum’ 1776  MET

C. van Wittel ‘Colosseum from Southeast’

Colosseum view of the missing parts

“The Colosseum suffered various natural disasters. A lightning strike in 217 damaged the Colosseum to such a degree that for five consecutive years it could not host any games. Various earthquakes caused considerable damage to the building, but the Romans and later the Ostrogoths continued to make repairs. Two major earthquakes in the Middle Ages in 847 and 1349, further destroyed the Colosseum (see image). In the 12th century, the ruins of the amphitheatre were converted into a fortress of the Frangipani family. The prominent Roman families, with the Pope often belonging to one of them, saw the Colosseum as but a quarry to strip of its precious metals for their newly constructed churches and palaces. The marble was stripped away and re-used for new buildings, or simply burned to obtain lime. The iron that pinned the stone blocks and the marble together was in high demand as well. This looting did not cease until Pope Benedict XIV became aware of the Colosseum’s historical value in 1749 and forbade its further use as a stone quarry. He dedicated the Colosseum as a church in memory of Christ’s suffering and had a Way of the Cross constructed inside. The grounds of the amphitheatre were seen as holy because of the spilled blood of Christian martyrs. This was regardless of the fact that most Christians were likely killed in the Circus Maximus. Subsequent Popes had the Colosseum further restored and investigated archeologically.” Wikipedia Dutch

Colosseum missing parts
photo: Steven Zucker

Reconstruction hypogeum and the arena

In August 2011, the hypogeum (underground corridor system with wild animal cages) was opened to the public. Beneath the wooden boards of the arena floor was a complex substructure of corridors and cages to hold wild animals, with mechanical elevators to hoist them up to the arena floor. The holes into which the poles were mounted, which in turn would wind up the ropes in a rotating fashion to hoist up the 28 elevators, can still be seen in the hypogeum today.

Reconstruction hypogeum and arena
photo: Tranquility Jin

The hypogeum    Reconstruction hypogeum and arena    Hypogeum detail

Colosseum: hypogeum
photos: Sebastià Giralt and reconstruction Tranquility Jin
C.W. Eckersberg 'View of the interior of the Colosseum'

C.W. Eckersberg ‘View of the interior of the Colosseum’

“A Christian cross stands in the Colosseum, with a plaque, stating:
The amphitheater, one consecrated to triumphs, entertainments, and the impious worship of pagan gods, is now dedicated to the sufferings of the martyrs purified from impious superstitions.
Other Christian crosses stand in several points around the arena and every Good Friday the Pope leads a Via Crucis procession to the amphitheater.” Source Wikipedia

Christoffer Wilhem Eckersberg “Colosseum” 1813-1816

Christoffer Wilhem Eckersberg "Colosseum"

Hubert Robert ‘Hermit in the Colosseum’ 1790

Hubert Robert 'Hermit in the Colosseum
DMA Museum

Francisco Javier Amérigo ‘A friday at the Colosseum in Rome’ 1876

Francisco Javier Amérigo 'A friday at the Colosseum in Rome' 1876
Prado museum

Francis Towne ‘Inside the Colosseum’ 1780

“After 1970, all plant growth was exterminated and the cells underneath the arena – the area that held the animals and stored the materials – was dug up, which according to Augustus Hare was met with great disappointment by botanists. The Colosseum’s flora has two books attributed to it, describing some 420 different plants, some of which having a rather exotic origin; having been brought in during Antiquity along with the animals.”
Cited and translated from: Georgina Masson, ‘Agon gids voor Rome’, Agon, Amsterdam, 1993 p. 495.

Richard DeakinFlora of the Colosseum of Rome, or, Illustrations and Descriptions of Four Hundred and Twenty Plants Growing Spontaneously upon the Ruins of the Colosseum of Rome (London: Groombridge, 1855)

François Marius Granet ‘Interior view of the Colosseum’ 1804

François Marius Granet 'Interior view of the Colosseum'
Musée du Louvre, Paris

We now walk east and cross the Piazza del Colosseo to arrive at the Via di San Giovanni. Right at the beginning of this street, you can see the dug out foundations of the gladiator training complex, and the Ludus Magnus where they practiced.

For more info about the Ludus Magnus click here for Wikipedia. An underground corridor existed between the Ludus Magnus and the Colosseum, where gladiators had to ascend but a few steps to commence their life or death battle in the arena.

The Ludus Magnus    Reconstruction model

Ludus Magnus Rome
photos: AncientDigitalMaps and Jastrow

As we continue walking, we see an old church on our left-hand side.

Via di Giovanni in Laterano 112 San Clemente
photo: snauzzy

Continuation Rome day 3: San Clemente