The Colosseum

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Harvard University Press, 2005 - Architecture - 214 pages
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Read the Bldg Blog interview with Mary Beard about the Wonders of the World series(Part I and Part II)

Byron and Hitler were equally entranced by Rome's most famous monument, the Colosseum. Mid-Victorians admired the hundreds of varieties of flowers in its crannies and occasionally shuddered at its reputation for contagion, danger, and sexual temptation. Today it is the highlight of a tour of Italy for more than three million visitors a year, a concert arena for the likes of Paul McCartney, and a national symbol of opposition to the death penalty. Its ancient history is chockfull of romantic but erroneous myths. There is no evidence that any gladiator ever said "Hail Caesar, those about to die..." and we know of not one single Christian martyr who met his finish here.

Yet the reality is much stranger than the legend as the authors, two prominent classical historians, explain in this absorbing account. We learn the details of how the arena was built and at what cost; we are introduced to the emperors who sometimes fought in gladiatorial games staged at the Colosseum; and we take measure of the audience who reveled in, or opposed, these games. The authors also trace the strange afterlife of the monument--as fortress, shrine of martyrs, church, and glue factory. Why are we so fascinated with this arena of death?

 

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The Colosseum

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This slim but extremely well-researched volume attempts to answer two questions--"How should we respond to the bloody images that have come to define the Colosseum in modern culture?" and "Why is it ... Read full review

Contents

The Colosseum Now
1
and Then
21
The Killing Fields
42
The People of the Colosseum
75
Bricks and Mortar
122
Life after Death
149
Making a visit?
182
Further reading
189
List of illustrations
204
List of figures
207
Acknowledgements
208
Index
210
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Keith Hopkins is a professor of ancient history at King's College, Cambridge, & a fellow of the British Academy. He lives in Cambridge, England.

Mary Beard was born on January 1, 1955 in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England. Her alma mater is the University of Cambridge. She is a professor of classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement. Her previous books include the bestselling, Wolfson Prize-winning Pompeii, The Roman Triumph, The Parthenon and Confronting the Classics. Her blog has been collected in the books It's a Don's Life and All in a Don's Day. She is in the 2014 top 10 Prospect list of the most influential thinkers in the world.

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