THE COLOSSEUM: is a huge amphitheatre in the centre of Rome, the largest ever built, whose construction took place between 72-80AD, first under the emperor Vespasian, then under Titus. Built primarily of concrete, it was further modified by Domitian (81-96AD) and became known as the Amphitheatrum Flavium (Flavian Amphitheatre) as those three emperors constituted the Flavian dynasty.
Estimates vary on its peak capacity, but is speculated to have averaged around 65,000 spectators at a time, more than comparable to todays huge stadia. Used for gladiatorial tournaments, animal hunting, executions, dramas, and even for a short time, mock sea battles when the Colosseum was filled with water.
The Colosseum was used to host gladiatorial shows called munera, and these were always given by private individuals rather than the state. They had a strong religious element but were also demonstrations of power and family prestige, and were immensely popular with the population. Another popular type of show was the animal hunt, or venatio. Such events were occasionally on a huge scale; Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia in 107 with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days.
POLLICE VERSO is Latin and roughly translates as with a turned thumb. It refers to the hand gesture or thumbs signal said to be used by Ancient Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator. The type of gesture described by the phrase pollice verso is unclear. From historical, archaeological and literary records it is uncertain whether the thumb was turned up, turned down, held horizontally, or concealed inside the hand to indicate positive or negative opinions.
It’s also a painting by French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme, featuring the eponymous Roman gesture directed to the winning gladiators.The gesture on the painting is given by the Vestals to the victorious murmillo, awaiting the decision on the beaten retiarius at the Colosseum. The painting inspired the 2000 film Gladiator, where Commodus holds out a raised thumb to spare Maximus.
Gérôme’s depiction of Colosseum’s architecture is based on accurate drawings and the armour of gladiators follows the design of those found in Pompeii. Gérôme also checked the written sources for archaeological reference. Some Latin textbooks used Pollice Verso to illustrate Roman customs.