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The Colosseum

The History of the Colosseum began in Rome when the first recorded gladiatorial fight was staged in 264AD. Decimus Junius Brutus Scaeva put on a gladiatorial combat to honor the memory of his deceased father who was a consul named D. Junius Brutus Pera. Three pairs of slaves, selected from among 22 prisoners of war, were chosen to fight. The first gladiatorial fight took place in the Forum Boarium, a cattle market, situated near the

Tiber between the Capitoline, the Palatine and Aventine hills. As this was the funeral of a prominent aristocrat and held in a public space, the event was likely to have drawn a large crowd. This first Gladiatorial combat was a clever idea as it also brought political prestige to their familyıs name.

So the history of gladiatorial combat and therefore the Colosseum is related to a funeral. The religion of the Romans revolved around the worship of various gods and goddesses and their belief in the afterlife. Romans believed that human sacrifice at the dead person's funeral would appease the pagan gods and ensure a satisfactory entrance into the afterlife. Earlier customs of sacrificing prisoners on the graves of warriors or aristocrats were followed by Romans. Ceremonies connected with the dead lasted for nine days after the funeral, at the end of which time a sacrifice was performed.

The Romans believed that "souls of the dead were propitiated by human blood..." Preparation for Roman funeral rites involved captives or slaves being bought, trained to kill and then sacrificed during the funeral rituals.

This funereal ritual, or sacrificial ceremony, was called a munus - a duty paid to a dead ancestor by his descendants, with the intention of keeping alive his memory. The history and concept of the Colosseum grew from the custom of funeral games. The funeral games were organised as public events by wealthy Roman aristocrats and Patricians. The Gladiator games were popular with the 'mob'. At first gladiator games, or combats, were held in small wooden arenas.

The word "arena" means sand, a reference to the thick layer of sand on the floor for the purpose of soaking up the blood. But as the popularity of the games grew large amphitheatres were built to house the games. The amphitheatres were round or oval in shape. Their design was taken from joining two half circle wooden theatres together (the word "amphi" means 'both sides').

The most important amphitheatre, prior to the Colosseum, was the first stone built amphitheatre in Rome which was called the Amphitheater of Statilius Taurus.

It was built in 29 BC, on the Campus Martius, by consul Titus Statilius Taurus in the time of the Emperor Augustus. This amphitheatre was quite small and in order to placate the plebs the Emperor Nero built a much bigger, wooden, amphitheatre called the Amphitheatrum Neronis in 57AD. Both of these amphitheatres were completely destroyed in 64AD due to the Great Fire of Rome.

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