Beneath the Colosseum

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about Beneath the Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum produced spectacular and blood thirsty shows for the benefit of the 'mob'. The gladiatorial combats and animal exhibitions and combats were expensive to produce. And as the crowd's expectations increased so did the work that was conducted beneath the Great Roman Colosseum.

Beneath the Colosseum - The Spectacular 'Shows'
Beneath the whole area on which the Roman Colosseum were a maze of underground chambers, cells, tunnels and passages. The spectacular productions held in the Colosseum were extremely important to the emperor and high ranking politicians. If the thousands of unemployed Plebs became bored this led to civil unrest and rioting in the streets. The Plebs needed to be amused and the gladiatorial games had to be provided. The cost of the gladiatorial games was born by the Emperors, and therefore the state, and corrupt politicians who sponsored the games to curry favor and support with the 'Mob'. The cost of the gladiatorial games eventually came to one third of the total income of the Empire. The Sponsors of the games expected the highest levels of entertainment. The crowd had to be entertained throughout the whole day. And some of the games lasted for over 100 days. The days events were planned to the strictest timing. Something had to be seen at all times. There were constant changes of events. The hunts and beast fights were initially scheduled for the morning, the executions of prisoners in the afternoon (the more novel the forms of execution the better) and the gladiatorial fights were scheduled for the afternoon / early evening.

Beneath the Colosseum - The Water and Sewage System
The Roman Colosseum held between 50,000 - 80, 000 spectators. The Romans came in their thousands to watch the death of wild animals, criminals, slaves, Christians and gladiators - terrible, gory, bloody deaths. The gruesome ordeals of animals and humans required an adequate sewer system to dispose of these waste products. The massive crowds of spectators at the Colosseum needed to drink - water was a vital necessity in the stifling heat of Rome. Evidence has been found of over 100 drinking fountains in the Colosseum. The crowds and combatants also needed access to toilet facilities.  Beneath the Colosseum, at the lowest level, was a complex Water and Sewer systemdesigned by the best Roman Engineers of the period.

Beneath the Colosseum - The Element of Surprise
Romans loved to be surprised. Novelty 'acts' were applauded. Scenery and costume changes were required. Forests of trees, plants, streams and even mock mountains had to be miraculously produced. The arena had to fill with a whole range of wild animals to different specific timings. Crowd safety had to be considered. Dead bodies of animals, criminals and gladiators had to be disposed of to make room for the next acts. All of these tasks were engineered from beneath the Colosseum.

Beneath the Colosseum - The Hypogeum
The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). The hypogeum consisted of two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery. There were 36 trap doors in Arena allowing for elaborate special effects. The atmosphere and smell beneath the Colosseum must have been terrible. The Hypogeum would have had little natural lights so lamps would have burnt continuously. The heat in the Hypogeum must have been almost unbearable. The stench of animals,  the excrement, blood and death would have filled every part of the Hypogeum - both above and beneath the Colosseum must have been 'hell on earth.

The Tunnels Beneath the Colosseum - The Tunnels
The bloody arena of the Colosseum was the centre of a complex consisting of various buildings and industries necessary to  'running' the horrific activities of the arena. There were various underground tunnels that connected the Roman Colosseum to the surrounding buildings.  The Tunnels Under the Colosseumled to:

  • The Gladiator Schools, the Saniarium was where the wounded gladiators were taken for medical attentionand stables where some of the animals were kept

  • The Spoliariumwhere the dead bodies of gladiators were stripped of armor and weaponry and the Armamentarium where the weapons were stored

  • The Imperial Palace

  • The Colosseum Storerooms

  • The tunnels beneath the Colosseum

The Tunnels Beneath the Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum was used for staging various massive and spectacular events including gladiator fights, wild animal displays, theatrical entertainment, executions, religious ceremonies, mock sea battles and re-playing famous Roman victories. All of these complex shows adhered to critical timings most of which were produced by the slaves working beneath the Colosseum.

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