Friday, 11 June 2010

Poetry for the Colosseum.

This poem is one of the surviving works of the Roman poet Martial, written to celebrate the inaugural games which took place on the completion of the Colosseum in Rome in AD 80. It was translated by Henry Killigrew in the seventeenth century (in this particular version.)

Egypt, forbear thy Pyramids to praise,
A barb'rous Work up to a Wonder raise;
Let Babylon cease th'incessant Toyl to prize,
Which made her Walls to such immensness rise!
Nor let th'Ephesians boast the curious Art,
Which Wonder to their Temple does impart.
Delos dissemble too the high Renown,
Which did thy Horn-fram'd Altar latelt crown,
Caria to vaunt thy Mausileum spare,
Sumptuous for Cost, and yet for Art more rare,
As not borne up, but pendulous i'th'Air
All works to Caesar's Theatre give place,
This Wonder Fame above the rest does grace.

The poem shows the hype which surrounded the buildings construction and opening. The claim by some scholars that the fame of the Colosseum is a purely modern phenomenon can be challanged to some degree by this book fo verse. Although Martial was obviously bias due to his role as the house poet of the Imperial Court, there is literary evidence to suggest that even later Emperors themselves (such as Constantius II) and visitors from other countries were left in awe by seeing the Colosseum. It seems that then, just as today, people were captivated by these magnificent buildings.

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