Also known as the Amphitheatrum Flavium. It was built during the Flavian dynasty and dedicated by Titus in A.D. 80. In it there were games lasting 100 days, which were described by Martial (On the Spectacles). The estimated capacity was 50,000. Material used was stone and concrete, and dimensions were 188/156 meters. Admission was free but spectators were seated according to a strict class-biased protocol.

The exterior facade had Tuscan, or Doric, columns on the ground level, Ionic on the second, and Corinthian on the third (the 4th level was an attic for waving banners and had Corinthian pilasters). There was access from the ground level to any other level and easy egress via 76 exits. The seats sloped towards the arena ("sand") and focused the crowd's attention. The structure was based on groin vaults, on deep concrete foundations.

The best seats were next to the arena and reserved for senators (this section included the emperor's imperial box). The zone one level higher was for the equestrians, then sections for clients (plebeians), public guests, and at the very top, women. There was also an elaborate underground system of passageways and cages for the gladiators to transport the beasts.

If you visit it at night, you run the risk of being eaten alive by herds of rampaging cats.

You may think that cats don't travel in herds, and usually this supposition is correct, but something about the antiquity of this site reminds them of Ulthar, that they once were lions and can sup on what they want, whether it requires some slight assistance or not.

While the Colosseum was most often the site of gladiator matches on the Colosseum's floor, it was sometimes flooded with water so that naval battles could be re-enacted.

Tidbit - according to a local, the word "arena" is derived from the word used to describe the sand they placed on the floor of the colosseum (over the wood) to absorb the blood and guts from the gory spectacles.

During the hotter days, a canvas-like covering was used to shade the spectators. This was ties to huge stone pegs outside the colosseum with ropes. Only a few of these remain today.

When you see pictures of the colosseum today, you'll see a lot of holes in the stone. When built, the ampitheatre was earthquake proof - the Romans used metal to hold the blocks of stone together. Over the years the practice of plundering places for building resources lead to the metal being removed and reused.

In fact a majority of the outer wall of the Colosseum did collapse in a subsequent earthquake.

The famous arena of ancient Rome is more appropriately known as the Flavian Amphitheater, after Titus Flavius Vespianus (known to history as Vespasian). Vespasian (an able general who marched on Rome in 69 AD and seized power during the confusion after Nero's death) brought some measure of financial stability to Rome, the first it had known in quite some time. He spent lavishly, generally on sprucing up Rome rather than for his personal enjoyment. This proved a sound strategy, as he was hailed as a new Augustus, bringing a rebirth to a decaying city.

The Colosseum was a grand building in its day, with a seating capacity of 50,000, a removable roof of canvas awnings, a complex system of undergeround chambers and tunnels through which combatants and/or animals would appear, and fully eighty arched entranceways. Lots and lots of blood was spilled there over the years. Lots.

Incidentally, the Flavian Amphitheater is known as the Colosseum not for its own size or splendor, but for the fact that a large statue of the god Helios was located outside.

Colosseum are a British jazz-rock band, originally formed in 1967. Several of the musicians knew each other before then, and were established jazz and/or blues players, playing with the New Jazz Orchestra, and the likes of John Mayall, Georgie Fame and Graham Bond.

The band produced four albums between 1967 and 1971, when they split up, most of the musicians pursuing solo careers and forming their own bands. Twenty three years later, they re-formed, with almost the original line-up, produced another album and started touring. I have seen them in concert several times, and they are full of energy and excellent musicianship despite having aged.

Before the 1990s, Colosseum were often cited by R&B and progressive rock musicians as a influence, but they never achieved fame. However, they did keep their core following, and many fans found each other when the band started touring again in 1994.

Original line-up

Jon Hiseman
King of the drums, and leader of the band. Jon was responsible for forming the band in the first place, and has supplied most of the sleeve notes. In concerts, he comes into his own during a drum solo, juggling several sticks without missing a beat.

When the band split up in 1971, Jon formed Tempest, and in 1976 Colosseum II - although taking the name, this had a completely different sound - heavy rock with added keyboards. Also, Jon is married to Barbara Thompson (see below); between the two of them, they have probably done more than anyone else to establish the genre of Jazz-Rock fusion.

Dick Heckstall-Smith
Saxophonist from outer space. Well, not really, just kidding. Dick was the eldest member of the band, and was already an established jazz star before joining Colosseum. He played tenor sax and alto sax - sometimes, both instruments in the mouth at the same time. He also played clarinet and trumpet.

After 1971, Dick did some session work, and also played in a few bands including Big Chief.

Dick was missed at the February 2004 concert, as he was not able to perform owing to being in hospital with stomach cancer. His condition did not ultimately improve, and he died in December 2004. There was a tribute concert taking place on June 6th 2005, with many musicians taking part who knew him: including of course Colosseum, but also Jack Bruce, and Pete Brown.

Dave Greenslade
Spooky organist par excellence. With his striking white hair, he is a complete master of the Hammond organ and electric piano, and gives much atmospheric quality to the ensemble. He is also a very capable lyricist, and provides backing vocals.

Despite the predominance of synthesisers from the 1970s onwards, Dave was never at home with this technology. After 1971, he made his own solo career, using the name Greenslade.

Tony Reeves
Base guitarist. He was a friend of Hiseman's from 1960; they met at a church youth club in Eltham, South London, along with Dave Greenslade.

James 'Butty' Litherland
Vocalist and lead guitarist. James was recruited by Hiseman from Manchester when he formed the band in 1967. James was given the nickname 'Butty' by Dave Greenslade, "as a result of his habit of squeezing anything between two large pieces of bread" (this is from the sleeve notes to Valentyne Suite). A butty is North of England slang for a sandwich.

Present Line-up

Jon Hiseman
Dave Greenslade

Chris Farlowe
Vocals. In 1970, the doleful Mancunian blues singer was replaced by some raw Essex power. Chris had his own band in the intervening years, called "Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds".

Chris is quite a large fellow, looking like a boxing manager standing with a towel in one hand, ready to throw it in to the ring, to stop a fight.

David 'Clem' Clemson
Lead Guitar.
Hiseman needed to replace Litherland's other role as guitarist, and brought in Clem, who was already quite well known.

Mark Clarke
Bass Guitar.Mark is the only non-Brit in the band, being an ex-pat American.

Mark demonstrates much talent as a virtuoso musician, and shows that the bass guitar can be as important an instrument in the band as the others. His duets with Clem are an inspiration to bass players everywhere.

Barbara Thompson
Saxophone. Barbara had her own career as a successful jazz-rock fusion musician, mainly playing flute, but also clarinet, saxophone and other wind instruments. She married Jon Hiseman in the 1980s.

Unfortunately, she is suffering from Parkinson's disease, which nearly brought her musical career to an early end. However, she has joined the band, full time, as a consequence of the death of Dick Heckstall-Smith.

It is a credit to the musicianship and professionalism of the band that they have been able to adapt their concert repertoire and arrangements to suit her difficulties playing.


Those Who Are About To Die Salute You - Morituri te salutant (1967)

Obviously themed on Roman gladiators at the Colosseum - We who are about to die salute you, the debut album lacks a certain polish. However, there are some tracks of particular note:

Walking in the park (A Graham Bond composition), A good mood lifter - always popular at their gigs, sometimes chosen as an opening number.

Beware the Ides of March (Greenslade/Heckstall-Smith/Hiseman/Reeves). A slow blues tune descends into a Bach toccata with a blaring finale.

Those about to die (Greenslade/Heckstall-Smith/Hiseman/Reeves). A jazz instrumental - again popular at concerts.

Valentyne Suite (1969)

I rate this as their best album. Besides Litherland's excellent guitar playing on "The Kettle", and the social commentary of "The Machine Demands a Sacrifice", "The Valentyne Suite" is a remarkable piece of music. This track lasts a full 16 minutes (probably longer at concerts where it is a favourite), and forms three sections without a break: January's Search, February's Valentine and The Grass is Greener.

Apparently, Hiseman was writing the sleve notes for this album at the time that Neil Armstrong was taking his one small step.

Daughter of Time (1970)

This was their last studio album prior to their break up. Despite a more polished feel to it, I do not rate this album as highly as its two predecessors.

Colosseum Live (1971)

Besides the serious musicianship of live performance, we hear the humourous side, including Farlowe's rendition of Bill and Ben the flowerpot men.

Bread and Circuses (1997)

This album contains completely new material, plus two covers of Graham Bond songs, and goes to show that 30 years on, the band is going strong.

Tomorrow's Blues (2004)


  • The Grass is Greener
  • The Collectors Colosseum

Col`os*se"um (?), n. [Neut., fr. L. colosseus gigantic. See Coliseum.]

The amphitheater of Vespasian in Rome. [Also written Coliseum.]


© Webster 1913

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