The ancient Romans were among the greatest architects and engineers the world has ever seen. They were prolific builders of magnificent civic structures such as amphitheaters, aqueducts, and roads. They utilized wonderful architectural design and precision in their columns and arches. They used three different types of columns: Corinthian, Dorian, and Ionian, in their architecture. These architectural elements are still in use today. The greatest civic building in Rome was undoubtedly the Coliseum. It took a total of eleven years to build. The Coliseum is more than just a building; it is a true work of art.
The Coliseum was located on the outskirts of Rome. It was near the Baths of Trajan; the Palace Banquet Hall; the Ludus Maximus, training grounds for the slaves and prisoners; and the temple of Venus and Rome. The picture at left shows where the Coliseum was situated in the city of Rome. The Coliseum was built on the site of a lake that belonged to the emperor, Nero. The engineers had to clear the site of water, so they built a stone sewer drainage system. The system drained the lake into the Tiber River and kept the site dry.
The Flavian Amphitheater, or Coliseum, was built to be the biggest, best arena for gladiator competitions and chariot races in all of Rome. It had a 100-foot high statue of the sun god, Helios, called the Colossus; this is where the Coliseum got its name. It was designed to seat more than 50,000 people at once. It was 620 feet long, 512 feet wide, 158 feet high, and covered six acres. The 177-foot wide floor was wood covered with sand and contained over a mile of underground tunnels leading to 32 trapdoors and elevators. The design of a trapdoor/elevator is shown at right. The Coliseum is as large if not larger than most stadiums today, and it could become a covered stadium. To create shade, 1000 sailors hoisted an enormous silk awning called valeria to 250 masts along to top of the Coliseum. The Coliseum was built of stone, wooden pillars, and the Roman invention, concrete and had marble seats. The Romans made strong mortar from a substance called pozzolana. Pozzolana was volcanic ash from prehistoric volcanic eruptions. The concrete was about three quarters pozzolana and one quarter limestone which was burnt in a kiln. Use of pozzolana is one of the reasons the Coliseum is still standing today. It took approximately 292,000 cartloads of stone to build, totaling up to half of a million tons of stone. There were seven rings of pillars going around the Coliseum with 80 pillars per ring. There were 76 entrances and exits, called vomitoria, to the Coliseum, and 64 to the seating; this made it easy to escape in a dire or emergency situation. A full audience could leave the Coliseum in about 3 minutes. There were five seating levels, but only four floors to the Coliseum. On the first seating level sat the senators and the emperor; the second seating level was designated for the officers and government officials; the third level was for soldiers and other ordinary citizens. The fourth seating level was for the poor and slaves, and the fifth seating level was for women. By law, the citizens had to sit in this ordered way. The Coliseum was also well decorated. Some of the walls had mosaics made from precious stones, and the ceilings had paintings on them. Each floor had a different style of columns. The first floor had Doric columns, the second floor had Ionic columns, and the third floor had Corinthian columns.
The building of the Coliseum was begun in 69 AD by the emperor Vespasian, and completed under the emperor Titus in 80 AD. There were opening ceremonies that lasted for 100 days straight. A total of 9,000 animals such as lions, tigers, leopards, bears, panthers, and elephants were killed in the opening ceremonies. The Coliseum was used for several sporting competitions such as chariot races and arena fights. In these arena fights, slaves or