The Colosseum in Rome is impressive. Built from 72 AD to 80 AD by the emperors Vespasian and Titus, and expanded upon by the succeeding emperor Domitian, much of it still stands today. These three emperors gave their family name (Flavius) to this structure, which was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre.
If the names of these emperors sound familiar, it’s because Vespasian was the Roman general sent to put down the Jewish revolt in 66 AD. In 69 AD (the “Year of the Four Emperors”), at the urging of his troops, he successfully claimed the throne and became emperor, leaving his son Titus in charge in Judea to quell the revolt.
Titus captured Jerusalem in 70 AD and looted the temple, which burned and was destroyed (it is disputed whether or not the Romans intended to destroy the temple or whether it simply got caught up in the chaos of war and the general destruction of the city). This event is depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome, which still remains today.
Titus later succeeded his father Vespasian as emperor in 79 AD and then was succeeded by his brother Domitian (i.e. Vespasian’s other, less worthy son) who ascended the throne in 81 AD under a cloud of suspicion for Titus’ untimely death.
Domitian would later begin an intense period of Christian persecution, during which the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation to give hope to the Church. The core message of Revelation is that despite trials and tribulations in this life the Church is and will be victorious. For, in spite of seemingly overwhelming odds against the Church, what is seen at the end of Revelation with Christ’s return is the Church inheriting the new heaven and new earth.
It was against this historical backdrop that the Colosseum was built and began operation. Next week, in my mid-week posting, I’ll discuss what the Christian apologist and writer Tertullian had to say about it.