“The Colosseum was a perfect amphitheatre. ” How far do you agree with this statement? The Colosseum, located in Rome was built opened by the Emperor Titus in 80 AD. By many it is considered a “perfect amphitheatre” due to its decor, practicality and large structural layout. However, there are some features of the Colosseum which mean it is difficult to use, hence leading to some people disagreeing with the statement. One of the main reasons why the Colosseum was and is so highly respected is the buildings durability.
This is due to the use of travertine in places of critical importance such as the pillars supporting the seating. Travertine is a hard, strong local rock which when used with pozzolana concrete creates very stable structures, as seen in the ruins of the building today. The deep set foundations of the Colosseum also added to the stable structure of the building. The foundations involved excavating an oval hole and filling the outer ring with concrete. Then erecting 7 rings of pillars, made of travertine, then building supporting arches out of concrete and adding seating.
It is the combination of good foundations and use of materials that allowed the structure to hold over such a long period of time. Hence it is regarded as a masterpiece of Roman architecture. Despite the durability of the building many people regard the enormous scale of the Colosseum to be the prior reason for it being considered the perfect amphitheatre. The building’s height was 50m, making it the tallest building for centuries. In addition it is estimated that 70,000 people could be seated in the Colosseum, meaning that the population of Rome and travellers could all see the games that took place there.
Unlike the amphitheatre at Pompeii the colosseum could be emptied in approximately 5 minutes due to the 76 entrances to the seats, with 6 being served for the elite. This feature made the people very happy as they could exit quickly if needed and would not spend too long queuing to exit the amphitheatre. Therefore at the time it would certainly be regarded as the “perfect amphitheatre” as it pleased the majority of people. The Colosseum also had features besides size that made it unique to any other amphitheatre. In Titus’s reign the arena in the Colosseum could be filled with water, meaning that mock naval games (naumachia) could take place.
In addition in Domitian’s reign a subterranean system of tunnels and cages were added, with trapdoors providing access to the arena so that people and animals could be transported to the arena in a more dramatic way. Again, interesting features such as these would have gained mass support in roman times for the idea that the Colosseum was the “perfect amphitheatre”. However, modern society may agree as this encouraged the unnecessary deaths of people to be brutalised in a varying manner, keeping the audiences interested and hence providing support for the continual killing of people.
Another feature that may be seen as too impractical by a modern audience is the Valerium. This was an awning made of blue silk with gold stars. It was attached to 240 masts and took 1000 slaves working in a synchronised manner to lower it over the spectators. The enormous amount of slaves makes the use of it reasonably impractical. However, since this was the only roman amphitheatre to have an awning completely encircling an amphitheatre it made the amphitheatre unique. Hence it could be viewed as the perfect amphitheatre as it specialised in spectator comfort as they could have some shade from the sun.
The decor of the Colosseum was elaborate, with bronze statues, marble work and stucco covering the inside of the building. The outside was equally aesthetically pleasing with a geometrical square and circle pattern around the top of the amphitheatre and arches equally spaced out in horizontal lines across the building. Each arch either had a statue situated underneath it or columns framing it to highlight the circular shape. The magnificent look of the colosseum could have led to it being considered the “perfect amphitheatre” as it was not only practical but also beautiful.
Overall, the colosseum had the required features of an amphitheatre such as herena (sand) to soak up blood. However, it also had additional features such as the Valerium, a structure to enable naumachia to occur and that allowed dramatic entrances of animals and gladiators. It was the combination of these additional features that made the Colosseum different to any other amphitheatre. Not only was this but the amphitheatre built on a great scale with many more entrances than other amphitheatres such as Pompeii meaning that the huge building was easily accessible.
Moreover, good foundations of the building and the intricate detail on the Colosseum may also have added to peoples’ respect for it. Although it did have some negative features such as a thousand slaves to move the Valerium some people may argue that the benefits of these impracticalities outweigh the usefulness of them. Consequently due to the many additional features, decor, durability and the scale of the building I believe it would be regarded by many romans and modern critics as one of the best amphitheatres ever built and hence I believe that to a great extent that it was a “perfect amphitheatre”.