Colosseo Marble Block


“The marble architrave was found in 1813 during excavations of the arena. The two original elements were recomposed between 1814 and 1822. The inscription commemorates the restoration of the arena floor, podium and tiered seating severely damaged by an earthquake in 443 AD. The restoration was carried out by Rufius Caecina Felix Lampadius, Prefect of Rome. The presence of holes to hold pins for securing metal letters records the previous use of the blocks for the inscription celebrating the inauguration in 80 AD of the amphitheatrum novum, built with the plunder (ex manubiis of the conquest of Jerusalem in 70.”
Colosseo official sign.

Illustration of the of the marble block in the Colosseo (Photo by JW Bailly/CC BY 4.0)

Amanda Claridge
It bears a long inscription referring to the restoration of various parts of the amphitheatre in the reign of Theodosius II and Valentinian III (AD 425–50) but is riddled with holes from the inlaid bronze letters of a previous inscription, which can be reconstructed as having read: IMP · CAES · VESPASIANUS · AUG | AMPHITHEATRUM · NOVUM | EX · MANUBIIS… FIERI · IUSSIT (The emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general’s share of the booty…). It was not the principal dedicatory inscription, which will have run round the parapet of the arena, but a shorthand version which was probably repeated at various other significant points around the building. The block was found in 1813 at the arena end of the eastern entrance, where it could have formed the lintel of the doorway. The new reading not only confirms that the amphitheatre was essentially Vespasian’s project, but adds the information that he built it as a triumphal monument in the Roman tradition, from his spoils of war (presumably the Jewish triumph of AD 70, which brought some 50,000 kg of gold and silver from the Temple at Jerusalem).
Claridge, Amanda. Rome (Oxford Archaeological Guides) (p. 314). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Frontal view of the marble block in the Colosseo (Photo by JW Bailly/CC BY 4.0)

John William Bailly  25 April 2022

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