Essay Preview: The Colosseum
Report this essay
The Colosseum is an amphitheater with a complex series of arches and
stone. Construction was started in 72 A.D. in the city of Rome, Italy. The Colosseum was
inaugurated in 80 A.D. but was still uncompleted. The Colosseum was constructed by the
Romans and has a rich and interesting history. The first step in building the Colosseum
was laying the foundation.
To lay the foundation for the superstructure the Romans engineers had to
first drain former emperor Neros stagnum, artificial lake, in 72 A.D. (Nardo 35). After
the stagnum was drain the ground had to be prepared so the foundation could be laid. The
Roman surveyors used a chorobate to level the ground for the foundation (Nardo 35). The
foundation had to be perfectly level. If not the foundation could crack and would not able
to support the millions of tons of stone, wood, people, and animals. The Colosseums
foundation was made up of the newly invented material, concrete. The Roman concrete
was made of wet pulvis puteolanus, sand, and gravel (Nardo 37-38). The foundation was
approximately forty feet thick and one-hundred and seventy feet wide.
From the foundation was a twenty foot wall of concrete that was used to
support the buildings outershell of walls and piers (Nardo 38). The Colosseums skeleton
was composed of the walls, piers, and arches. The Roman builders used a groma to
ensure that the Coloseums skeleton was perpendicular to the foundation (Nardo 38). The
piers that supported the Colosseum were made of travertine (Nardo 39). Travertine is a
kind of limestone that is strong and durable (Nardo 39). The walls between the travertine
piers were made of concrete and were faced with bricks of tufa (Nardo 39). Tufa is a
stone compressed with volcanic ash (Nardo 39).
Each level of the Colosseum is unique in its own way. The chambers
beneath the Colosseum were used for temporary quarters for the gladiators and other
performers. Lions, bears, elephants, and other animals were caged in the chambers, too
(Nardo 38). There was also mechanical elevators that were used to transport both humans
and animals to the arena floor (Nardo 38). Cryptoporticis, long entry and connecting
corridors, were also found in this underground complex (Nardo 38).
The arena is where all the action took place. The arena was covered by at
least fifteen centimeters of sand (Hopkins). The Romans sometimes put red dye in the
sand to disguise the blood that was in the sand (Hopkins). The arena is littered with many
trap-doors, to let animals leap out into the ensuing battle (Hopkins). Sea fights occurred
on the arena when one meter of water was allowed in to the arena.
The upper levels (levels one-four) were built during the last years of the
Vespasians reign and the beginning of Tituss reign as emperor (Nardo 44). The first
level was thirty-four feet tall; second level was thirty-eight feet tall; third level was
thirty-eight feet tall; and the fourth level was forty-four feet tall (Nardo 44). The total
height of all four levels was over one-hundred and fifty-six feet tall. Each level had
varying numbers of seating rows in the cavea (Nardo 45). The cavea is the seating
complex (Nardo 45). Each seating section had numerous exits. The exits lead into straight
barrel-vaulted corridors (Nardo 45). This corridors then fan away toward the buildings
outer perimeter (Nardo 45). Each of the first three levels had eighty passages that
connected the outer most corridor to the inner cavea. To build the upper levels walls
one-hundred and fifty-six feet the Roman workers used scaffolding (Nardo 45). The
workers socketed the scaffolding so the walls would have extra support (Nardo 46-47).
That means the workers inserted the inner ends of the put logs into small holes cut into
the masonry (Nardo 46-47). The builders also used large cranes and other lifting devices
to lift the heavy and large stones into place on the upper levels (Nardo 47-48). All the
levels except the fourth had eighty arches on each level. The eighty arches on the first
level were for entrances (Nardo 48). The arches measured twenty-three feet high and
fourteen feet wide (Nardo 48).
After Vespasian died in 79 A.D. during the construction of the
Colosseum, his son Titus became the emperor and continued the Colosseum project.
Titus then inaugurated the Colosseum in 80 A.D. However, the Colosseum was not
finished until 81 A.D under the reign of emperor Domitian. When the Colosseum was
inaugurated there were lavish gladiatorial and wild animal shows.
Many events were held inside the walls of the Colosseum. The most
popular event or game was the chariot races. Naval battles were also popular events.
Gladiator fights were not as popular but a good crowd pleaser.