7 facts you (probably) don't know about the Colosseum in Rome. Some of them, you would never expect to be true...
- The mystery on its name. At first, it was named “Anfiteatro Flavio” (translated “Flavian amphitheater”) because it was built under Vespasian and Titus, from the Flavian dynasty. The name “Colosseum” has come only during the Middle Ages: perhaps because it’s been built close to the colossal statue of Nero, called, in Rome, the “colossus”; others say that it was built on a hill where once was the Temple of Isis, from which “Collis Isei”. There’s also another legend, pretty diabolic, for which it once was a pagan temple, where the Devil was adored and at the end of every ceremony the devotee used to ask the initiates “Colis eum?” (translated “Do you adore him?” – the Devil)
- Without the Colosseum, many historical buildings wouldn’t exist. The marble from its facade and from some internal parts has been utilized for the construction of the St. Peter’s Basilica and for many residential buildings like Palazzo Barberini, in Rome. When abandoned, for a long time the amphitheater has been used as source of building materials; until the 18th century, when love for ancient Rome blossomed again. It’s been calculated that only a third of the original materials are still there…
- Earthquakes and unauthorized development. In the 13th century, inside the Colosseum was erected a building of the Roman family named “Frangipane” and it continued to be occupied from other residential buildings, too. A bunch of earthquakes contributed to its deterioration: the one happened in 851 made two southern arcades collapse so the Colosseum took the asymmetrical shape that we’re used to see now.
- Horrid and diabolic. At the time of gladiators the Colosseum gained a sinister reputation, being considered one of the 7 doors to Hell, since thousands people died there. It is said that in the Colosseum many propitiatory rituals took place, utilizing the same blood of people who died in the arena. In the Middle Ages, then, gangs used to bury their victims there. In the 16th century, magicians and wizards in Rome used to appreciate its plants, considered to have magical powers.
- A little jungle! The flora spontaneously growing in the Colosseum has been studied for almost 400 years. Over the centuries, more than 680 species have been identified; in 1855, 420 species were counted and, even after some eradications, many have returned. Nowadays, there are more than 200 species growing spontaneously in the Colosseum.
- In Hollywood. Colosseum has been the set of many movies although the most famous film to praise the Colosseum, The Gladiator with Russel Crowe, hasn’t been shot there. Many issues involving the Colosseum made Ridley Scott decide to shoot the cruel parts of the mentioned movie in the Roman amphitheater of El Jem, in Tunisia, and in another amphitheater in Malta, expressly built for the occasion. It took only 19 weeks to build it and the structure was in wood and incomplete, too: the most was done by visual effects during post production.
- A private restoration. Few people know that in 2011 Tod’s, the world-famous Italian shoemaker, sponsored a 25 million euros restoration of the Colosseum, which started in 2013. It was the first full cleaning and repair in the Colosseum's history and it’s been completed in June 2016. For more info on this fact, click here.