The fifth-largest Roman Amphitheatre is found in the province of Sevilla, Spain. Its building dimensions are 156.5 × 134 meters and its arena dimensions are 71. 2 × 46.2 meters. Built in the reign of Adrian’s Empire, 117-138 AD, the Italica amphitheatre could hold up to 25,000 people and still stands today. The Italica Amphitheater was built in the north of what was the first Roman city in Hispania, Itálica, located in the current municipality of Santiponce (province of Seville), in Andalusia (Spain), which was founded in 206 BC. C.
Roman amphitheatres are amphitheatres – large, circular or oval open-air venues with raised seating – built by the ancient Romans. They were used for events such as gladiator combats, venationes (animal slayings) and executions. About 230 Roman amphitheatres have been found across the area of the Roman Empire. Early amphitheatres date from the republican period, though they became more monumental during the imperial era.
Italica north of modern-day Santiponce, 9 km northwest of Seville in southern Spain, was an Italic settlement founded by the Roman general Scipio in the province of Hispania Baetica. It was the birthplace of Roman Emperors Trajan, Hadrian (likely), and Theodosius (possibly). It flourished under the reign of Hadrian, becoming an elaborate urban centre and obtaining the highest status of Roman city. The modern town of Santiponce overlies the pre-Roman Iberian settlement and part of the well-preserved Roman city.
It was built at the time of Emperor Hadrian, approximately between the years 117-138 and was one of the largest in the entire Roman Empire.
It is uncertain when and where the first amphitheatres were built. There are records attesting to temporary wooden amphitheatres built in the Forum Romanum for gladiatorial games from the second century BC onwards, and these may be the origin of the architectural form later expressed in stone. In his Historia Naturalis, Pliny the Elder claims that the amphitheatre was invented during the spectacles of Gaius Scribonius Curio in 53 BC, where two wooden semicircular theatres were rotated towards each other to form one circular amphitheatre, while spectators were still seated in the two halves. But while this may be the origin of the architectural term amphitheatrum, it cannot be the origin of the architectural concept, since earlier stone amphitheatres, known as spectacula or amphitheatera, have been found.
According to Jean-Claude Golvin, the earliest known stone amphitheatres are found in Campania, at Capua, Cumae and Liternum, where such venues were built towards the end of the second century BC. The next-oldest amphitheatre known, as well as one of the best-researched, is the amphitheatre of Pompeii, securely dated to be built shortly after 70 BC. There are relatively few other known early amphitheatres: those at Abella, Teanum and Cales date to the Sullan era (until 78 BC), those at Puteoli and Telesia from the Augustan (27 BC–14 AD). The amphitheatres at Sutrium, Carmo and Ucubi were built around 40–30 BC, those at Antioch and Phaestum (Phase I) in the mid-first century BC.
In the Imperial era, amphitheatres became an integral part of the Roman urban landscape. As cities vied with each other for preeminence in civic buildings, amphitheatres became ever more monumental in scale and ornamentation. Imperial amphitheatres comfortably accommodated 40,000–60,000 spectators, or up to 100,000 in the largest venues, and were only outdone by the hippodromes in seating capacity. They featured multi-storeyed, arcaded façades and were elaborately decorated with marble and stucco cladding, statues and reliefs, or even partially made of marble.
As the Empire grew, most of its amphitheatres remained concentrated in the Latin-speaking western half, while in the East spectacles were mostly staged in other venues such as theatres or stadia. In the West, Amphitheatres were built as part of Romanization efforts by providing a focus for the Imperial cult, by private benefactors, or by the local government of colonies or provincial capitals as an attribute of Roman municipal status. A large number of modest arenas were built in Roman North Africa, where most of the architectural expertise was provided by the Roman military.
The late Empire and the decline of the amphitheatre tradition
Several factors caused the eventual extinction of the tradition of amphitheatre construction. Gladiatorial munera began to disappear from public life during the 3rd century, due to economic pressure, philosophical disapproval and opposition by the increasingly predominant new religion of Christianity, whose adherents considered such games an abomination and a waste of money. Spectacles involving animals, venationes, survived until the sixth century, but became costlier and rarer. The spread of Christianity also changed the patterns of public beneficence: where a pagan Roman would often have seen himself as a homo civicus, who gave benefits to the public in exchange for status and honor, a Christian would more often be a new type of citizen, a homo interior, who sought to attain a divine reward in heaven and directed his beneficence to alms and charity rather than public works and games.
These changes meant that there were ever fewer uses for amphitheatres, and ever fewer funds to build and maintain them. The last construction of an amphitheatre is recorded in 523 in Pavia under Theoderic. After the end of venationes, the only remaining purpose of amphitheatres was to be the place of public executions and punishments. After even this purpose dwindled away, many amphitheatres fell into disrepair and were gradually dismantled for building material, razed to make way for newer buildings, or vandalized. Others were transformed into fortifications or fortified settlements, such as at Leptis Magna, Sabratha, Arles and Pola, and in the 12th century the Frangipani fortified even the Colosseum to help them in Roman power struggles. Yet others were repurposed as Christian churches, including the arenas at Arles, Nîmes, Tarragona and Salona; the Colosseum became a Christian shrine in the 18th century.
Of the surviving amphitheatres, many are now protected as historic monuments; several are tourist attractions.
Architecture of the amphitheater
With a capacity of 25,000 spectators, it was one of the empire’s largest amphitheaters with three levels of stands. Under the level of the old wooden floor of the amphitheater there is a service pit for the different spectacles of gladiators and wild beasts.
The grandstand, cavea was divided into three sections, the ima, media and summa cavea, separated by annular corridors called praecinctiones. The first, the ima cavea, had 6 tiers, with 8 access doors, and was reserved for a ruling class. The second, the half cavea, was intended for the humblest population, had 12 tiers and 14 access doors. The summa cavea, covered by an awning, was reserved only to house children and women.
The amphitheater also had several rooms dedicated to the cult of Nemesis and Dea Caelestis.
Amphitheatres are distinguished from circuses, hippodromes, which were usually rectangular and built mainly for racing events and stadia, built for athletics. But several of these terms have at times been used for one and the same venue. The word amphitheatrum means “theatre all around”. Thus an amphitheatre is distinguished from the traditional semicircular Roman theatres by being circular or oval in shape.
The Roman amphitheatre consists of three main parts; the cavea, the arena, and the vomitorium. The seating area is called the cavea (enclosure). The cavea is formed of concentric rows of stands which are either supported by arches built into the framework of the building, or simply dug out of the hillside or built up using excavated material extracted during the excavation of the fighting area (the arena).
The cavea is traditionally organised in three horizontal sections, corresponding to the social class of the spectators:
The ima cavea is the lowest part of the cavea and the one directly surrounding the arena. It was usually reserved for the upper echelons of society.
The media cavea directly follows the ima cavea and was open to the general public, though mostly reserved for men.
The summa cavea is the highest section and was usually open to women and children.
Similarly the front row was called the prima cavea and the last row was called the cavea ultima. The cavea was further divided vertically into cunei. A cuneus (Latin for wedge; plural, cunei) was a wedge-shaped division separated by the scalae or stairways.
The arched entrances both at the arena level and within the cavea are called the vomitoria (Latin “to spew forth”; singular, vomitorium) and were designed to allow rapid dispersal of large crowds.
The ellipse as a general rule
Jean-Claude Golvin, in 2008, explains that in reality a certain number of Roman amphitheatres do not describe a perfect ellipse, but a pseudo-ellipsoidal form composed of a succession of connected arcs of circles. This provision is guided by the need for a cavea same width regardless of the point of the amphitheater considered that the stands are all of similar size. The observed dimensional or returned from several arenas of the Roman Empire, including that of Capua, seem to confirm this theory, modeled by Gerard Parysz.
Rare amphitheatres do not follow the overall plan of an ellipsoidal building, like that of Leptis Magna. This building, entirely dug in an old quarry and inaugurated in 56, gives the impression of being composed of two adjoining theaters and its arena like its cavea have the form of two semicircles connected by very short segments of right. This configuration would have allowed him to host shows of a new genre wanted by Nero, combining fighting, equestrian demonstrations and musical competitions.
Massive Amphitheater and Amphitheater with Radiant Walls
A first type of amphitheater is qualified as solid or massive as in Samarobriva (Amiens, France), Octodurus (Martigny, Switzerland), Emerita Augusta (Merida, Spain) or Syracusae (Syracuse, Italy); in these constructions, the cavea is not carried by radiant walls and vaults, but by an embankment which descends from the outside of the amphitheater towards the arena; this embankment may be partly made up of arena excavation lands inside a small hill at the top of which the amphitheater is built; this is the case in Tours (Caesarodunum).
Spectators must then sit directly on the grassy slope, but the embankment can also accommodate wooden stands whose discovery of the remains, if they ever existed, would be exceptional. The masonry is reduced to a minimum: the outer wall, the arena wall, access galleries orvomitoires, also included in the embankment, some radiating retaining walls delimiting caissons to receive embankments, as well as the cages stair. External staircases pressed against the facade of the amphitheater, as in Pompeii, provide access to the upper part of the cavea.
The second type of amphitheater, which represents most of those identified in the Roman world, is the amphitheater with walls and radiant vaults. The cavea is then supported by a set of masonry opus caementicium which draw a set of fairly light seats on which the stands rest. An annular circulation gallery – there are two at the Colosseum and the Capua amphitheater – allows spectators to win the vomitories and stairs accessing the arena. The oldest of these monuments seems to be the amphitheater of Statilius Taurus in Rome, inaugurated in 29 AD and destroyed in great fire of Rome in 64, under Nero. The precise details of its architecture – as well as its exact size and location – remain unknown, but it is clear that this is a hollow structure building and that the upper part of the cavea has wooden steps.. Theaters had used earlier this hollow architecture, such as the theater Teanum Sidicinum from the end of ii th century BC. or the Pompey Theater in Rome, completed in 55 AD.
Finally, in several cases, the construction of the amphitheater combines the two types of architecture; it is most often to reduce the masonry parts by taking advantage of the support of the monument on the side of a natural relief; the part of the cavea which rests there is massive, the vaults and the radiating walls reserved for the bet built “in the free air”. This is the case of the amphitheater of Saintes whose long sides of the cavea are supported on both flanks in valley arena being established at the bottom of the valley, closed on both sides by radiant walls and arcades.
The nature, full or hollow, amphitheaters, can not be an absolute criterion of dating. If the Pompeii amphitheater, partially massive is built between 80 and 70 BC AD, that of Taurus, hollow, towards 30 AD, Lecture halls found in Gaul totally or partially massive built much later, as those of Holy (over about 50) or towers, in the second half of the i st century, the latter being even is expanded according to the same principle hundred years later. It seems that, region by region and as the geographical spread of these monuments, architects seek, as a first step and as much as possible, to take advantage of the natural relief to lean against the amphitheatres they propose to to build. In a second step, and when the technique of construction of the radiating walls and the arcades is locally well controlled, they build hollow amphitheatres, of which it is possible to choose the location by freeing the constraints of the relief.
Choice of site and development of surroundings
When the site does not meet specific topographical requirements, such as the use of a natural relief to back the cavea, amphitheatres are often built on the outskirts of urbanized areas. Several explanations can be advanced. Amphitheatres are often built in cities already built for several decades or more; to build them in the middle of the city would impose important works of demolition of the existing building. Amphitheatres are monuments with a capacity often exceeding 10 000 people, whether it is the population of the city stricto sensuor inhabitants of a wider geographical area; Before and after the shows, crowds of this size require a large clearance around the building to smooth the flow. The amphitheater is a symbol of Roman power, the power of the city where it is built or Roman acculturation in conquered territories; this monumental effect is more easily obtained by clearing the amphitheater of the existing building. Once dissociated from the ritual character they originally had, the fights that take place in the amphitheatres become pagan spectacles incompatible with the sacredness of the urban pomerium; the amphitheaters can not be built at the.
There are, however, situations where the amphitheater was built in the heart of the city. The Colosseum is the most demonstrative example. This is also the case in Amiens where the amphitheater is built against the forum and its temple, built before him, so as to compose a large monumental ensemble; for this purpose, a whole residential area is razed to make room for the amphitheater.
Sometimes there is a district specifically devoted to the monuments of the spectacle such as Augustodunum – Autun -, Merida or Pozzuoli (amphitheater and theater), Lugdunum – Lyon – (Theater and Odeon) or Leptis Magna (amphitheater and circus).
Access to the amphitheater is generally studied to allow the good movement of people. In Capua, a path directly connects the main axis of the amphitheater to Via Appia; in Tours, it is the small axis which is in the prolongation of the decumanus maximus. In this same city, a circulation space whose use is attested is located on the outskirts of the amphitheater. A painting representing the amphitheater of Pompeii in59 av. AD shows barques of food merchants established around the amphitheater – the shows for more than a day, it is necessary for the spectators to be able to restore themselves.
The facade of the amphitheater, the only part immediately visible from the monument to the eyes of the public outside, is the subject of special care; it must be, even more than the monument as a whole, a showcase of the wealth of the sponsor or sponsors of the construction of the know-how of its architects and workers and a symbol of the power of the city. This is why an architectural technique different from that used for the structural work of the amphitheater is applied to it.
Traditionally – although there are exceptions to this pattern – the facade is composed of one or more series of superimposed arcades, of gradually decreasing height, surmounted by a row of penthouses. It is built in blocks of large apparatus that use the most noble stones available locally, unless it is, as in Capua, only a veneer on a superstructure (masonry bricks in this case). The keystones of the arcades can be carved, the arcades can compose niches garnished with statues.
If the facade is composed of a more common apparatus, only the doors are decorated in a special way, according to the techniques and materials available locally. The Colosseum even offers numbered doors by engraving in their keystone, facilitating spectator access.
The last level of the facade often has holes for embedding the masts that support the velum, large sail stretched over the amphitheater and to shad all or part.
The functional limits of human sight fix the maximum dimensions of amphitheatres: beyond 60 m, accomodation is less rapid, causing eyestrain. This maximum distance separating the spectator from the show is approached but respected at the Colosseum, which, according to this criterion, would be the largest amphitheater that it was possible to build.
Examination of the remains of the cavea of the amphitheater of El Jem shows that the angle of the stands with the horizontal is 34 ° 12 ‘ for the rows closest to the arena, but 36 ° for the bleachers located at the top of the cavea. This difference aims to clear the view of the arena for the spectators who are thus less bothered by the heads of those placed just below them. In the particular case of some massive amphitheatres whose slope of the cavea constitutes itself the seat of the spectators, it is not possible to reach the same angles under pain of collapse of the embankment.
Auguste sets up a very precise and immutable code governing the placement of the spectators in all the monuments of spectacle: the soldiers do not rub shoulders with the civilians, the people dressed in dark are gathered in the middle part of the cavea, the married men are separated from the single, but their wives are relegated to the highest tiers, as are the modest people, and so on.. These dispositions are accompanied by a physical partition of the cavea; the terraces are divided horizontally by precedences defining maeniana and vertically by radiating stairs limiting cunei. Near the arena take place the box of honor and the podium reserved for notables. It is also in this same part of the cavea that is the sacellum, small temple probably for the use of gladiators.
While the construction of the facade of the amphitheater is the object of all the attention of the architects, the realization of the cavea implements more common materials and of local origin; this is the case in Verona where the masonry is composed of a concrete of pebbles of the Adige linked to the mortar of sand and lime; in Pula, only wood forms part of the internal structures of the amphitheater.
The elliptical or pseudo-elliptical arena is the place where the shows take place. It is usually covered with sand avoiding gladiators to slide during the fighting; this sand also helps to absorb any spilled blood.
The layout of the arena varies according to the shows it hosts. In the first amphitheatres, only battles between gladiators take place there; the presence of these professionals poses no risk to the public and the wall separating the arena from the cavea is of reduced height. After the introduction of venationes with animals sometimes wild, it is important to ensure the protection of the spectators, by means of a podium wall of a height often higher than 1.50 m. This wall is often pierced with doors or grilles giving access to boxes housing animals. Some amphitheatres have an arena dug out of a basin (Merida) to present aquatic shows, but only the Colosseum of Rome has an arena specially designed for naumachies to take place there.
If the amphitheater built in Rome under Caesar is the first to have a basement, this device will expand to many monuments built later. The increasing prestige of the performances given in the arenas, their increasing complexity with successive sets of sets, the use of more and more numerous gladiators and animals require such facilities. The basement of the arena is therefore dug galleries that are connected cages for animals, carceresfor gladiators, while a system of hatches and hoists raises all actors in the arena and the scenery elements to the arena level. These converted basements can be in direct communication with nearby gladiator schools, such as the Coliseum. They can also house an elaborate system of gutters and gutters to collect runoff from the cavea before they are stored in a cistern, as in Capua.
These converted basements are attested in many amphitheatres in Italy, but also in the Roman provinces such as Arles or Nimes (France), Merida (Spain), Leptis Magna (Libya) or El Jem (Tunisia) and perhaps Pula (Croatia).
Financing of the amphitheater
The dedications for the inauguration of Roman monuments very often mention the names of local notables who participated in the financing of their construction. This évergétisme can simply mark the power and the wealth of the donor. It can also have a more direct meaning: the Arles amphitheater was built with funds of Caius Junius Priscus, former candidate for duumvir juridicundo in fulfillment of a promise made in an election. The status of the evergreen is sometimes quoted: Caius Julius Rufus, who participated in the financing of the amphitheater of the Three Gauls in Lyon is a priest of Rome and Augustus at the Federal Shrine of the Three Gauls.
This évergétisme can manifest itself as a contribution to the overall financing of the building (Périgueux) or by a participation, partial or total, in the construction of one of its elements (podium in Lyon, podium, doors and statues in silver with Arles).
This practice is also part of a context of prestige rivalry between city halls. It results in the desire to build very large at lower cost, which is an explanation for the use, sometimes massive, wood for the stands and other structures of the amphitheater. This also provides quick access to a resource and local know-how and ensure a pace of construction and commissioning period compatible with the holding of election promises.
The amphitheater is primarily intended to host gladiator fights. The day before the fighting was organized the cena libera, a large banquet free that could be shared with spectators who wanted to see the value of the fighters. Gladiator combat is a highly codified show. Gladiators represent well-defined types of fighters easily recognizable to the public by their armament, their clothing, but also by the postures adopted during the fight. The fights, which are attended by referees, are most often duels between a slightly armed but very mobile (retiair, scissor) gladiator to another, less swift but powerfully armed and battleship (mirmillon, secutor). The death of one of the protagonists at the end of the fight is not a rule and the fight can end when the opponents are injured or exhausted: a professional gladiator is an “investment” for his laniste. It seems that at certain periods, under Auguste for example, the killings in the arena were prohibited.
Naval battles (naumachiae) can be organized inside certain buildings, but their existence is actually attested only for the Colosseum; the size of the arena must be sufficient and the height of the water filling it must be important for ships, even those with a shallow draft, to be able to evolve there. Of aqueducts are sometimes specially built to bring water needed to fill the arena. These naval battles are of course very popular with the public because they are rare. In addition, they often become technically impossible after the development of basements in arenas of some amphitheatres (Colosseum, Merida, Pula).
As for the hunts (venationes), they consisted of fighting animals against animals, or men against animals. This show did not take place in a bare arena, but through the trap doors of the basement, a real landscape of vegetation and rocks was installed in the arena.
Also in the amphitheater were death executions (” noxii ” in Latin), called ” meridiani ” (those of noon), because this type of show took place during midday breaks. Particularly under Nero, Christians were burned alive. The death of the condemned was staged, sometimes in the form of mythological tales: still under Nero, according to Suetonius, we reconstructed for example the myth of Icarus, who crashed on the floor of the arena and covered the emperor of blood. Clement I reported meanwhile that Christian had suffered the fate Dirce. It could also be of historical episodes like the one where Mucius Scaevola is burning hand.
According to Jean-Claude Golvin, the first stone amphitheaters are known in Campania in Capua, to Cuma and Liternum where such places were built at the end of the ii th century BC. J.-C.. One of the oldest and most studied amphitheatres is the Pompeii Amphitheater, which is dated 70 BC. J.-C. The first few amphitheatres are known: those of Abella, Teanum and Cales dating from the time of Sylla, and those of Pozzuoliand Telese Terme for the Augustan era. The amphitheatres of Sutri, Carmona and Ucubi were built around 40 – 30 BC. AD, and those of Antioch and Paestum (phase I) in the middle of 1 century BC. J.-C..
In the imperial period, the amphitheatres became part of the Roman cityscape. While cities compete for the prominence of constructions in the field of civic buildings, the construction of amphitheatres is increasingly monumental in the occupied space and in ornamentation. The imperial amphitheaters could comfortably accommodate between 40,000 and 60,000 spectators, or up to 100,000 for larger buildings. For the number of seats, they were exceeded only by racetracks. They are built on several floors, with arches, are usually richly decorated with marble and covered with stucco, and have many statues.
With the expansion of the empire, most of the amphitheatres remain concentrated in the western part, that is to say that of Latin language, while in the eastern part, the shows are often staged in other venues such as theaters or stages. In the west of the empire, amphitheatres are built as part of Romanization and to provide a center for imperial worship. The funds for construction come from private benefactors, the local government of the colony or provincial capital. A significant number of small arenas were built in the province of Africa, with the support of the Roman army and its expertise in architecture.
One of the later built amphitheatres seems to be that of Bordeaux at the end of the ii th century or early iii th century. The dating of the El Jem, sometimes considered very late, is controversial in the absence of decisive evidence. The second amphitheater Metz, building a mixed character, appears to date back to the end of the iii th century or the beginning of the iv th century.
The monuments of the show, including the amphitheatres, are not buildings built once and for all without any modification, sometimes substantial, being made to the structure, while they are still used.
Thus, the cavea of the amphitheater of Toulouse, initially built out of wood, profits in a second time of bearing structures masonry. The facade of the Pula amphitheater, which has stood the test of time, perhaps reflects the complete resumption and enlargement of an old Augustinian building. The expansion of the amphitheater in Avenches, in the second half of the ii th century is attested, like that of the amphitheater of Tours about the same time, the estimated capacity from 14 000 to 34 000 spectators. The amphitheater of the Three Gauls of Lyon, originally intended to accommodate delegates from the three Roman provinces of Gaul, is enlarged so that the population of Lyon too can attendshows.
The redevelopment sometimes only affects part of the monument, as in Mérida and perhaps Pula, where the arena is dug to allow the installation of a basement with cages, corridors and accessory stores.
Several factors lead to the completion of amphitheater construction. The first is the gradual end of gladiator fights, which begin disappearing from public life during the iii th century, because of the economic crisis, philosophical disapproval and opposition of the new religion increasingly dominant what is Christianity, whose followers consider these games as an abomination and a waste of money. The shows involving animals (venationes) survived until the vi th centurybut they become more expensive and rarer. The spread of Christianity has also changed the habits of public beneficence: previously a pagan Roman is considered a homo civicus who finances public performances in exchange for obtaining a status and obtaining honor, a Christian him considers himself a homo interior who seeks a divine reward in heaven and directs his efforts to charity and charity rather than to public spectacles andgames.
These changes show that amphitheatres are less and less used and that a lack of funds does not allow to build new ones, nor to maintain those already built. The last construction of an amphitheater took place in 523 in Pavia under Theodoric. After the end of the venationes, the remaining amphitheatres are only used for public executions and punishments. After this short re-use, many amphitheatres have fallen into disrepair and are being progressively dismantled for building materials, or razed to make room for newer buildings, or vandalized. Others are transformed into fortifications or fortified villages, like Leptis Magna, Sabratha, Arles and Pola, and the xii th century, the family Frangipani even strengthens the Colosseum to help them in their struggle to gain control of Rome. Other amphitheatres are reoriented as Christian churches, including the arenas of Arles, Nîmes, Tarragona and Salone. The Coliseum is a Christian church in the xviii th century.