Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Colosseum

written by Simon Rose
2013 (Weigl Publishers)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Wrapped in Foil

The structure represents both the glory and the cruelty that was once ancient Rome.

If you made a list of well-known ancient architecture, wouldn't you have to include the Colosseum? No, not the place (coliseum) where you might have watched a wrestling match, tractor pull, or REO Speedwagon concert in the 1970's. I'm talking about THE Colosseum in Rome. Started by Roman emperor Vespasian in AD 72, it was completed by his son Titus in AD 80. It was a monument built to celebrate a stoppage of a revolt in AD 70. Previous emperor Nero's palace was demolished to make way for this structure. Oval in shape, it held up to 50,000 people for events that often led to the death of the participants. A monument to cruelty so to speak. On pages 6 and 7, you get a nice timeline that explains different times of damage and repair. Reading this timeline reminded me that Italy is prone to earthquakes which might explain some of the repairs over the centuries. Today, visitors can still original sections of the building. The fact that parts of it are still standing is a tribute to Roman architecture. Author Simon Rose gives a thorough tour of the inside and outside of the Colosseum. He explains the purpose of different sections like arches and promenades. Perhaps the most surprising fact I learned was the presence of a retractable awning called a velarium. This could be pulled over the arena to protect the crowd from the rain. Who knew there were retractable roofs in the first century? Another interesting piece was the hypogeum. This was located underneath the wooden floor of the arena. Gladiators and wild animals were kept here and lifted to the arena by platform. Can you say Hunger Games? Other sections of the book explain the math and science behind the building of the Colosseum, the people responsible for building it, and similar buildings from around the world. In addition, the back matter includes an activity for ambitious readers to build their own model of the building.

This book is part of a series of media enhanced books that link to a website where you can see video and click on links that will take you to more resources about the subject. I think this is helpful although today's readers are pretty adept at finding their own information. If you teach ancient history and/or architecture, this is an excellent book about one of the most famous buildings in the world.


  1. Wonderful find. This would be a great read aloud with follow up of actual images/videos and activities. We read Stephen Biesty's Cross Section books and marveled at the details there. Colloseum would be a good companion book to read along with.
    Thanks for sharing on NF MOnday.

  2. Another interesting book, Jeff! I love the word "hypogeum" -- a new one for me. Yes, it does conjure up images of the Hunger Games. And the math and science sections of the book sound like perfect ways to reinforce concepts.

  3. Wish we'd had this one when building not just one, but two models of the Colosseum over the years. Would also be useful for Latin teachers...

  4. Hi there Jeff, I am fascinated by highly-detailed nonfiction books such as this one. It does look like a riveting/fascinating read. I will be sure to look out for this one. I have a lot of architect friends, I am sure they would love this. :)