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At the end of the Via dei Fori Imperiali stands the COLOSSEUM, one of the greatest marvels of the Roman civilization. This immense amphitheatre, whose ancient splendour we can still admire, was begun by Vespasian in A.D. 72 and finished by his son Titus in A.D. 80. Hebrew prisoners were employed in its construction. Its real name is the Flavian Amphitheatre, commonly called Colosseum perhaps because the Colossus of Nero was in its vicinity. There is scarcely a page of Roman history that is not connected with the Colosseum, which became the symbol of the city and its life. Thus in the 8th century the Venerable Bede sald: «While the Colosseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Colosseum falls, Rome shall fall; and when Rome falls, with it the World shall fall». After the sacking of the Normans (1084), nothing but a skeleton remained of antique classic Rome; the Colosseum was abandoned and for years it was used as a quarry for building material. To save what was left of it, Benedict XIV ( 17401758) consecrated the ancient amphitheatre by setting up a permanent Way of the Cross and erecting a cross on this site, which the pius legend has linked with the name of the thousands of martyrs who gave up their lives for their faith. In fact, there is no historical proof that Christian massacres took place here even though many Christians were certainly among those who were put to death in this monument. The «Ludi Circenses» were the favourite shows of the Romans, games that were probably invented in the last days of the Republic, with the intention of developing the war like spirit that had made them the conquerors of the world. This was the origin of the professional gladiators, who were trained to fight to the death, while wild beasts of every sort increased the horror of the show. Dion Cassius says that 9000 wild animals were killed during the hundred days of festivity to celebrate the dedication of this building. After the animals were killed, and removed, the arena was often filled with water in order to stage naval battles. The great Emperor Constantine and his successors tried to stop the gladiatorial fights, but at first the Romans would not give up their customary shows. The last of these events about which we have some evidence, dates back to 523, when Theodoric, King of the Goths, agreed to an animal hunt requested by the consul elected for that year. The Colosseum, of elliptical form, is 205 yards in its longest diameter and 170 yards in its shortest. On the outside there were three rows of arches, respectively adorned with Doric, lonic and Corinthian columns, and a fourth floor was adorned with Corinthian pilasters. An ellipse of 80 arches formed the outer circuit. Four arches corresponding to the four semi diameters, led to a large corridor that went all around it. In the centre of one side of the podium called «suggestum», was the Emperor's seat; the rest of the podium was occupied by senators and patricians. Then there were the places for cavaliers, civil and military tribunes. There were also special places for married people, for young men accompanied by their tutors, for families and servants, for women and for the plebeians. The Colosseum was normally uncovered; but in the case of rain or during very hot days it was protected by an immense velarium, which was fixed by two squads of sailors belonging to the fleets of Ravenna and Cape Misenum. These two teams also took part in naval battles, which are however soon moved to suitable pools close to the Tiber. Among them, the «Naumachia Vaticana» is famous. It was designed by Domitian himself, who was responsible for completing the Colosseum. When the amphitheatre was at the climax of its glory, it must have been a stupendous sight of Roman splendour. But even to day, after so many centuries, the Colosseum is the pride of Rome and the marvel of visitors. Between the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine and the south entrance to the Roman Forum, interesting excavations have been carried out, which have not only made it possible to replace well known monuments in their original locations, (at least ideally), such as the fountain of the Meta Sudans and the base of the «Colossos of Nero», but have supplied numerous clues as to the way this area, including the complex of the Domus Aurea (Nero's Golden House), was organized. Before the rule of Nero, a district of rather small, irregular dwellings existed here, whose remains show the clearest traces of the fire of 64 A.D. After this dramatic event, Nero had an artificial lake made in this little valley, in the exact spot which was later occupied by the Colosseum.
The Arch of Constantine was erected by the Senate and the Roman people at the extreme limit of the Forum on the Via Sacra, in memory of the victory of Constantine at Ponte Milvio in 312.
Almost all the material was taken from the arches of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius and from other monuments, so that this work may be considered “a true museum of official Roman sculpture, perhaps the richiest and the most important of all” (F.Coarelli). From the historical point of view, the most interesting part of the arch is its inscription: “ To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine Masimus, pius, felix, augustus, the Senate and the people of Rome dedicate the notable arch in honour of his triumphs, because, by Divine inspiration and greatness of mind, he freed the Republic by just wars from tyranny and from factions”. Now the magistrates of the city were pagans and they knew that Constantine, if not a Christian, favoured Christianity. They did not want to name Christ on a public monument and yet they did not want to offend the Emperor by naming pagan gods. So they found a way to satisfy both sided by saying “Divine inspiration” (to promote divinity). The finest religious building in Rome was the twin Temple of Venus and Roma of which the ruins still remain. The columns, scattered on the ground, and now reconstructed and erected on the same spot, give us the idea of the portico that surrounded the temple. It was designed by Hadrian, who had the Colossus of Nero removed to obtain the necessary space. On the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Roma, was built, in the VII century, the church of “Santa Maria Nova”, dedicated at the beginning of the XVII century to Santa Francesca Romana.