Explain how the Colosseum was made both visually impressive and safe for the audience.
The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of Rome, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It conveyed both public power and triumph and gives insight into Roman tradition and serves as a permanent reminder of who was in control.2 This impressive feat of Classical engineering and architecture was so because of its sheer size: holding 45,000 spectators and a further 5000 standing impressing the Romans and later generations alike. The aerial view (Colour Plate 19 and 20), illustrates the scale of the structure in stark comparison to the human figures walking alongside the building.3 The Roman engineer Vitruvius considered “…architecture needed to satisfy three requirements…commodity, firmness and delight”4 That is it must be securely built, fulfill its purpose and be aesthetically pleasing. The Collosseum satisfied all three.
The materials used were Travertine, Tufa and Concrete (Plate 72), concealed with bricks and stone. The structure of the building based on honeycomb walls and pillars gave it a solid and proportioned foundation along with vaults that were in place within the passages supporting the whole building.
The Colosseum's huge crowd capacity made it essential that the venue could be filled or evacuated quickly. To ensure safety the amphitheatre was ringed by eighty entrances at ground level, 76 of which were used by ordinary spectators, each was numbered. The main entrance was reserved for the Roman Emperor and his aides. All axial entrances were richly decorated. 5 However, it was the articulation that gave the Collosseum its “meaning as a great public monument of Imperial Rome”6. One feature that illustrates how this was achieved is the sophisticated pattern of the façade: each arcade is semicircular, one over the other and is framed with an entablature and cornice achieving regularity and proportion: an important element in...
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