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Rome's Colosseum

Colosseum of Rome, a Condominium in Medieval Times


The Colosseum of Rome is infamously known as the site of brutal gladiator battles in which slaves, Christians, and gladiator fighters were mercilessly slaughtered for the enjoyment of the emperor and his people. However, interesting new research reported in Discovery News has revealed that the Colosseum functioned as a bustling medieval bazaar full of houses, stables and workshops in the Middle Ages.

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is located in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy.  It was the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, and indeed the world, and is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Built between 70 and 80 AD under the emperor Vespasian and then Titus, the Colosseum could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators.

As the glory of Rome faded and the empire crumbled in the face of barbarian invasions, the giant arena began to take on a different use. Archaeologists from Roma Tre University and students from the American University of Rome unearthed evidence showing that ordinary Romans lived within the Colosseum from the ninth century until at least 1349, when the building was seriously damaged by an earthquake.

Inside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum. Photo source: BigStockPhoto

Excavations at Rome’s most iconic monument revealed sewage pipes, potsherds, and the foundations of a 12 th century wall beneath the arched entrances that lead into the Colosseum. One of the more intriguing discoveries was a tiny monkey figurine carved out of ivory, which is believed to have been a pawn in a chess game.

The findings revealed that the houses, stables, and workshops were located around the circular walls of the arena and opened out onto the central area where gladiators once fought. The arena would have been a common space buzzing with activity.

Excavated foundations inside the Colosseum

Excavated foundations inside the Colosseum. Photo source: BigStockPhoto

Severe damage was inflicted on the Colosseum by the great earthquake in 1349, causing the outer south side, lying on a less stable alluvial terrain, to collapse. Much of the tumbled stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. A religious order moved into the northern third of the Colosseum in the mid-14th century and continued to inhabit it until as late as the early 19th century.

Plans are underway to continue excavations next year and it is hoped that researchers will gain even more insight into the ancient history of the Colosseum, the emblem of Rome.

Featured image: The Colosseum, Rome, Italy. Photo source: BigStockPhoto

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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