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Bill Thayer

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The Colosseum

Two views of the Flavian Amphitheater
From the N, through the pine trees on the slopes of the Caelian Hill:

[image ALT: A very large amphitheatre thru a grove of pine trees. It is a view of the Colosseum in Rome as seen from the Caelian Hill.]

[image ALT: A very large amphitheatre seen at the end of a sort of alley bounded on the right by a row of 7 fragmentary columns. It is a view of the Colosseum in Rome as seen thru the remains of the Temple of Venus and Rome.]

From the W, through the colonnade of the Temple of Venus and Rome.

This page was thrown online on Jan. 20, 1999 as a placeholder, just to collect the pieces of what is becoming my Colosseum site, rather than postpone making the resources available because they're not properly tied together yet.

Without any frills then, here are the 3 current pieces:

  1. My most important resource onsite is this major scholar­ly article on the Colosseum in Samuel Ball Platner's Topography of Ancient Rome, as revised by Thomas Ashby (1929). Few illustrations for now, but this is where you will find the journal references, as well as the links to many passages about the building in the Roman historians.

  2. Also quite useful is this in-depth article on amphitheaters (only slightly less scholar­ly) from William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1875). About two-thirds of the long text deals in fact exclusively with the Colosseum. It is illustrated first with its own woodcuts, including a large plan, an elevation, a general cross-section, and a very useful detailed cross-section of the seating system; and then with a few photographs of mine. This is the article that best collects the primary sources, by the way.

  3. A Late Antique inscription still in situ in the Colosseum. It is a witness to a restoration of the amphitheater in the late 5c or early 6c.

A final reminder: you shouldn't expect history to come neatly packaged, and not everything in the Colosseum dates back to Antiquity. This fresco, for example, which almost no one ever looks at although it's in plain sight, over the inner face of the W axial entrance if I'm remembering correctly, is somewhere between late medieval and 17c:

[image ALT: A fresco that appears to represent a map of Rome. It is a medieval or post-medieval wall painting in the Colosseum.]

A map; of Rome, or just the immediate area?
Photo slightly enhanced. Notice the Crucifixion scene.

For an even more striking example, see my note to Platner.

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Site updated: 15 Mar 03