Architecture of the ancient Roman Empire is one of the most fascinating of all time. The city of Rome once housed more than one million residents. The Romans made great use of many architectural shapes like arches and columns. Using these they were able to build monstrous buildings of worship, entertainment and other services. The one building that comes in mind over the centuries, when you think of Rome is The Amphitheatrum Flavium or The Coloseum.
The Coloseum was built by Hebrew prisoners and slaves. Details of the actual construction are unknown. The framework of piers, arches, linked walls and vaults were constructed with travertine blocks. In order to support the great weight of the structure the cement post had to have gone deep into the earth. Constructed of tufa or pumice were the lower levels. The upper floors were constructed with brick and concrete.
The arena floor inside the Coloseum was made of wooden planks and was covered with sand to soak up all the blood from the horrific events. A huge podium made of marble was used to seat the people of high rank or position. More marble seats above that were private citizens. Next came the middle class. The step of seats held the slaves and foreigners. The last levels of seats were made of wooden were occupied by women and the poor. Separating the guests and the residents of Rome from the bloody carnage is a 15 feet high wall above the surface of the arena floor. The Coloseum could hold as many as 50,000 Romans. It was built with 80 entrances with a number on each to let the person know where they were seated. With these many entrances the Roman people could have easily gone in and out.
The arches of the Coloseum allowed great ventilation, stability, and passageways to keep the crowd comfortable all day. The most amazing construction had nothing to do with the show. The Romans had actually constructed a roof for the Coloseum. The roof was like a retractable sail covering most of the audience during the current event.
The building of the Coloseum began around 72 AD. under the supervision of the emperor Vespasian. Though he did not live to see his greatest accomplishment, his son Titus, completed his father’s dream around 80 AD.
It is said that on the opening days which lasted 100 days around 5000 to 9000 animals were killed to commemorate the Coloseum. The usual day at the Coloseum started off with a bloodless comic battle, that featured dwarfs, women, or crippled people fighting with wooden objects.
The Coloseum had many events. For entertainment the Romans would put animals against other animals. Starving them near death was the only way to a good bloody and savage fight out of the two. Once the crowd became bored of that the next event would pit a man against an animal. Slaves or Christians usually suffered this cruel and unusual punishment, being torn apart by hungry ferocious beasts.
Naumachia was an amazing feature of the Coloseum. Naus, which means, “ship” and mache meaning, “fight.” Putting these words together creates “naumachia” meaning “sea battle.” Since Rome had an impressive water system the Romans were able to move the heavy wooden floors and flood the lower cells.
The main events of the Coloseum of course were the gladiator battles. Two highly trained men battling for their survival. The loser awaits the thumbs down from the current emperor to signal his end. And the victor standing in front of 50,000 Romans.
Most of these gladiators were slaves, prisoners of war, or people sentenced to death. Very rarely did these men volunteer to fight but were forced. Hunting and boxing matches were held. Some gladiators fought lions, tigers, bears, and bulls, which brought many animals near extinction in the surrounding areas. In the arena as many as 10,000 people were killed.
The gruesome battles stopped in 405 AD. when Emperor Honorius forbidden them. Though fights with animals and the animal hunting continue until the middle of the 6th century.
Damage came to the Coloseum in 320 AD. when lightning struck and damaged the building. In 422 AD. the building was again damaged only this time by