January 23, 2022

An amphitheater is a large open-plan building of classical Roman architecture, where public spectacles such as gladiator fights (ludi or munera) were held; fights between beasts or their hunting (venatio); and the death of persons whom the authorities had sentenced to death (vivicomburium). Very exceptionally in some amphitheaters small naval battles also took place between small ships (called naumachia) filling the arena with water.


The first amphitheater was built by joining two revolving wooden theaters in 59 BC by order of the highest Roman pontiff and head of public works, Gaius Escriboni Curius. The first amphitheaters were made of wood; later they were constructed with stone. The first to be built partly of stone was that of Augustus, built by Estacilius Taurus in 30 BC, before he became the first emperor of Rome. Augustus' amphitheater continued to be the only one not built entirely of wood in the city of Rome, until Vespasian began building the Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater, inaugurated by Titus in 80 AD. largest and most complete of the Roman amphitheaters with a capacity for about fifty thousand spectators. Other prominent amphitheaters are in Pompeii, Syracuse, Nimes, Tarragona, Merida, Verona and Italy.

Gladiator fights

Gladiator wrestling has an ancient origin in Rome. At first they were performed in the open air, then in the circus and later, from Caesar, in the amphitheater. Gladiators, who were usually slaves or prisoners of war, fought against each other in pairs or groups. The fate of the loser or the wounded often depended on the mood of the audience; if everyone made the handkerchief fly, the fallen fighter would be spared his life; if, on the other hand, they put their closed hand upside down with their thumb stretched out (pollicem vertere), the loser had to die instantly. The vision of the courage with which the vanquished faced death aroused the curiosity of those present.

Shows with beasts

In the last days of the Republic and during the Empire, the show generically called venationes became fashionable. It consisted of exhibiting exotic animals or facing gladiators with beasts or beasts with beasts. Animals (tigers, panthers, lions, rhinos, etc.) were brought from Africa or Asia and locked in the basements of the amphitheater. In order to show more ferocity, they were deprived of food for a few days before being taken out into the arena.


The naumachias were naval battles that were sporadically performed as a spectacle in an artificial lake or in an amphitheater without underground dependencies (fossae). In this case, the arena was filled with water and then the contenders appeared in small ships and simulated a naval battle.


Amphitheaters are constructions of enormous structural complexity, as the stands do not take advantage of the unevenness of the terrain, as in Greek theater, but rise on a set of overlapping vaults used to give rhythm to the wall and add aesthetic value. on the outside of the building. They used to have a capacity ranging from 15,000 to 25,000 spectators, their approximate size was 100 m x 130 m and some of the sands were floodable to celebrate the naumakia. The enclosure was usually uncovered but the most important amphitheaters had an annular terrace which was used for the deployment and collection of awnings (velarium) on a pole in order to be protected from rain and sun. Access to the site was usually through galleries and porticos that at the same time beautified the building. The amphitheaters had an oval floor plan with a circular central space at ground level and covered with sand (in Latin arena), where the show took place. The arena was a wooden platform beneath which was the cattle pit, one

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