The Roman Colosseum

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The Roman Colosseum
Courtesy of David Iliff

The Roman Colosseum (also in ancient times known as Flavian Amphitheater) is a hugh amphitheater found in the middle of Rome. It is the largest structure of its kind built by the mighty Roman Empire. It is considered one of the greatest works of Rome's architecture ever built. It was originally capable of holding more than fifty-thousand people.

Building on the Colosseum began under Vespasian around 72 A.D. The location chosen for the massive structure was on 'Nero's lake' which was a part of Nero's palace. The structure was not completely finished until the time of Titus. During the celebration of the amphitheater's completion more than ten thousand animals were killed within its walls.

Roman Games, Shows and Naval Battles

Fights between animals, death matches between prisoners and wild beasts, naval battles (the structure was built to allow enough water into it to allow ships to float!) were held in the Colosseum.

Greatest Extent
of the Roman
Empire Map
Rome's first and
most important
military road
Picture of the
of Roman life
Largest Circus
built by the Empire
Animated map
showing the
of Roman Empire
Map of Empire
at time of Jesus

One of the most popular types of shows put on by the Romans featured animal hunting. Because of the expanse and power of the Empire, Rome was able to transport to the Colosseum such animals as lions, tigers, rhinos, hippos, wild bears and many other exotic creatures. Movable sets that included buildings were many times used as a backdrop for a battle. Stadium events were many times held on a grand scale, For example, after Trajan (who expanded Roman power and territorial conquests to its greatest extent) was victorious over Dacia, he celebrated by sponsoring contests that involved more than ten thousand animals and several thousand gladiators over a period of roughly 4 months.

The Colosseum's name is believed to have originated name from a giant statue (colossus) of Emperor Nero which was located nearby.

How was it designed?

The Roman Colosseum measures 157 feet high, 617 feet long, and it was as wide as 511 feet. The floor of the structure was 228 feet by 177 feet.

There were a variety of different sections within the structure. Level 1 (known as the podium) was for Roman high-level politicians and for the Emperor. The second level was designated for the ruling class that were not actual senators. The next level up had a section for those who were rich and another for those who were poor. A special section was reserved at the top of the Colosseum for females only.

Recent discoveries at the site have produced drain pipes that connect the building to Rome's famous sewer system.

Ancient air conditioning

The overall cooling of the Colosseum utilized the innovation idea of a canvas roof that covered the majority of the stadium. This roof, slanted toward the ground, was able to catch the wind and provide cooling to the spectators.

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