The Sublime Substructure of the Flavian Amphitheater

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The Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum, is regarded around the world as a marvel of architecture. The structure was viewed as a symbol of the Roman Empire’s wealth and power and was even featured on ancient roman coinage (Coarelli 175). A symbol not only of imperial pride during the Roman Empire, the Colosseum is now viewed as a symbol of the city of Rome and the nation of Italy and is even featured on Italian Euro coins. The amphitheater was not the first amphitheater created, nor the first in the city of Rome, rather it is revered for its sheer size. The massive amphitheater, which took ten years to construct, required over two hundred ox carts a day of eight by three foot blocks of travertine, tufa, brick, and iron. Upon completion, the amphitheater could hold up to eighty thousand spectators, a number that is quite large even by today’s standards (Nash). The fascinating aspect of the Colosseum, however, lies in the fact that though the amphitheater is famous for its imposing stature, some of the most significant and technologically advanced features are part of the substructure of the building. The Colosseum is infamous for its bloody gladiatorial games, which took place on the arena floor. Countless men and exotic animals were slaughtered on this floor for the entertainment of the masses. Underneath the arena floor, however, lays one of the Colosseum’s most fascinating aspects, the hypogeum. The hypogeum consists of two levels of corridors in which the behind-the-scenes, or under-the-scenes rather, work took place (Nash). All performers, gladiators and animals alike, entered the arena through the hypogeum (Nash). Trap doors with ramps known as pegmata where used to move both scenery and gladiators from the hypogeum to the arena floor (Nash). Similarly, the hypogeum contained 32 lifts, which were used to transport animal cages to the arena floor from the hypogeum (Nash). Trap doors, ramps, and elevators are complex features of...
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