Colosseum

One of the greatest works of Roman architectural engineering, the Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheater) is the
largest Roman amphitheater ever built. Begun in 70 AD by Vespasian and completed in 80 AD by Titus,
with some additions and modifications made by Domitian, the name Amphitheatrum Flavium refers to
the family name of this dynasty of emperors. It occupies a site just east of the Forum Romanum, over
land recovered by filling in the lake Nero had created for his Domus Aurea, the huge party house
Nero built on land cleared of homes by the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. The Colosseum was
built to seat 50,000 spectators, and was used for gladiatorial combat and public spectacles.

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Southwest exterior (original interior wall)

Western edge of original outer wall

Perimeter Arcade (interior)

Roman Concrete

Vaults and Arched Seating Supports

Scenic Interior Colosseum Views

Hypogeum (underground)

Colosseum Displays

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If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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Colosseum_6736


Colosseum 6736
1500 x 1092 (575 KB)

The highly recognizable exterior of the Colosseum is actually the inner wall. The western edge
of the remaining outer wall can be seen at the lower left of the image (detailed further below).
The brickwork on the right was done in the early 19th century as part of the reinforcement.

When Hadrian built the Temple of Venus and Roma on the site of Nero’s mammoth
Domus Aurea (Golden House), he moved the Colossus of Nero next to the Flavian
Amphitheater. The name Colosseum is thought to derive from Nero’s Colossus. The
statue was later remodeled to depict Helios or Apollo (Sun God) by adding a solar crown,
and Nero’s head was replaced several times with later emperor’s heads. The statue remained
in place until the late Middle Ages and became an iconic symbol of the permanence of Rome.

Colosseum_6737


Colosseum 6737
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The south side of the Colosseum. The inner wall was made of concrete and volcanic tuff.

Vespasian built up to the third story before his death in 79. Titus finished the top level, opening
the games in 80. They had everything from mock sea battles to gladiatorial contests. Executions,
animal hunts, and reenactments of famous battles and dramas based on mythology were displayed.
Domitian built the Hypogeum and the top gallery. I’ve read estimates that state that up to 500,000
people and over a million wild animals died in the Colosseum games. Over 9000 animals were
killed for the inaugural games of the Amphitheater in 80 AD, which lasted 100 days. Executions
were at midday between animal slaughter and gladiatorial combat (deserters, criminals, etc.).

Colosseum_Perimeter_Wall_3765


Colosseum Perimeter Wall 3765
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The western edge of the remaining outer structural wall of the Colosseum (the brickwork is 19th century reinforcement, to stop the deterioration of the wall). At the lower right is the vaulted entrance arcade (a detail shot of the arcade is below).

Colosseum_Perimeter_Wall_3768


Colosseum Perimeter Wall 3768
795 x 1290 (287 KB)

The corbels (stone supports) on the exterior of the attic wall supported a retractable awning (Velarium), a canvas-covered net of ropes with a hole in the center covering 2/3 of the arena, which shielded the spectators from the sun and weather.

Colosseum_Perimeter_Wall_6714M


Colosseum Perimeter Wall 6714 M
921 x 1600 (414 KB)

The exterior wall was formed of three stacked arcades.
The protruding shelf above the arcades were used by the
sailors who moved the masts which retracted the Velarium.

Colosseum_Perimeter_Wall_7116


Colosseum Perimeter Wall 7116
795 x 1290 (315 KB)

The Roman Numerals seen over the lower arches were the entrance numbers (LII-LIIII, 52-54 can be seen). The capacity of the Colosseum required rapid movement into and out of the stadium. It was ringed with 80 numbered entrance/exit arches, and interior staircases were also numbered.

Colosseum_Perimeter_Wall_8209


Colosseum Perimeter Wall 8209
1500 x 1092 (503 KB)

The terminal western edge of the outer wall in profile. Note the 19th c. brick reinforcement.
This image shows the upper of the three arcades and the attic, with its row of mast corbels
used to support the Velarium (the retractable awning which shielded the spectators from sun
and weather). The travertine was set in place without mortar (using 300 tons of iron clamps).
Arcade entablatures are supported by half-columns, and the attic by pilasters over the columns.

Colosseum_Arcade_7146


Colosseum Arcade 7146
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The interior of the entrance arcade. The marble facing of the Colosseum (as well as other materials) were mined  after the closing of the Colosseum (6th c.). Note the vaulted ceiling (the Colosseum vaults were the oldest in the Roman world).

Colosseum_Vaults_7138


Colosseum Vaults 7138
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View from the Senatorial seats of the entrance vaults under the Equestrian section. Sometimes it seemed that the stadium was laid out as a maze... you occasionally ran into areas like this which were blocked by pieces of facing marble.

Colosseum_7135


Colosseum 7135
1500 x 1092 (543 KB)

This composition shows the thick concrete over the equestrian entrance vaults.

Roman concrete (Opus caementicium) was an innovation of the late Republican period
which revolutionized construction across the Roman Empire. Depending on the composition,
it could set underwater. Various compositions were used for extremely demanding construction
projects, such as the coffered dome of the Pantheon. The techniques for concrete usage were lost
after the Fall of Rome, and were not recovered until the 16th-17th centuries. The use of concrete
allowed the Romans to create monumental architecture such as the Colosseum, aqueducts,
bridges, and other structures using arches, vaults and domes without the limitations
in design that were imposed by the use of stone and other building materials.

Colosseum_7187


Colosseum 7187
1500 x 1092 (546 KB)

This view of the vaults and surfaces under the Plebian seating area shows the
concrete substructure which was used to support the marble steps and seats.
The marble was removed during the period after the 6th century closing of the
Colosseum, when it was used as a quarry for materials as well as for housing.

By the late 6th c., a church was founded inside the Colosseum, and the arena itself had been turned into a cemetery.
Housing was created in and under the stands, and workshops were rented until the 12th c., when the Frangipani family
appropriated it and converted it into a castle by 1200, which they occupied until the earthquake of 1349 destroyed the
 south side when the foundation collapsed. Stone was taken for building materials, and the north end was taken over
by a religious order, which used it until the early 19th century. The marble casing was burned to make quicklime,
both for mortar and to dispose of bodies. An ignominious end to one of the world’s most magnificent structures.

Colosseum_VaultedEntrance_7213


Colosseum Vaulted Entrance 7213
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The intact ancient brick facing of the entrance vaults.

Colosseum_Vaults_7202


Colosseum Vaults 7202
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A view from above of the vaults in the Equestrian section.

Colosseum_Vaults_7197


Colosseum Vaults 7197
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Another view from above, showing the concrete structure of the vaults. Most of the brickwork
facing the vaults has been removed (or collapsed during the frequent Italian earthquakes). By
creating these high, angled vaults a tremendous amount of construction material was saved.
The innovation was later widely used throughout the Empire for other monumental structures.

Colosseum_EntranceVault_TempleVenusRoma_7217M


Colosseum Entrance Vault Temple Venus Roma 7217 M
1000 x 1600 (337 KB)

A large (M-size) close shot of one of the brick-faced, vaulted entrance arches
with a view of the Temple of Venus and Roma. Hadrian created the largest temple
in Rome on the site of Nero’s Domus Aurea, but when Apollodorus of Damascus
was critical of his architectural designs, Hadrian banished the most renowned
architect of the ancient world, then had him killed on trumped up charges.
Detailed images of the Temple of Venus and Roma are on the page
which houses images of the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum).

Colosseum_EquestrianFoundations_7150


Colosseum Equestrian Foundations 7150
795 x 1290 (508 KB)

Colosseum_EquestrianFoundations_7151


Colosseum Equestrian Foundations 7151
960 x 1290 (631 KB)

Two views of the foundations below the Equestrian seats. You can see the brick-faced concrete structures easily here. The area below was used by various contractors, who had their own underground entrances (the arches seen below the wall).

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Rome Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Colosseum

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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There are 18 Galleries in the Photoshelter Rome Collection

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Colosseum_7149


Colosseum 7149
1500 x 1075 (527 KB)

I entered the Colosseum the moment they opened to be able to get this shot without a lot of people in it.
The underbelly of the Colosseum is exposed, showing where the gladiators and others prepared
to enter the arena. It was quite sophisticated, with elevators and other mechanical assists.

Colosseum_7177


Colosseum 7177
1500 x 1092 (560 KB)

The same scene 20 minutes later, with the light getting stronger and the people arriving.

Detailed images of the Hypogeum (underground areas) are below.

Colosseum_Hypogeum_7157


Colosseum Hypogeum 7157
1500 x 1092 (610 KB)

This shot of the Hypogeum is the other shot I wanted to get before a lot of people arrived.
This image was taken just as the first morning color hit. The day was mostly overcast,
but the gap in the clouds at the horizon allowed some of the color to get through.

Colosseum_Hypogeum_7188M


Colosseum Hypogeum 7188 M
1800 x 700 (497 KB)

This image and the next one were taken about 20 minutes later. The light had flattened out
as the sun was blocked by the clouds, creating a perfect situation for shooting the Hypogeum
without the shadows blocking the view of the depths. The Hypogeum was used by the gladiators
and other contractors, such as those who supplied the animals, for their preparations before they
entered the arena. The Hypogeum had eighty elevators and mechanical assists to raise scenery
and animals to the sand-covered wooden floor of the arena (Latin for sand is harena or arena).
The floor of the arena could be flooded for mock naval battles via major hydraulic machinery
from a nearby aqueduct. Arches can be seen around the perimeter, exits from numerous
tunnels leading to the Hypogeum from stables, gladiator training areas, and armories.

Colosseum_Hypogeum_7192


Colosseum Hypogeum 7192
1500 x 1092 (654 KB)

The full scene, taken under flat light (with minimal shadows). The Hypogeum also contained
tunnels allowing the Vestal Virgins and the Emperor’s entourage to avoid the stadium crowds.
Tunnels leading from the Hypogeum also allowed Senators to reach their seats unimpeded.

Colosseum_Hypogeum_7209


Colosseum Hypogeum 7209
1500 x 1092 (601 KB)

The final shot of the entire scene, taken as the sun entered a gap in the clouds.

Colosseum_Hypogeum_detailLeft_7161M


Colosseum Hypogeum detail Left 7161 M
1500 x 1290 (762 KB)

Detail of the two-level structure of the Hypogeum (left side) showing the curved corridors
and support structures for the ceiling/floor between levels. The walls were brick-faced concrete.

Colosseum_ColumnCapital_7142


Colosseum Column Capital 7142
960 x 1290 (465 KB)

 

Colosseum_ColumnCapitals_7232


Colosseum Column Capitals 7232
1500 x 1092 (530 KB)

Detail of some of the column capitals on display at the
Colosseum. Many of the columns and capitals were taken
from the Colosseum during the Dark Ages and medieval
periods for use on construction projects around Rome,
but some remained (probably ones too damaged
for use or odd items not possible to match).

At left is a detailed image of an enormous composite capital. It has the acanthus leaves of a Corinthian capital and the volutes of an Ionic capital, combining both orders. The capitals above are all Corinthian (without the volute scroll).

Below is one of the remaining columns.

Colosseum_Column_7230


Colosseum Column 7230
1500 x 750 (477 KB)

A highly figured and beautifully colored ancient column.

Colosseum_SenatorialNameplate_7227


Colosseum Senatorial Nameplate 7227
1500 x 750 (443 KB)

These marble nameplates were used to identify seats.

Colosseum_1stC_Mosaic_7218


Colosseum First Century Mosaic 7218
1500 x 879 (572 KB)

A first century mosaic (half life-size) showing a tiger being led to the arena by a bestiarius.

Colosseum_Night_3859


Colosseum at Night 3859
1500 x 1092 (381 KB)

The northwest side of the Colosseum, lit at night.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Rome Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of the Colosseum

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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There are 18 Galleries in the Photoshelter Rome Collection

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