Building the Colosseum
During the rule of Nero the Great Fire of Rome of 64AD wrecked the city. Nero appropriated prime land in the city and built a fabulous palace with a lake and gardens, it was called the Domus Aurea (Latin for "Golden House"). A colossal statue of Nero measuring 100 - 120 Roman feet (37m) high was erected on the site and had become a landmark in the centre of the city of Rome. During the burning of Rome the main stone built arena had been destroyed (the Amphitheater of Statilius Taurus) together with the wooden, amphitheatre called the Amphitheatrum Neronis which had been commissioned by Nero to placate the 'plebs' before the great fire and built in 57AD.
After the death of Nero morale and the confidence of Roman citizens was at an all time low. Vespasian had to get support back from the people and assure the popularity of the Flavian family. His idea was to demolish the palace of Nero and construct a permanent arena for housing free gladiator games and other entertainment for the amusement of the 'mob'. The magnificence of the building was to convey the Glory of Rome.
Building the Colosseum - When was the Roman Colosseum built?
The building of the Roman Colosseum began between 73-75 A.D. and was almost completed in 79AD when Vespasian died. Vespasian's older son Titus saw the completion of building the Colosseum and the inauguration games in A.D. 81.
Building the Colosseum - Additions to the Colosseum
Vespasian's second son the Emperor Domitian added the top tier of the Colosseum and a vast network of rooms, cells, tunnels and passages under the Roman Colosseum called the Hypogeum.
Building the Colosseum - How much did the Roman Colosseum cost?
No one knows exactly how much the building of the Colosseum cost. But in A.D. 70 Titus had sacked the city of Jerusalem. The fabulous treasures of Jerusalem paid for the building of the Colosseum, and no expense was spared in the project.
Building the Colosseum - The Building Project
The design of the Roman Colosseum applied the latest in Roman arts, engineering, architecture and other creative endeavours. The invention of concrete enabled this massive building to be built quickly, efficiently and to great effect. All of this was done to the highest artistic standard and in a highly skilled manner.
Building the Colosseum - Who built the Roman Colosseum?
An estimated 100,000 prisoners were bought back to Rome as slaves after the Jewish War. Vespasian had a limitless work force. In the building of the Colosseum the slaves undertook the manual labor such as working in the quarries at Tivoli where the travertine was quarried.
Slaves would also have been used to lift and transport the heavy stones 20 miles from Tivoli to Rome. Teams of professional Roman builders, engineers, artists, painters and decorators undertook the skilled tasks necessary for building the Colosseum.
Building the Colosseum - The Invention of Concrete and the Vaulted Arch
Roman architecture and buildings, such as the Colosseum, were strongly influenced by two of their great inventions - concrete and vaulted arches. Concrete was a a recent invention when the Colosseum was built and the Romans were still learning how to use it. As concrete was so new they did not know how strong it was or long it would last. The Romans cautiously combined concrete together with stone. Concrete was made by mixing a strong volcanic material ( called pazzolana ) with rubble, sand and a mixture of limes. The Colosseum had four tiers. The ceilings of the passages and corridors which circled the arena on each tier consisted of vaulted arches made of concrete but the supports they rested on were made of strong, heavy limestone. The Vaulted arches made the ceilings much stronger than a flat ceiling would have been. Vaulted arches made of concrete added strength to the building without adding excessive weight. Without concrete and vaulted arches, the Colosseum could not have been built.
Building Techniques used in the Colosseum
The timescale was tight - the Flavian family wanted the amphitheatre built as quickly as possible. Hundreds of skilled stonemasons were required to complete the building. The Romans used a new building technique - standardized parts. Stairs and seats were constructed off-site. The stairs and seats were all built to the same size and were made to be interchangeable. They were made in workshops and then brought to the amphitheatre to be fitted by teams experienced in this work.
What materials were used in building the Colosseum?
The materials used in the building were as follows:
- Travertine limestone
- The Travertine limestone was quarried in Tivoli, 20 miles from Rome, and was used for the main pillars, the ground floor and the external wall
- The outer wall is estimated to have required over 100,000 cubic meters (3,531,466 ft) of travertine stone which were set, without mortar, and held together by 300 tons of iron clamps
- It has been calculated that 300 tons of metal were used just for the clamps
- Tuff or Tufo - a porous stone used in the preparation of cement
- Tuff, or Tufo, was used for the minor pillars and radial walls
- Cement was used for the vaulted arches
- Tiles were used for the floors and the walls
- Bricks were used in walls
- Used for the seating, statues and ornaments, drinking fountains and as a covering to the outside walls
- Lead and terra-cotta pipes for the Water and Sewer system
Building the Colosseum - Design and Dimensions
The Design of the Colosseum was constructed according to specific plans and dimensions. The Colosseum is an entirely free-standing structure, oval in shape, 615 ft long, 510 ft wide, 187 ft high and had a base area of 6 acres. These are detailed in Dimensions of the Colosseum. It was a symbol of the power of Rome and its emperors. Its classical design features which were reminiscent of classical Greek architecture was meant to convey that Rome was also a great and civilised nation.
Building the Colosseum - Crowd Control
The Roman architects and builders had to design the Colosseum to provide the biggest arena in the world capable of holding between 50,000 - 80,000 people. Just one series of games might last for 100 consecutive days. Attention had to paid towards crowd control. The Roman architects therefore devised an ingenious system of entrances, corridors, and staircases that allowed the crowds to enter and exit the Colosseum quickly and easily. There were 80 separate entrance arches - see Colosseum Entrances and Exits. By using so many separate entrances the architect solved the problem of crowd control - the Colosseum could be cleared in less than 10 minutes.
Building the Colosseum
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