Vespasian built the Roman Colosseum so people would like him
When Vespasian became the new Roman Emperor in 69 AD, he wanted everyone to know that he cared about the people. He was going to take care of them and not live luxuriously as Nero had.
Who was Nero?
The emperor Vespasian
The Golden House
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Vespasian tore down a lot of Nero’s Golden House and made the land into a public park. That did make Vespasian pretty popular!
He called it the Flavian Amphitheater
Vespasian also used his share of the gold from the looting after the First Jewish Revolt to pay for the construction of a new amphitheater. And again, he put his new amphitheater right where the Golden House had been before the fire. He put an inscription on the front of the Colosseum reminding people that the money came from the Roman army’s victory over the Jews.
What’s an amphitheater?
Building in concrete
The First Jewish Revolt
Because Vespasian’s architects used the new method of building in concrete, he was able to build quickly and cheaply. We call this amphitheater the Colosseum. That’s a nickname it got from the giant statue of Nero that stood near it. Giant statues were called Colossi. But its ancient name was the Flavian Amphitheater. Building the amphitheater made Vespasian even more popular in Rome.
People killed animals and other people there
The Colosseum was a place where a lot of people could sit and watch entertainment. The entertainment was mostly people killing animals, or people killing each other. As far as we know, this wasn’t where the Roman government killed Christians – that was further out of town, where St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican are now.
It was almost exactly like a football stadium today. It was built of concrete and marble and limestone.
What happened to the seats?
The reason the Colosseum seats look so terrible in this picture is that a lot of the seats were made of marble. So people have stolen them away over the years and burned them in lime kilns to make mortar and cement.
How do you make cement?
More about limestone
What is travertine?
What is marble?
The floor has also been burned for cement. So you can see the rooms in the basement where the Romans kept the animals and the equipment and stuff.
Learn by doing – Building a model of the Colosseum
More about Roman amphitheaters
Bibliography and further reading about the Roman Colosseum:
The Roman Colosseum, by Michael and Elizabeth Mann (1998). Easy reading.
The Roman Colosseum, by Don Nardo (1998). Nardo writes lots of good history books for kids. This one is more detailed and more architectural than the Mann book.
Make This Model Roman Amphitheatre, by Iain Ashman (1995).
The Colosseum, by Ada Gabucci, Filippo Coarelli, and Leonardo Lombardi (2001). From the Getty Museum, for adults. Coarelli is a well-known Italian archaeologist. This is a lavish, detailed look at everything about the Colosseum from when it was first built to now.