amphitheatre. Its fine brickwork seems to date from Trajan's reign. It was included by Aurelian in the circuit of his wall. The remains of numerous amphitheatres exist in the various provinces of the empire. The finest are—in Italy, those of Verona (probably of the Flavian period), Capua (built under Hadrian) and Pozzuoli; in France, at Nîmes, Arles and Fréjus; in Spain, at Italica (near Seville); in Tunisia, at Thysdrus (El-Jem); and at Pola, in Dalmatia. The builders often took advantage of natural features, such as a depression between hills; and ruder structures, mainly consisting of banked-up earth, are found, e.g. at Silchester (Calleva). The amphitheatre at Pompeii (length 444 ft., breadth 342 ft., seating capacity 20,000) is formed by a huge embankment of earth supported by a retaining wall and high buttresses carrying arches. The stone seats (of which there are thirty-tive rows in three divisions) were only gradually constructed as the means of the community allowed. Access to the highest seats was given by external staircases, and there was no system of underground chambers for wild beasts, combatants, &c.
In contrast to this simple structure the Colosseum represents the most elaborate type of amphitheatre created by the architects of the empire. Its external elevation consisted of four storeys. The three lowest had arcades whose piers were adorned with engaged columns of the three Greek orders. The arches numbered eighty. Those of the basement storey served as entrances; seventy-six were numbered and allotted to the general body of spectators, those at the extremities of the major axis led into the arena, and the boxes reserved for the emperor and the presiding magistrate were approached from the extremities of the minor axis. The higher arcades had a low parapet with (apparently) a statue in each arch, and gave light and air to the passages which surrounded the building. The openings of the arcades above the principal entrances were larger than the rest, and were adorned with figures of chariots. The highest stage was composed of a continuous wall of masonry, pierced by forty small square windows, and adorned with Corinthian pilasters. There was also a series of brackets to support the poles on which the awning was stretched.
The interior may be naturally divided into the arena and the cavea (see annexed plan, which shows the Colosseum at two different levels).
The arena was the portion assigned to the combatants, and derived its name from the sand with which it was strewn, to absorb the blood and prevent it from becoming slippery. Some of the emperors showed their prodigality by substituting precious powders, and even gold dust, for sand. The arena was generally of the same shape as the amphitheatre itself, and was separated from the spectators by a wall built perfectly smooth, that the wild beasts might not by any possibility climb it. At Rome it was faced inside with polished marble, but at Pompeii it was simply painted. For further security, it was surrounded by a metal railing or network, and the arena was sometimes surrounded also by a ditch (euripus), especially on account of the elephants. Below the arena were subterranean chambers and passages, from which wild beasts and gladiators were raised on movable platforms (pegmata) through trap-doors. Such chambers have been found in the amphitheatres of Capua and Pozzuoli as well as in the Colosseum. Means were also provided by which the arena could be flooded when a sea-fight (naumachia) was exhibited, as was done by Titus at the inauguration of the Colosseum.
The part assigned to the spectators was called cavea. It was divided into several galleries (maeniana) concentric with the outer walls, and therefore, like them, of an elliptical form. The place of honour was the lowest of these, nearest to the arena, and called the podium. The divisions in it were larger, so as to be able to contain movable seats. At Rome it was here that the emperor sat, his box bearing the name of suggestus, cubiculum or pulvinar. The senators, principal magistrates, vestal virgins, the provider (editor) of the show, and other persons of note, occupied the rest of the podium. At Nîmes, besides the high officials of the town, the podium had places assigned to the principal gilds, whose names are still seen inscribed upon it, with the number of places reserved for each. In the Colosseum there were three maeniana above the podium, separated from each other by terraces (praecinctiones) and walls (baltei), and divided vertically into wedge-shaped blocks (cunei) by stairs. The lowest was appropriated to the equestrian order, the highest was covered in with a portico, whose roof formed a terrace on which spectators found standing room. Numerous passages (vomitoria) and small stairs gave access to them; while long covered corridors, behind and below them, served for shelter in the event of rain. At Pompeii each place was numbered, and elsewhere their extent is defined by little marks cut in the stone. The spectators were admitted by tickets (tesserae), and order preserved by a staff of officers appointed for the purpose.
The height of the Colosseum is about 160 ft.; but the fourth storey in its present form is not earlier in date than the 3rd century A.D. It seems to have been originally of wood, since an inscription of the year A.D. 80 mentions the summum maenianum in ligneis. It is stated in the Notitia Urbis Romae (4th century) that the Colosseum contained 87,000 places; but Huelsen calculates that the seats would accommodate 45,000 persons at most, besides whom 5000 could find standing room. The exaggerated estimate is due to the fact that space was allotted to corporate bodies, whose numbers were taken as data. The greatest length is about 615 ft., and the length of the shorter axis of the ellipse about 510 ft. The dimensions of the arena were 281 ft. by 177 ft.
The following table, giving the dimensions of some of the principal amphitheatres, is based mainly on the figures given by Friedländer (l.c.):—
|Rome (Colosseum) . .
Capua . . . . . . . . . . .
Julia Caesarea . . . . .
Italica (Seville) . . . . .
Verona . . . . . . . . . .
Thysdrus . . . . . . . . .
Tarraco . . . . . . . . . .
Pozzuoli . . . . . . . . .
Tours . . . . . . . . . . .
Pola . . . . . . . . . . .
Arles . . . . . . . . . . .
Pompeii . . . . . . . . .
Nîmes . . . . . . . . . .
Bibliography.—Arts. “Amphitheatrum” in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd ed., 1890), and in Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquités; Friedländer, Darstellungen aus der Sittengeschichte Roms (6th ed., 1888-1890), vol. ii. pp. 551-620; Durm, Geschichte der Baukunst, II.2 (1905), 360 ff. Of older works, J. Lipsius, De Amphitheatris (1585); Carlo Fontana, L'Anfiteatro Flavio (1725); and Maffei, Verona Illustrata, vol. ii. (1826), are worthy of mention. For the amphitheatre at Pompeii, see Mau-Kelsey, Pompeii, its Life and Art (2nd ed. 1904), chap. 30; for the Colosseum, Middleton, Remains of Ancient Rome, ii. pp. 78-110, and Huelsen's art. “Flavium Amphitheatrum” in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie. (H. S. J.)