Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
The Colosseum is one of the most famous monuments of ancient Rome and one of the most intensively studied structures from antiquity. Archaeology and its architecture tell us much about the engineering that was necessary to complete this massive venue and to carry out its lavish spectacles. What we know about the games in the Colosseum largely derives from literary sources, such as Martial’s Book of Spectacles. A perhaps less obvious source of information about the Colosseum and its games is the Roman imperial coinage, as the amphitheater appeared on coins in the reigns of Titus, Domitian, and Severus Alexander, as well as on medallions of Gordian III. Its modern restorations were commemorated on papal medals and the iconic monument features on Italy’s five euro-cent coin. Recent studies of the representations on coins, in tandem with literary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence, have shed light on how the Colosseum and its construction was a key component of political representation, and even offers compelling evidence for emperor worship in the Colosseum. Such work proves that there is still much to learn about even the most famous ancient monuments.