History Summarized: The Colosseum (In LEGO!)

B: Hey guys! You know that old saying “Art Imitates Life?” R: Yeah, because LEGO just released an absolutely
massive set of the Roman Colosseum, and to celebrate the launch, they’ve asked us to
make a video giving some context to its lengthy history and surprising diversity of uses over
the ages. B: This arena is easily one of the most famous
pieces of classical architecture, and it’s an excellent summation of the ups and downs
of ancient Roman culture. R: Was that a thumbs up thumbs down gladiator
joke? B: I am electing to ignore that question. SO, with the help of our friends and sponsors
at LEGO, Let’s Do Some History! In the century following the reign of Augustus,
the Roman Empire was having a pretty good time, what with the vast riches, ruling over
most of the known world, and not having to fight a civil war every 30 minutes. But life wasn’t all shiny temples and perfectly-paved
roads, because some of the early emperors were real pieces of work, like Nero, a self-obsessed
tyrant and alleged pyromaniac who built a palace in the middle of the city after a,
let’s say, conveniently-located fire cleared a spot for him. But his lavish narcissism and wild unpopularity
became an opportunity for the later Emperor Vespasian, who demolished Nero’s private
palace and promised to replace it with something meant for the Roman public, and in 72 AD,
construction began on a massive amphitheater in the center of the city. Typically, earlier Greek theaters were semicircular,
and carved into the nearest available hillside. But this Roman amphitheater was fully round
and freestanding… and big. R: Man, you really have to hand it to those
Roman Architects. — B: Boy do we. But weirdly enough, the name “Colosseum”
doesn’t refer to the colossal-ness of the stadium, but of a huge statue of Nero left
over from the demolished palace, later redecorated into a statue of the sun god Helios. And while the current building is a little,
uh, incomplete, we can see from the surviving outer wall that the Romans spared no expense
in ornamentation. The amphitheater had three stacked colonnades
of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian styles, in ascending order of fance. R: But Blue, surely they didn’t just build
a giant freestanding structure for funsies. They have to have actually done stuff with
it, right? — B: Honestly, knowing the Romans, I wouldn’t
put it past them. But you’re right, this building was quite
the venue. The Flavian Amphitheater, as it was known
in the day, played host to all kinds of events. There were, of course, the flashy gladiatorial
matches that earned Rome so much moral infamy, but it also held chariot races, parades, animal
hunts, reenactments of scenes from mythology and history, and, somehow, Entire Naval Battles. Always in pursuit of greater and greater spectacle,
the showrunners at the Colosseum could flood the arena and stage fights between tiny navies. Those got moved to a separate arena after
Domitian installed a maddeningly-complex labyrinth of machinery beneath the arena. This Hypogeum was a network of tunnels and
some 60-odd lifts that allowed people, animals, and props to be raised right up into the arena. In the event of a Beast Hunt, the stage crew
could keep the Hunter on their toes by releasing the next wild animal (or three) from anywhere
in the arena. Drama. And despite lacking a, uh, roof, the top of
the Colosseum was no slouch for stage mechanics, as it had a series of retractable awnings
to keep the spectators nicely shaded. R: So, uh, what about that stuff I read on
the Colosseum seeing some serious action as a venue for Religious Persecution By Involuntary
Zoo? — B: As it happens, yeah the thing with
the lions was popularized during the Renaissance, but it’s doubtful it ever actually happened. In fact, that won’t be the first time people
misinterpreted the Colosseum. A millennium after the Fall of the Roman Empire,
scholars assumed the building was originally a giant open-air temple to the pagan sun god;
like a bigger, roofless version of the Pantheon. It took a surprising amount of time for us
to figure out that the giant sporting venue was indeed a giant sporting venue. After the empire, it obviously fell into disrepair,
but it was still in active use, if not for its original intended purpose. Because later generations of Romans wouldn’t
look a gift megastructure in the mouth, it was retrofitted with apartments, stalls for
food vendors and tradespeople, artisan workshops, a church, a fortress (briefly, in the 1100s),
and, most consequentially, it was used as a marble quarry. In fairness to the medieval Romans, an earthquake
in 1349 politely dismantled the south wall for them. But this practice of reduce, reuse, ruin also
applied to the bronze clamps that originally held the stones together, which later Romans
pried off and melted down, hence the speckled appearance today. The Colosseum may well have become little
more than a sketch in a history book if not for the conservation instincts of post-Renaissance
Romans. The Colosseum was ordained a holy site in
1749, and after Italian unification in 1871, Rome began an extensive excavation and preservation
program that continues to today. R: Wow, that’s quite a lively history for
an arena built as a glove-slap to Emperor Nero. —
B: Sure is, and being a gorgeous piece of architecture designed in service of brutal
combat and lavish spectacle, there’s no better icon for the Roman Empire. R: And that’s our quick look at the history
of the Colosseum! We hope this helps put some context behind
the building and let you better appreciate the design of this set. B: Thank you again to LEGO for giving us the
opportunity to talk about this today. If you’d like to check out this beautiful
behemoth of a build for yourself, you can click the link in the description. R: But like, seriously though, this set is
way cool. B: Oh totally. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to
get back to building, because this set is one seriously Big Boy. Later!
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_Im5glLEtQ

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