An examination of the innovative design and inspired construction of ancient Rome s most astonishing building. Looking closely at the anonymous architects and labourers involved in the 10 year project, and how once completed its management delighted the Roman crowds with 400 years of the world s most savage and brutal entertainment spectaculars. Historical context Nero s palace and his death. Vespasian s decision to give the land back to Rome. Construction started in 70AD, completed by son Titus, opened 10 years later. The Romans and their tradition of games and amphitheatres. The entertainment programmes staged there; spectacles, gladiator contests, executions and dramas. Design and Construction The plans, architects and draughtsmen. Builders, engineers. Land clearance, funding, slave labour (Jews from Palestine). Detailed sketches and diagrams of the dimensions and outer walls, Stone quarried and transported from Tivoli.
Internal structure made from concrete, the new but untested building medium. The Great Games Types of games gladiatorial fights, wild beast contests, dramatic spectaculars and the execution of the condemned, including Christians. In many ways the Colosseum functioned as a huge machine, organized with almost military efficiency to run smoothly. Network of subterranean passages, chambers and at least 30 lifts to accommodate and transport performers and animals. The hypogeum, on several stories and marginally larger than arena. Today a baffling maze øf tunnels but they can be decoded. The floor of arena itself was often decked out as forest for animal hunts or to re-enact famous battles. Scenery and special effects. The Gladiator School Adjacent to the Colosseum itself, and linked by an underground tunnel, Ludus Magnus was the biggest gladiator school in Rome, located 60 yards east of Colosseum and connected by a tunnel. Recruitment, types of gladiators, from the bestiarius, animal fighter, to the Thraex or Thracian, training, successes and failures. Discipline, food, and accommodation.
The armoury. Within the Colosseum itself gladiators had their own morgue and treatment room. Inside the Arena Inauguration ceremony. Programme of events. Early sea battles (ceased when hypogeum built) Sponsors and religious elements, demonstrations of power and prestige. Animal hunts. Dramas. Battle re-enactments. Executions. Decline and fall Fires, sieges, earthquakes and sacks of the city, reconstruction and repairs. Advent of Christianity. Used as burial site, housing, workshops, a monastery and a castle. Metal, marble and eventually stone itself plundered. Saved from destruction, ironically, by the Pope. Restoration and continued upkeep Latest phase of massive programme of cleaning and repairs completed July 2016, materials used to keep true to original building. Continued upkeep and exhibitions. Six million visitors a year. Behind the scenes, guides and staff, a look at the artefacts and exhibits that link back to the past.