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Spotlight On The Coliseum:

June 23, 2011 Carlino's Restaurant no comments

The Coliseum, Rome, Italy

The Coliseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome constructed in 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian. It’s the largest Amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire and considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.

The Coliseum accommodated 87,000 people.  It was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.  The best views of the arena were reserved for the Emperor, the Vestal Virgins and the senatorial class, who were allowed to bring their own chairs. Non-senatorial noble class or knights occupied the next floor up. The next level above was reserved for ordinary Roman citizens.

Roman architects engineered solutions very similar to those used in today’s modern stadiums which allowed entry and exit of the Coliseum’s huge 87,000 people capacity in minutes.

The Coliseum is 567 feet long, 468 feet wide and 157 feet high, with a base area of 6 acres. The perimeter measured 1,788 ft. The central arena is an oval 287 ft long and 180 ft wide, surrounded by a 15 ft wall.  The outer wall, built with 131,000 cubic yards of travertine marble, was set without mortar. The exterior of the Coliseum you see today is actually the original interior wall.

The arena had a wooden floor covered by sand.  Underneath hid an elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum consisting of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages where gladiators and animals were held before contests began.

Access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces was made possible by eighty vertical shafts.  Elevators and pulleys raised and lowered scenery and props and lifting caged animals to the surface for quick release. Major hydraulic mechanisms connection to a nearby aqueduct made it possible to rapidly flood the entire arena for sea battles.

Each Good Friday the Pope leads a torch lit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Coliseum.

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