THE COLOSSEUM, AN ICON:
A GREAT NEW EXHIBITION IN ROME
Rome, the Colosseum
rome 9 2011 061
colosseo 1 small
colosseo esterno 2
Rome, the Colosseum
THE COLOSSEUM: AN ICON
A NEW GREAT EXHIBITION IN ROME
The Colosseum during the centuries in which, notwithstanding the inexorable decline and pillages, it became an icon of Rome, and a must see for any visitor of any time.
Together with St Peter’s Dome it is the most famous symbol of Rome.
“While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
These verses are by Lord Byron, who defined it ‘the Magic Circle’.
Now it is almost 2,000 years old, but still solidly standing, notwithstanding all the fires, earthquakes and systematic pillaging through the course of time, at least until the 18th century.
When it was in full activity as a public space for spectacles, typically battles between fierce animals, or between men and beasts, or between gladiators, it was much richer in stone and marbles, with statues decorating every arch, precious stones encrusting the railings, purple and gold decorations on the ceilings, perfumed water fountains, marble mosaic floors in the VIP sectors…
Kitsch? Over the top? It probably was, as many creations of our days. Guess about the inner decoration of certain skyscrapers or cruise ships!
But, on the other end, it was a miracle of engineering, designed to contain comfortably 60,000 people, endowed of about 80 exits, so that it could be emptied in just few minutes.
Elevators brought up the ‘stars’ of the competition directly from the underground area, so that the audience could see the wild animals and the human fighters appear out of nothing wrapped in a cloud of dust.
A complicated system of covering was activated by a special body of the Roman Navy to protect the audience from the sun (the gladiatorial competitions always started at noon !).
All this magnificent apparatus had been built in only 5 years , between 75 and 80 A.D., thanks to the generosity of the Emperor Vespasianus, a member of the Flavia family, and therefore called Flavian Amphitheater .
The name Colosseum came later, and it is probably due to the presence of a colossal bronze statue of Emperor Nero erected nearby. But nobody knows for sure.
All the stone (the beautiful white travertine) came from Tivoli: a special road was built to carry the enormous number of blocks. The solemn celebrations for the inauguration under Emperor Titus (80 A.D.) lasted for 100 days.
The games inside the Colosseum continued then for about 400 years. But, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire the population of the city dropped to a few thousand people. Rome became a village of shepherds and the games were over.
The exhibition “The Colosseum: an Icon” that is on from March 8th ,2017, through January 7th, 2018 focuses on the history, artistic, literary and cinematographic fortunes of the amphitheater during its 15 centuries of decline, from the 6th to the 21st century.
Documents, statues, objects, plants, curiosities, drawings, paintings, movies…the exhibit takes place within its premises, in the ‘ambulacrum’ of the second floor.
Not only foreign visitors, but even many Italians (Romans included) frequently don’t know for instance that in the 12th century a powerful Roman family, built its own fortress inside, later destroyed by an earthquake.
And those who believed that the stones and marbles were sacked by the barbarian invaders are fundamentally wrong: the greatest pillagers were the Romans themselves.
The architects of the Renaissance used the blocks of travertine to build the palaces of the powerful (a popular saying states for instance that ‘what was not pillaged by the barbarians was taken by the Barberini’…) and frequently melted the statues to make lime.
Meanwhile the huge space was inhabited. Shops, slaughter houses, poor and rich people dwellings, churches and crypts.
In the 18th century with travelers of the Grand Tour were delighted by the picturesque view of the enormous ruin overgrown by plants of any kind (it was a bit the same emotion we feel when visiting archeological sites such as Tikal or Angkor Wat, where nature rivals in beauty with the statues and constructions).
A sort of microclimate inside the stone ring allows the growth of more than 350 kinds of plants.
If the poets and painters of the 18th and 19th centuries were fascinated by the ruins and decadence (I am thinking about the marvelous views by Piranesi and Van Wittel for instance) the movie makers of the 20th and 21st centuries almost inevitably got inspired by the gladiators, wild beasts, crazy emperors, and excited masses craving to see blood and death.
A curiosity: the most famous of all these movies, Ridley Scott’s ‘The Gladiator’ was not shut in the Colosseum but mostly at El Jem (Tunisia), while a good many of the scenes were created in the studios!
If you wish to learn more about the new exhibit you can check this website:
If you wish an expert guide to go through all this please book a tour through this page: http://www.walksinsideitaly.com/walk/2017/02/23/rome-at-the-heart-of-the-empire/
We can provide skip the line tickets but we need to know in advance of course!
For further info: contact us at email@example.com