What’s it about?
The Colosseum is an entire book about the building in Rome. The book covers the building from before it was built – back when the land was a pond in Nero’s palace – through the gladiatorial games of the Ancient Roman empire to its repurposing in the middle ages for various purposes and finally to the tourist attraction we have today.
Why should you read it?
The Colosseum has had a remarkably long life that covers a wide swath of history. It is fascinating, to me anyway, to read about the repurposing of private land (Nero’s palace) into public land (the Colosseum was open to everyone) as a political tactic, even in ancient times.
The success of the film Gladiator shows that we are still fascinated by them – Hopkins and Beard go over the lives of actual gladiators, discussing how often they fought, how likely were they to live, how they fit into the economy as a whole. It should be noted that there is no record of Christians being put to death in the Colosseum – those were stories put about after the end of the gladiatorial games.
Into the middle ages, we see that it was treated a bit like a quarry. Many stones were removed to build other, more immediately necessary buildings. It was also used as a place of business by various people. In the 1800s Lord Byron wrote verses about it and archaeologists began to study it. It’s apparently interesting to botanists as well; there are unique plants that grow in the Colosseum. Who knew?
Overall, if you’re planning a visit to Rome and want to see the Colosseum, I’d recommend reading this.