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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Colossuem, Rome

31-03-2008

Colossuem, Rome

The principal activities in Rome’s Colossuem - gladiatorial combat that pitched human against human, and human against animal - may not qualify as sports in the eyes of sum but the iconic landmark in the centre of the Italian capital more than qualifies, stadiumwise, for an appearance on the humble pages of Extreme Groundhopping.

Colossuem, Rome

Some estimates put the number of humans to have lost their lives within it’s confines at a staggering 500,000 while 1Million animals were also thought to have slaughtered in the name of entertainment. Barbarity aside the structure has many parallels with modern football stadia. Indeed present day stadia have basically the same form as this monument constructed by the Emperors Vespasian and Titus.

Colossuem, Rome

The amphitheatre was the largest ever built by the Roman Empire - it could seat 50,000 - and first opened for business in 80AD. The fact that the majority of the structure still stands today speaks volumes of the architects and engineers that were responsible for its construction.

Colossuem, Rome

Stands 165’ high it is elliptical in form measuring 600’ by 510’. The arena itself measured 260’ by 150’ with four levels or tiers towering above it. The best view was to be had from the lowest tier and this would have been occupied by members of the Imperial court and high officials. The second tier housed the aristocratic families of Rome, with the general populace – the plebeians - occupying the upper two levels. Special boxes were provided at the north end for the Emperor and at the south end for the Vestal Virgins.

Colossuem, Rome

In the upper levels specific areas would have been reserved for different social groups, for example: boys and their tutors, soldiers on furlough, visiting dignitaries, scribes, priests and so on and so forth. Gravediggers and, interestingly, actors were banned from the Colossuem altogether.

Colossuem, Rome

On the top storey there is thought to have been two hundred or more wooden masts that would have supported an awning that provided shade for the gathered throng.

Colossuem, Rome

Below the arena floor - which was constructed from wood and covered in sand - were changing rooms for the combatants, cages for the wild animals and storerooms, the walls of which are now clearly visible since the floors collapse. Hard to imagine what would have been going through the minds of those below ground with all that thumping and bumping going on above them.

Colossuem, Rome

Back on the terraces, and except for the front rows on the podium, spectators would have been packed in like sardines. Evidence from other Roman amphitheatres suggests an average of just 27” legroom, making the seating on a Ryan Air flight seem rather generous.

Colossuem, Rome

Aside from four large and arched entrances for the VIPS there were 76 entrances for the general public who would have had numbered tickets fashioned from pieces of pottery. Access to seats was via vomitorium or passageways that opened into a tier of seats from below or behind. This arrangement would have allowed spectators to quickly find there seat while also allowing for the speedy dispersal of the crowd at the end of the days entertainment, or in the event of an emergency.

Colossuem, Rome

There is some doubt that the wholesale martyring of Christians ever took place and the image of Christians being eaten by Lions is in all likelihood a myth. Another is that the “thumbs down” was the signal for a Gladiator to kill their foe whereas in fact it meant exactly the opposite. Thumbs up was used to signal "kill him" while thumbs down meant "spare him." What is not in doubt is the level of carnage that took place here.

But the Colosseum wasn't just used for executions and gladiator fights. Mock sea battles were held on it’s flooded arena floor, live sex shows were staged as were recreations of natural scenes. For the latter architects and craftsmen would construct a simulated forest with real trees and bushes, and animals would be introduced to populate the scene for the delight of the crowd.

The interior would have been lavishly decorated, particularly on the lower tiers, but there is little or no evidence of this today. The CGI in Ridley Scott's 2000 film Gladiator is considered, for the most part, to be an historically accurate reconstruction of the Colosseum as it would have looked almost 2,000 years ago.

Pictures: Ms ExtremeGroundhopping

posted by chevblue at 5:18 pm






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