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The BBC's Brian Barron:
"Ancient Rome prospered on the plunder from its conquered enemies"
 real 28k

Monday, 19 June, 2000, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Glory returns to Coliseum
Rome's Coliseum: The Most terrifying place in the Empire
Rome's Coliseum: The most terrifying place in the Empire
By Brian Barron in Rome

A new conservation effort is underway to safeguard the Coliseum in Rome, which is threatened by underground water, sunshine and vegetation, overwhelming corridors and chambers where gladiators once waited their turn to die.

A wooden stage is being built across one end both to protect the ruins below and to be used as a theatre for some jubilee drama productions.


A wooden stage will replace the vanished timber floor
A wooden stage will replace the vanished timber floor
Ancient Rome prospered on the plunder from its conquered enemies - and the most terrifying place in the empire was the Coliseum.

Now, new efforts are underway to safeguard the ruins of the world's most famous building.

The wooden stage is being constructed in the exact position of the Coliseum's long vanished timber floor.

Plants and water threaten the labyrinth of exposed corridors and chambers where gladiators waited before their fatal encounters.


Vegetation threatens to engulf the gladiators' waiting area
Vegetation threatens to engulf the gladiators' waiting area
With the new platform and other renovation, Adriano la Regina, Rome's chief of monuments, hopes visitors will understand the way the Coliseum functioned.

"It is important to give them a good demonstration of how the monument worked during the spectacles," he says.

"With all the elevators for animals and gladiators and the various activities of the spectacle."

A popular favourite



This is a place of massive bloodshed and not just the bloodshed of martyrs and gladiators

Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, British Academy
For emperors, death as public entertainment brought popularity and power.

"Emperors depended crucially on the Coliseum for their popularity," according to Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill of the British Academy.

"Fifty-thousand people came and so popular was it that even when the emperors became Christian and tried to stop gladiatorial games, the use of the Coliseum continued until the Fifth or even the Sixth Century," he says.

"This is a place of massive bloodshed and not just the bloodshed of martyrs and gladiators."

"But enormous bloodshed of animals. That's one of the scariest things. 5,000 animals killed in the opening games alone."

Gladiators back in vogue

And the Coliseum remains big box office.

Special effects and the wizardry of British director Ridley Scott recreated the Coliseum in a new hit Hollywood film, Gladiator.


The Hollywood hit 'Gladiator' recreates the Coliseum
The Hollywood hit 'Gladiator' recreates the Coliseum
Nearby, on the Appian Way, the regeneration of the Coliseum has inspired a group of professionals to set up a gladiators' school.

It is one way of trying to lose weight - and counter the stress of modern city living.


Gladiator schools are proving popular with stressed out city-dwellers
Gladiator schools are proving popular with stressed out city-dwellers
Soon, for the first time in1,500 years, an old killing ground will be used to stage entertainment - a handful of plays on the new wooden stage.

A thumbs down from a theatre critic might be one result.

From an emperor, of course, it meant death.

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See also:

08 May 00 | Tom Brook
Gladiator conquers Hollywood
28 Jul 99 | Europe
Roman tombs revise history
24 Jun 99 | Europe
Golden days for Nero's palace
13 Jun 98 | Europe
Ancient Rome uncovered
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