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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 chock full 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?… (mais)
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Mostrando 5 de 5
Hopkins and Beard have written an accessible and historically critical introduction to the most recognizable monument of ancient Rome. Beard finished the work after Hopkins' death, and her voice comes through its pages, The book delves into the physical fabric of the building and its social context, covering gladiators and other people who used the building.

They do bust a few myths about gladiators, and point out that there is no evidence that it was used as the arena for Christian martyrdom. They ask very valuable questions about how the Colosseum was perceived by ancient Romans. There is also a very good chapter on its history after the fall of the Roman Empire, as well as a first chapter exploring modern perceptions of the monument.

Unlike other readers, I found the book very compelling and enjoyable to read (but I am an ancient history nerd!). I would definitely recommend it as an introduction to the Colosseum and as an introduction to how ancient historians currently practise their craft. ( )
  Iacobus | Apr 23, 2018 |
Se non ci fosse già nel titolo bisognerebbe fare un "monumento" agli autori. Come parlare di storia senza perdere di vista nè il rigore nè l'intrattenimento.
La prossima volta che andrete a Roma non lasciate a casa questo libro, sarebbe un peccato ( )
  icaro. | Aug 31, 2017 |
While the authors have interesting points it feels as if they try to cover too much in too little space. Many things I would have liked to have been elaborated on were only mentioned in passing in one sentence, while other things that didnt seem as interesting were discussed at times for pages. This obviously is rather opinion based but this book is merely ok, nothing great but not horrible either. ( )
  Luftwaffe_Flak | Feb 7, 2014 |
This is the perfect overview of one of the most iconic buildings in the world. Mary Beard, renowned for her accessible and insightful views on world history, collaborated with Keith Hopkins to create an erudite but very readable history of a building that simply took my breath away the first time I saw it live a few years ago.

The Colosseum was recently named one of the 7 NEW Wonders of the World. It’s eye-catching and iconic series of white stone arches, uniformly built into multilayered tiers that diagonally slope where the building has decayed over the course of almost 2000 years, exudes ancient history and immediately invokes images of toga-festooned senators cheering on blood-soaked gladiatorial battles. Beard and Hopkins write, “the Colosseum has become for us the defining symbol of ancient Rome…” driven by “a combination of admiration, repulsion and a measure of insidious smugness. For it is an extraordinarily bravura feat of architecture and a marker of the indelibility of ancient Rome from the modern landscape…”

The authors effectively combine over 30 pictures, drawings and maps with a blend of history, religion, architecture, opinionated analysis, and a fascinating look at the world of gladiators.

The building itself was placed on the remains of Emperor Nero’s famed Golden House, a vast compound that he had built on the charred remains of a burned Rome. The Emperor Vespasian built the amphitheatre as a way to give something back to the people who’d suffered greatly under the rather unstable Nero. Originally known as The Flavian Amphitheatre (Flavian being the family name of Vespasian), the building opened under the reign of Vespasian’s son Titus, two years after the popular Vespasian died.

The authors take great care to highlight the realities of the many myths surrounding the building. While it was likely that Christians were killed in the Colosseum, there exists no evidence that they were fed to the lions, nor evidence indicating they were killed en masse. Animal hunts were a highlight of the many multi-day events held in the building, but it’s highly unlikely that over 5000 animals were killed during the 100-day opening ceremonies.

Following a 300-400 year run as the marquee sporting venue in the Roman empire, the building’s purpose varied dramatically until the mid-19th century when it was finally recognized for its historic, archeological, and touristic value. Popes chargeed a fee to ‘quarry’ its stone for use in other buildings throughout the city. Christian sects utilized the building off and on throughout the centuries, building a chapel, at one point, on the arena floor, and creating enough infrastructures in and around the building to support pilgrims traveling across Europe. The building had even become a botanists dream where it housed 418 different species of flora until the mid-19th century.

Ancient Emperors, modern world leaders, and even celebrities have all claimed a connection to the ancient building. One of the most impressive images in the book is of Benito Mussolini riding horseback, with the Colosseum as a backdrop, during the inauguration of the Via del Impero. The building has held modern concerts, though the acoustics are thought to not be very good.

Having visited the building personally, I also feel a connection to this world wonder. It feels a bit antiseptic. Tourists are corralled into queues and limited in where they can go. Gates, fences and other touches of modernity are subtle but preset and noticeable. But if you’re a wanderer, you can find more. You’ll find random assemblages of travertine stones - unclear whether they're from a more modern repair, an aborted renaissance "quarry", or simply ancient stone with no clear place in the archaeological puzzle. Look hard, and find ancient graffiti or inscriptions

I'm a bit of an "archaeophile" I'll admit. But a visit to The Colosseum is simply too monumental to go underprepared. "The Colosseum" is a must read. I've dog-eared the pages of this book that I'll read to my family during our upcoming trip to the Eternal city. The book has just over 200 pages, but it's cut smaller than the average trade paperback. The writing is clear and concise, and full of easily consumed information. ( )
  JGolomb | Mar 24, 2012 |
4182 The Colosseum, by Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard (read 25 June 2006) On March 3 1971 I read a coffee-table type book on this subject. This volume is carefully researched and if you are gong to Rome it would be a good idea to read this little volume, for which there are things to be said but which I did not find of high interest. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 23, 2007 |
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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 chock full 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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