The sample essay on Colosseum Meaning deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches, and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
The Colosseum’s design was determined by its public function as an arena to be used for huge public gatherings. Functionally it served as the greatest entertainment venue of the Roman Empire, to stage gladiatorial combats, beast shows and plays. Socially it served as a place of punitive control, where executions of criminals and prisoners took place.
Politically it served as a permanent reminder of the benevolence of the Empower and the power of the Empire.
The architecture needed to satisfy three requirements, ‘Commodity’, ‘Firmness’ and ‘Delight’. The practical design gave form to its public function successfully. The oval shape allowed the architect to fit more people around the edges as well as an unobstructed view of events. The staged seating enhanced visibility and separated the varied social strata of people within the arena.
There were huge draining and disposal systems capable of handling massive weights and providing overall sanitation. This satisfied the ‘Commodity’ requirement set by Vitruvius, as the building provided shelter and had an efficient operating system of entry and exit.
The ‘Firmness’ was achieved through the sound and sturdy structure of the Colosseum, the lowest tier was formed with a Tuscan order which was the sturdiest , next was the Ionic order which was slender and above that was the Corinthian , which was the most noticeably slender of all.
The Articulation of the Colosseum added to its delight as hugely decorated walls seemed inviting, making it seem welcome and not so imposing but also added to the beauty of the building. The symmetry of the exterior with the use of columns and entablatures added to its appeal.
The symbolic meaning of the Colosseum as a statement of imperial splendour was further enhanced by its size and it’s location in the centre of the city, placing it literally and symbolically in the centre of Rome.
What attitude towards the Roman games did the ancient writers express? How would you account for the differences and similarities between these attitudes?
The Games were an integral part of the Roman way of life for over 500 years. They were a way of expressing Roman citizenship and a celebration of the power and wealth of the Roman Empire. They were an important factor in reinforcing the might of the Empire.
There were a variety of viewpoints in the attitudes towards the Roman games expressed by ancient writers. The backing of the Emperor was an element of the games that was seen to be politically wise to praise. Martialis shamelessly flatters his patron Domitian, “A treacherous lion had harmed his master with his ingrate mouth, daring to violate the hands he knew so well: but he paid a fitting penalty”. Martial is praising the use of public executions played out in the amphitheatre. He also is in awe of the fast moving sets and scenery, “But a short while hence you will be saying: ‘Here but lately was the sea.” He seems wholeheartedly in favour of the games and sees no wrong in the public executions, wild beast attacking criminals and the public displays of sexual intercourse.
However in stark contrast to Martialis’s view, Apeleius seems tormented and utterly horrified with the events about to take place in the arena, “besides the contagion of the damnable polluted woman, I was greatly tormented by the fear of death”. It could be argued that the differences in opinion could be due to the fact that Martialis narrates as a spectator, whereas Apeleius makes the events more personal and brings them to life by narrating them in the first person, making them seen even more gruesome and horrendous. Apeleius seems repulsed at the extravagance yet also in awe of the might and generosity of Demochares preparing for a public show, “He lavishly tended and fed all those bears with the utmost care.” “You could see the animal wreckage of their moribund carcasses lying scattered in most of the streets.”
Pliny expresses positive views of the games and expresses admiration for the way in which they are executed well, much like the views of Martialis, “You have also done admirably in giving the show so readily and on such a lavish scale, for this indicates a true sense of generosity.” Pliny was senator in Rome so his political allegiance to the Emperor influenced his opinions of the Games.
Suetonius again seems impressed by the games and events that take place in the Colosseum. He was a member of the upper class so had a strong affiliation with the Emperor which would seem a likely reason for his positive comments. “The whole body of the people in particular he treated with such indulgence on all occasions”, Suetonius seems to imply that the Emperor was most benevolent and was constantly seeking to please his spectators.
Although Cicero was a politician, publicly he stated a positive interest in the games, but privately he seemed to be repulsed by the vulgarity and brutality of them. The extract to a friend expresses his shame and resignation to the fact that the games will continue, “And we who were there saw nothing new”. “But what pleasure can it be to a man of refinement when either a powerless man is torn by a very powerful beast.” In the Tusculan Disputations, Cicero tries to justify the Games but one can’t help but think that he is grappling with his conscience. His comment about how the games where criminals killed one another in some way acted as a deterrent for others. “At least among those addressed not to the ears but to the eyes.”
Statius a writer for the Emperors court expresses his views rather emotionally, making the games seem more than just an event. He discusses in detail the effect the slayings have on the Emperor, “the loss of one lion alone drew a tear from mighty Caesar’s eye. He almost brings the event to life, writing of the slow death and bravery of the lion.
Seneca’s views are refreshingly honest; he is able to be as frank as he virtually ruled Rome for five years on behalf of Emperor Nero. This would explain his views; his dialogue implies the games were put on to satisfy the masses, it is they that wanted the butchery and slayings. He implies the masses are creatures of ill repute “associating with crowds is dangerous: someone is bound to seduce us with some vice”. He refers to his immortal god which is rare as all the other writers refer to no higher being than the Emperor. Seneca seems to understand the minds of the masses and understands the need for such events, but is also aware that the games are only possible due to the participants being almost wild and untamed, be they human or animal, “Give the Immortal Gods thanks that you are giving a lesson in cruelty to a man who cannot learn it.”
The last extract by St Augustine implies the game were wicked and evil, turning the good into bad and condemning their souls forever. He implies that the games were addictive and turned even the hardiest opponents. They became so embedded in the souls of the spectators that they were almost like addicts, not satisfied until their next dosage.
In conclusion the overall impression is that the ancient writers expressed their views in correlation to their political affiliations. The main body of comments seem to find something positive in the games, and present them as a much needed part of Roman Society, to ensure the masses had a means of escapism from everyday toils. It was an effective and successful way of controlling crime, and maintaining order and control in society.