THE FLAVIAN AMPHITHEATER
Revised January 12, 2009
A model of the Flavian Amphitheater ("Colosseum"), looking northeast, as it appeared in ancient times. The Arch of Constantine is at the lower center and the tapered column to the left is a water fountain known as the Sweating Pillar. The Colossus statue of Nero stood at the far left. The Ludus Magnus Gladiatorial School is visible just behind the Colosseum in the far upper right corner. The portico entrance at the right was used by the Emperor, Senators and Vestals; while the portico to the left was the "Libitinarian" Gate (from Libitina, goddess of funerals) through which the dead gladiators and killed wild beasts were carried.
This view is of a portion of the large (1937) diorama of 4th Century AD Rome at the Museo della Civilta Romana, in the EUR District of Rome City.
Details on Gladiatorial Combat and School can be found on the ACADEMIA GLADIATORIUM Page
THE COLOSSEUM (Flavian Amphitheater)
The admission to the Colosseum/Coloseum was free. The games and blood sports were provided by the Emperor to obtain and keep the favor of the people. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was not called the Colosseum until about 480 AD, when it got its new identity from the colossus (statue) of Emperor Nero, some 30 meters high, which once stood near its western end. It stood in an area once occupied by the Lake of Nero's Domus Aureus, "Golden House". The structure was begun by Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD and completed by his son, Titus, in 80 AD. It was inaugurated with 100 days of games and festivals in which it is said that 9000 wild animals and and some 2000 gladiators lost their lives. Many gladiatorial contests were staged as reenactments of major Roman conquests and victories over their enemies.
The structure was termed an "amphitheater" or "double-theater" because it was constructed as two normal semi-circular theaters built to face each other toward a central performing area in a single building. It could seat up to 55,000 spectators on four levels of seating, and like modern arenas, these seating levels were reserved for a particular category or class. The first level was for the Emperor, Senators and Vestals. The upper classes sat on the second level. Next came the professional and business classes; while the top level was for the common people, slaves and women.
Exterior and Cross-Section Elevations of the Flavian Amphitheater "Colosseum" from William Smith's "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiqities" 1875, from an article by Phillip Smith, BA, University of London.
The first level is 34 ft high and the Doric arches are 23 ft high and 14 ft wide. The second level, in the Ionic "order" or style, is 38 ft high and the arches measure 21 ft high and 14 ft wide. The third level, in the Corinthian style, is 37 ft high with the arches being 21 ft high and 14 ft wide. The fourth or top level is 45 ft high and had no arches. On each of the three levels with arches, there were eighty passageways. Those on the first level were numbered counter-clockwise from the south short axis, except for the ones with porticoes; which corresponded with the structure's major (long) and minor (short) axes. The portals at the major axes were the main entrances to the floor of the arena; while the other two were for the the Magistrates (north) and the Emperor, Senate and Vestals (south) to enter. The numbers on the entrances served to indicate which was most convenient for reaching the seating area allocated to the spectator according to his relative social rank. The exterior and much of the interior was travertine stone. The blocks were not held together by mortar; but with pins of iron and other metals.
Plan of the Flavian Amphitheater (double theater or two semi-circular theaters facing each other) with North at the top. Clockwise from the Lower-Right, the four quadrants represent the First (ground) Level and general concourse with access to the stairs leading to the upper levels "maenianum". Separate enclosed passages lead to stairs accessing the intermediate "Podium" Level reserved for the Emperor, Senate and Vestals - Lower Left shows the Second Level for the privileged and upper classes - Upper Left is the Third Level for the professional and business classes. The Colossus of Nero, for which the Colosseum was named, stood to the left of this quadrant. Upper Right is the Fourth or Upper Gallery Level, with no seats, for the common citizens, women and slaves.
The arena or floor of the amphitheater was 258 feet long and 150 feet wide. Around the arena's edge stood the "podium" wall about 15 feet high; which at times, was topped by a trellis or net to protect the spectators. The wood floor of the central exhibition area was covered with "harena", latin for sand; which gives us the term "arena" still used today for a large structure intended for the display of sports, circuses or other large spectacles.
There were 76 public entrance gate arches, numbered counter-clockwise from the southern short axis, plus four special un-numbered gates. At the long axis ends of the arena were two entrances. The western one, between arches LVII (57) and LVIII (58), was the "Libitinarian" Gate (from Libitina, goddess of funerals) through which were carried the dead gladiators and wild beasts that had been killed. The other at the eastern end, between arches XIX (19) and XX (20), was the entrance gate for the procession of gladiators who paraded before the Emperor and the spectators prior to the beginning of the "games". This entrance was connected to a tunnel from the Ludus Magnus gladiator school, located 60 meters (180 feet) to the east; one of four such schools in Rome. The Magistrates entered at a un-numbered arch at the north short axis, which still exists today between public gates XXXVIII (38) and XXXIX (39). The ceremonial entrance for the Emperor, Senate and Vestals, was situated at the southern short axis of the facility between arches I (1) on the right and LXXVI (76) to the left. This entrance was obliterated, along with a majority of the southern facade, by an earthquake. Later in the middle ages, further destruction took place when the outer two rows of columns and access corridors on the south side were demolished to obtain building stone robbed for other structures. This destruction ended in 1749, when Pope Benedict XIV declared the Colosseum a shrine to Christian martyrs.
The subterranean areas beneath the arena floor contained everything that was necessary for the spectacles. Here were the staging areas for the gladiators along with cages for the wild beasts destined for the show. Mechanical elevators, ramps and trapdoors were utilized by means of which the gladiators and animals were made to appear on the surface of the arena from below.
In recent years, a portion of the arena floor, on the east end, has been reconstructed, along with a causeway, east to west on the long axis and the Colosseum is again being used as a venue for modern day concerts, rock shows and spectacles.
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STRENGTH and HONOR
We of Legion XXIV Salute You for being the
to visit the Colosseum with us.