As one of the city’s most iconic, ancient landmarks, the Colosseum is a must-see for anyone that appreciates great architecture, as Francesco Corallo understands. The construction of this elliptical amphitheatre was commissioned in 70AD, by the Emperor Vespasian, and work on it was completed in 80AD, under the rule of Titus.
Its history is both disturbing and fascinating in equal measure; it provides us with a great deal of insight into the minds of the Ancient Romans, and their convictions regarding justice and morality. Over the course of four centuries, thousands of people and animals died inside its walls, purely for the entertainment of spectators. A variety of events were held here, including hunts, mock battles, plays and gladiator contests, as well as detailed re-enactments of famous executions and wars.
Whilst the Colosseum was not the first amphitheatre built by the Romans, it was unique, in terms of the way in which it was constructed. Earlier versions were almost invariably positioned against hillsides, in order to provide the structures with additional support. However, the Colosseum was designed with sufficient stability to allow it to stand on its own. Concrete was used to build the arcade vaults and inner bowl, travertine for the facade and primary structural framework, and volcanic tufa for the secondary walls.
Many people, including Francesco Corallo may not be aware that aesthetics were of great importance to the Ancient Romans; nowhere is this fact more evident than in the design of the Colosseum. Ornate columns, in the Corinthian, Ionic and Doric orders, surround the arcades of the arena, creating a striking symmetry which became so popular amongst architects, that it was later used as the foundation of the assemblage of orders used during Renaissance times. The columns’ order varies depending on which storey they are positioned on, with the Corinthian on the third storey, the Ionic on the second, and the Doric on the first. The highest storey – the forth – features Corinthian capitals and pilasters as embellishments.
Over the years, the Colosseum has been ravaged by multiple fires and earthquakes, with its exterior wall experiencing most of the damage. Today, only the northern section of it remains standing; the rest of the structure which can be seen is made up of what was once the amphitheatre’s interior wall.