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on 28 June 2006
Picked up this book as I'm studying the Colosseum for a college course and what a find it is! Written in an engaging style without becoming too dry or academic, the book tells you not only about the structure itself and the incredible feat achieved in building it but also about the background of gladiatorial contests in the Roman empire and how the games fitted into Roman society. An effort has been made to include recent finds and theories about the Colosseum and many widely believed myths are "busted" too (Christians v Lions?), there is also some discussion about how this ruin has influenced later peoples (such as Byron and nineteenth century novelists).

The book is illustrated with some clear diagrams and pictures of paintings, graffito, and even an Asterix cartoon! One criticism is that sometimes some of the photographs are a little indistinct but this is only a very minor annoyance.

Also included are some tips on visiting the site.

All in all I found this book hugely enjoyable and have no reservation in recommending it to students or tourists alike!
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This book is fantastic. I had to do a project on the Colosseum for a course module and was a little stumped until I found this brilliant, brilliant book. It is well written, which with factual books, for me, means easy to read and understand without being patronising. It was very, very interesting indeed and had lots of fantastic snippets of information along with the usual, how many cubic metres of stone went into this etc, etc...It struck a lovely balance between the architecture, the history and the social significance of the building to the Romans. There were useful and relevant illustrations and a lovely, and I thought successful attempt to make it relevant to modern readers, with stuff on the film Gladiator and other contemporary resources. There was a good bibliography, which I used, so I know this to be true. I highly recommend this book, both if you're a curious tourist or a student. It's not too long, it's definitely not dry and it was well worth the money. It made me want to read others in the series, even though I'm no longer studying historical architecture, and that's saying something.
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The Colloseum in Rome is arguably one of the five most famous buildings in the world but there are very few books about it. At least I have found that to be the case, as I have always had a fascination for the place. May this is the macabre side of me coming out. But it is not just the gladiatorial contests and many other blood letting contests that went on including wild animals fighting both humans and one another or the naval battles that were fought there. Yes naval battles, with real ships and the arena flooded with water. I readily admit that I find these interesting and have done for many years.

However the main attraction of the Flavian Amphitheatre, to give it its correct name is its architectural beauty. It is a building that we would be hard pressed to replicate today, even with all the modern building techniques that we now possess. A building that could fill with people and empty at the end of the games quicker than most modern football stadiums. A building that has stood the test of time. It is only vibration and pollution from modern day traffic that is now affecting the building more than the last two thousand years ever have.

A building that had more happening underground than ever happened above ground. Gladiator quarters, infirmaries. Lifts and hoists moved by an intricate network of pulleys and cables, that allowed wild animals to be brought up to the arena level.

This book tells you everything you need to know and more. It is well written And has some illustrations, but these are secondary to the excellent text.
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The Colosseum in Rome is arguably one of the five most famous buildings in the world but there are very few books about it. At least I have found that to be the case, as I have always had a fascination for the place. May this is the macabre side of me coming out. But it is not just the gladiatorial contests and many other blood letting contests that went on including wild animals fighting both humans and one another or the naval battles that were fought there. Yes naval battles, with real ships and the arena flooded with water. I readily admit that I find these interesting and have done for many years.

However the main attraction of the Flavian Amphitheatre, to give it its correct name is its architectural beauty. It is a building that we would be hard pressed to replicate today, even with all the modern building techniques that we now possess. A building that could fill with people and empty at the end of the games quicker than most modern football stadiums. A building that has stood the test of time. It is only vibration and pollution from modern day traffic that is now affecting the building more than the last two thousand years ever have.

A building that had more happening underground than ever happened above ground. Gladiator quarters, infirmaries. Lifts and hoists moved by an intricate network of pulleys and cables, that allowed wild animals to be brought up to the arena level.

This book tells you everything you need to know and more. It is well written And has some illustrations, but these are secondary to the excellent text.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 2 December 2012
Mary Beard always writes in such a way as to bring the history alive for the reader; never dry and dull. This book, written together with Keith Hopkins, tells the story of the Colosseum; a place that, for most people, immediately conjures up images of blood and sand, gladiators and martyred Christians, wild animals and the howling crowd, emperors, death and glory. The sheer size of the stadium, the numbers of victims, both human and animal, the spectacles and the number of days they went on for is really quite mind-boggling. A great read, and thought-provoking.
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on 23 June 2013
In a very easy to understand English that doesn't require an intellectual education, Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard write a history of the Colosseum in Rome ( buildings of this kind were found all over the Roman Empire ). The colosseum was built around 50 AD. Hopkins and Beard discuss the use of the colosseum from it's origin until today. They explain ( among other things ) the way that different social classes were seated. The senators were seated in the front row, alongside the Emperor, behind them were the other aristocrats, Roman citizens and finally slaves and foreigners on the wooden seats instead of marble seats.

An interesting question is what kind of games were performed. There were not only Gladiator fights but also animal hunting ( as exotic as elephants, giraffes, and tigers among other ferocious beasts ). An other problem Hopkins/Beard discuss, is how many Gladiators died in a season and if it's true that Christians were meat for tigers, lions, jaguars, bears, and such, all of this because they remained loyal to their religion. It's not easy to understand why the Romans did this. In Imperial Rome there were a lot of religions (Jewish, Egyptian - Isis cult - and several cults of the East.). All their followers lived in peace while staying loyal to their religion. So why the Christians?

Veterans and talented Gladiators were worth a lot of money ( moreover their training was expensive and time consuming ). This leads to the idea that on more than one occasion Gladiators fought with wooden weapons and performed a sort of choreography, a bit like stuntmen in modern movies. It was very close to real fighting and made the public sit on the edge of their seat. Hopkins and Beard found no evidence that Christians were thrown in the arena to be devoured by wild animals. It's significant that Christians themselves didn't mention the Colosseum as a place of martyrdom like many other places were.

In later centuries the colosseum was used as a stone quarry, a place for building houses, excavating antiquities and so on. In the last chapter Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard give all kinds of advice to tourists who want to visit the Colosseum. At the end of the day you'll know that the Colosseum is more than a place where Gladiators fought.
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on 11 May 2014
This is a very useful book for those who are planning to visit Rome and the Colosseum and for those who were wondering if Hollywood and Christian hagiography have over time painted a really accurate picture of the goings-on in the arena. I'll give you one guess at the right answer.
I've used the word 'useful' advisedly instead of words like thrilling or hugely entertaining. The reason is the figures. Almost every chapter of the Colosseum's and the Roman Games' history is drowned in them and you really have to like figures and calculations a lot to be thrilled by this way of history-writing. The book's sleeve notes promise us that this tale will be at times 'hilarious', but that is only for those who are very easily tickled.
So, 5 stars for factual information and 3 for entertainment value make for a 4-star rating.
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on 5 March 2009
If you want to know some interesting facts about the Colosseum but aren't into dry academic type books, try this one. It's easy to read, factual (unlike a lot of internet information about the Colosseum which is just plain wrong), and humourous. The authors are clearly passionate about the subject and want to inspire the same enthusiasm into the reader.

I love Rome, visit it often and next time will see the Colosseum through different eyes. If you're at all interested in Rome or ancient Roman history you'll love this book.
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on 8 October 2009
Excellent. Highly readable and very informative. I'm off to Rome in just over a week's time. I've been before and would otherwise not have paid much attention to the Colosseum having already visited it but after reading this book, I will be spending quite a bit of time visiting it and the monuments around e.g. the Arch of Titus as this book has given me a greater insight into them. Highly recommended.
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on 21 February 2014
Not as entertaining as "Pompeii-the life of a Roman town", but interesting enough. I bought it because I thought is in the same style as the other book-Pompeii, but I didn't find the same sparkling tone which kept me "glued" to the other book.
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