Wednesday, August 16, 2023


"Coloseum  is a docu drama series with some insights to Roman history.  One point made clear at the beginning is that the Romans became connoisseurs of violence.  Juvenal, the satirist came up with the phrase "bread and circuses" as a prescription for Emperors to maintain power.

The Coloseum was built to appease the masses and demonstrate Roman ingenuity.  Construction was started in 72 AD and completed in 80 AD.   Haterious was put in charge.  The building required one million bricks and 300 tons of iron clamps.  Concrete was not invented by the Romans, but they included volcanic ash that added strength.  Slave labor accounted for the heavy work.  It could seat from 50,000 to 80,000     

A few years later it was decided that special effects were needed and this required an underground network where animals and people could stay and literally pop up when the show was ready.  A lot of difficulties had to be overcome to finish the Hypogeum and one of the developments was a tread wheel crane to move objects up above ground.

A variety of entertainment was offered.  A favorite was gladiator combat which often, but not always led to a violent killing.  Gladiators and worker slaves were selected from the many Roman conquests.   Another crowd pleaser was executions, sometimes by animals.  The meat from dead animals was given to people.  Later when Roman leaders saw Christians as dangerous they were a prime target.  One episode told the story of Ignatius.  He was from Antioch where a series of earthquakes had spooked Roman leaders who blamed them on Christianity.  Ignatius had decided he could not bow to a Roman Emperor as above his Lord and thought of the concept of martyrdom.  Eventually martydom did help Christianity to become dominant.

It was very possible for slaves to become free and fairly common.    

Two historical characters were given coverage and connected to the Colosseum.  Marcus Aurelius has been considered a philosopher king who is still quoted today.  Galen was a medical expert who was ambitious wanting to provide his expertise to the elite.  He started in Pergomon where he worked at a gladiator school.  It is easy to think gladiators were expendable, but they were actually valuable with a lot of time and money invested in them.  Galen learned to keep them healthy.  From there he went to Alexandria where he learned about dissection.  He developed surgery employing sophisticated tools (for the time),  pain killers and disinfecting.  He was also a pharmacologist and developed an antidote to poison.

His goal was to meet Marcus Aurelius and used his philosopher teacher Eudemis who knew the emperor.  It did not work out, but a few years later Eudemis fell ill and Galen diagnosed a type of malaria with no known cure.  However Galen was able to help.  Reminding Marcus Aurelius didn't have much effect, however in a distant battlefield his boasts were recalled when a plague (likely smallpox) affected large numbers of soldiers.  He was called and although he was not able to cure the disease he was able to help some survive and earned the trust of Marcus.  The two actually shared similar viewpoints.  Galen was a prolific writer on medical concerns and some of his ideas are still used today.

Marcus Aurelius did not like gladiator games and replaced metal swords with wooden swords that proved to be unpopular.  With the plague depleting soldiers he decided to convert the healthy gladiators to soldiers promising them freedom.  Marcus Aurelius marks the point when the Roman Empire went downhill and waves of barbarians assaulted the Roman Empire..  

Christianity gradually gains power with at one point pagan statues taken down including at the Colessum. 

The violence is intense and repetitive.  There is significant historical information from experts if you can deal with the violence.  I watched it from a DVD borrowed from the local library.

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