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THE first feature which strikes us, when we view the Colosseum for the first time, is its vast size and massive dimensions, which produce an overwhelming impression of grandeur and immovable strength. As Mr. Fergusson remarks, 'a true sense of the vast size forces itself on the mind at the first glance. It is the repetition of arch beyond arch, and story on story, that leads the mind on, and gives the amphitheatre its imposing grandeur. The entablatures, being unbroken throughout and crossing the building in long vanishing lines of the most graceful curvatures, add to the powerful effect. Its magnitude, its form, and its associations all combine to produce an effect against which the critic struggles in vain.' This praise he has, however, qualified by some severe criticism. The exterior,' he says, does not possess one detail which is not open to criticism, and, indeed, to positive blame. The pillars and their entablatures are useless, and are added incongruously, and the upper story, not being arched like the lower, but solid, and with ugly pilasters, is a painful blemish.'
In the time of Titus the love of stupendous works, and the intense passion of the Romans for the games of the amphitheatre, led him to erect a structure of extraordinary proportions for the exhibition of gladiatorial shows. This grand conception has been carried out in a most wonderful manner, evincing the high intellect and skill of the architect who designed the structure.
The amphitheatre was considered by the Romans as the most wonderful structure ever erected.
'Omnis Cæsareo cedat labor amphitheatro,
Unum pro cunctis fama loquatur opus,' says Martial.
The great merit of this building is its perfect adaptation to the purpose for which it was erected. The wonderful arrangement of free ingress and egress for the crowds of spectators, who came from all parts of the world to view the games and spectacles exhibited in its arena, is deserving of the highest admiration. The entrance galleries and vomitoria, by the elliptic form of the building, rendered any part of the vast amphitheatre—each seat in the whole cavea-accessible at once, and without any difficulty.
The form adopted for the amphitheatre was elliptical, as it was originally composed of two theatres placed face to face, thus forming a double theatre (aupu-Beatpov). It may, however, have been called an amphitheatre because it was a theatre in which the spectators were placed 'all round' (auoi). It differed essentially from the theatre, the representation being in the centre, and so to be seen equally well from all sides.
The original name of the amphitheatre was Amphitheatrum Flavium. The term Colosseum is altogether a name of modern application.
The amphitheatre was the result of the gradual development of successive periods. Its erection originated with the Flavian dynasty, whose chief object appeared to be to conciliate the sovereign people, and to build the most gorgeous structure for their amusement and relaxation.
It was commenced on the site of the Stagnum Neronis, by Vespasian, who is said to have carried the building as far as the first three ranges of seats, while Titus added two ranges more. It was dedicated by Titus in A.D. 80. The dedication of the Colosseum gave room for the display of the greatest magnificence on a scale hitherto unrivalled ; there were combats of gladiators, and the capacity of the vast edifice was tested by the slaughter of 5,000 animals within its circuit. The show was crowned by the immission of water into the arena, and with a sea-fight representing the contest of the Corinthians and the Corcyreans, related by Thucydides. It is presumed, however, that Titus did not complete the building, and that Domitian finished it. Hadrian exhibited some entertainments in it; and it was obliged to be restored by Antoninus Pius. Under Macrinus, Dion Cassius was a witness of the fire caused by lightning, which consumed all the upper part, which was of wood, and injured the rows of benches. Coins of Alexander Severus show that it was completely restored in stone in his reign. Under Theodosius and Valentinian (425 to 450), the prefect of Rome, Lampadius, had the arena, the podium, and the seats repaired. The latest exhibition of wild beasts which history records were those of 523, in the reign of Theodoric, an account of which has been given by Cassiodorus, who was present.
The exterior of the Colosseum had four stories carrying different orders. The first three are arcades, adorned with engaged columns, the first of the Tuscan order ; the second, the Ionic; the third, the Corinthian. The fourth story presents a wall pierced with rectangular windows, and adorned with pilasters of the composite order. From the evidence of coins the spaces which alternate with the rectangular windows exhibited circles, which were probably the clypea (doubtless bronze shields), up to which it has been stated that Domitian carried the building. From the use of the composite order in the highest story, we can doubtless see the reason why it was adopted by the Romans, for the prominence of its Ionic volutes makes it appear more distinctly at a great height, or at a great distance. Each story had eighty columns and as many arcades. The highest stage had eighty pilasters and forty small windows. In the centre of the arches of the second and third arcades statues were placed. Seventy-six of the arches of the lower story served as entrances for the spectators, and bore each a different number over the arches. The other four not numbered, and situated at the extremities of the axes of the ellipse, formed the principal entrances. The two at the extremities of the minor axis were reserved, one for the emperor, the other for the editor and those who occupied the box opposite the emperor. The other entrances at the extremities of the major axis led to the arena. In the lowest story there are four ambulacra, or corridors, parallel to the ellipse of the arena. The first ambulacrum was the lower arcade of eighty arches; the second ambulacrum was separated from the first only by pillars which corresponded with those of the façade—it gave entrance to the stairs (scala) and passages (via, itinera). The third led to the first inænianum, while the fourth gave immediate entrance to the podium. The arcades of the upper stories lighted the corridors, which encircled the building, as well as the stairs. The whole is crowned with a bold entablature, which is pierced with a series of holes, beneath which are brackets which supported the feet of the masts upon which the velarium, or awning, was extended, and above the entablature was an attic. The length and breadth of the exterior of the Colosseum is 650 feet by 513 feet. The height of that part of the building which remains entire is 157 feet. The stories are respectively about 30, 38, 38, and 44 feet high. The materials used in the construction of the Colosseum were marble, travertine, tufa, and brick. The façade, the exterior porticoes, the arches, are built of stones of travertine. The interior walls and the vaults are built of tufa and brick. Marble was employed on the front and seats of the podium. Some of the stones on the exterior are five feet high, and eight and ten feet long. Small numbers or signs are found inscribed