Classical studies Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:25:56
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The Colosseum was the first permanent amphitheatre to be built in Rome. Its huge size, as well as the practical and efficient way it dealt with organising of events and ways of controlling large crowds in a safe manner makes it one of the greatest architectural buildings ever constructed in the Roman Empire and was a gift from Emperor Vespasian and finished under Emperor Titus.

The building itself is a vast ellipse with tiers of seating for about 50,000 spectators around a central elliptical arena. There are 76 entrances into the amphitheatre to allow crowds to arrive and leave safely and quickly. The architects had recognised the need for more permanent seating in the Colosseum as opposed temporary wooden benches or the piles of earth used in previous amphitheatres located in other cities. This was after all the centre of the known world and home to the Emperor and so had to be built on a grand scale never seen before.

Firstly it had to be a safe place for people to visit and stay for periods of time. Many revolutionary safety devices were designed and attached to the Colosseum, such as the podiums that were built with top rollers that prevented the wild animals and convicts from climbing on top and into the crowd. There is also the design of the exterior to consider. Despite the main activity going on inside the theatre, the design of the outside was equally if not more important. What it outwardly showed was very important to the Romans. The games were responsible for ridding the city of criminals and dangerous animals, it had to symbolise great power and splendour. The grand scale of the Colosseum was impressive but not overpowering, it was important that it was welcoming but large enough to entertain audiences in there thousands.


Although they occupied one of the lowest rungs on the roman society ladder, Gladiators were widely regarded as some of the bravest members of roman society. A gladiator was considered a professional fighter and apart from fighting other gladiators, would also pit his skills against animals in amphitheatres all over the empire. These battles started out as mere ceremonial bouts at funerals before evolving over 600 or so years into the sort of grand entertainment that we now think of as a typical day in the colosseum or indeed any of the amphitheatres around the republic and empire. The word Gladiator comes from the Latin gladiatores meaning swordsman, which in turn comes from the word gladius which was a short sword used by soldiers in the roman army.

Gladiators were usually slaves or prisoners who were bought by a manager and trainer of gladiators (known as a lanista) in order to be trained as proper gladiators. There were also some free men who actually volunteered to be gladiators, no doubt looking for the celebrity that the profession offered successful entrants, a lot like children of today aspiring to becoming a famous footballer or cricketer.

There were several different types of gladiators who were trained to excel in the use of different weapons, and wore different types of armour depending on the type of combat they were to enter. Some gladiators who had been prisoners of war used their native weapons and armour, and portrayed themselves as their native characters in battles, such as Gauls or Thracians. The image often given of the Gladiator as a savage fighter might very well be just fiction. They were very skilled at what they did and like most people they would rather live than die. This is not so the case of criminals who fought and although given training, were not expected to live beyond a year. A gladiator who survived over three years was on occasion set free.

It is now thought that fights may have been more civilised and theatrical than previously believed. The level of training these men undertook suggests that they would have been very good at putting on a show for the paying public and controlling movements, in the same way that the wrestlers of today are basically putting on a show. And even if the audience did order a gladiator dead at the conclusion of a match, it is highly probable that the opponent imposed only a superficial wound, in order to please the crowd. The losing gladiator might have then been dragged under the staging area and killed by an executioner undercover or allowed to recover and then resume his occupation a few months later under a new name. After all, it was all about entertaining the masses and making money for both the trainer and the owners of the venues. Because they were such expensive investments, gladiators were allowed the very best food and received the very best medical care available.

In most cases Gladiators only fought 3 or 4 times a year so to stay fresh and make a big draw for the crowd who would undoubtedly had favourites from each troop of fighters who would roam from area to area fighting in different amphitheatres month after month. The games though were not only a source of entertainment for the citizens of the Roman empire, but many saw the chance to acquire fame, popularity, a reversal of lost fortunes and even freedom if they were lucky enough to survive.

The games were primarily important because of what they offered those involved. Many people profited from the games, in particular those who hosted them. The games conveyed the habits of the upper class, for anyone who hosted the games it was a measure of their wealth as the expense was huge due to the number of beasts and fighters needed to entertain the crowd for any length of time. A new generation of traders and politicians found fame and popularity because they were able to spend great amounts to stage the games, which increased their status and influence within the upper social circle of the roman class system. Because of the way the games were held, it allowed the common people to mix with the upper classes at these events and on occasion win competitions for various luxury items, rather like the 1/2 time golden ticket draw held at most sporting events today.

The games were not loved by everyone in roman society. As Cicero questions the measure of enjoyment the games can offer in C7 Pompeys shows, But what pleasure can it be to a man of refinement when either a powerless man is torn by a powerful beast, or else a magnificent beast is spitted on a hunting spear? What he is saying is if youve seen one man kill a beast youve seen it all and vice versa.

The gladiator was looked upon as both a hero and a rogue depending on his route into the games and his ability to wow the crowd with his skills as both a warrior and an actor. In conclusion, the gladiators were important because of what they could offer both the public and the wealthy in respect of status and prestige. The games were also important to Romans because of where they were held and what the amphitheatre conveyed, the very symbol of the politics of Rome.

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