Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rome: Colosseum Basement

 Now let's go into the Colosseum basement! This is an area that is not accessible with a general Colosseum entry ticket. We were able to tour this area as a part of a Viator tour, with a Colosseum employee watching our every move...probably a good thing. :-)
 This area is newly opened to the public and appears to have underwent some restoration. For example, this beam here appears to me to have been rebuilt - not sure why I think that. The original wooden roof (i.e., the floor of the Colosseum arena) has long since rotted away and has been rebuilt in approximately 1/3 of the arena. This gave us the feel of what the basement probably originally felt like - sans the lighting of course
 The basement was originally a maze of rooms and cages - this is where the gladiators, animals, and stage props were kept. These props and caged animals could be hoisted to the arena level with pulley systems, where they would pop up through trap doors in the arena floor. See the 'history' post for a diagram of what it looked like.
 Since the Colosseum was in full use for hundreds of years, what went on there changed over time (as building uses change in our current society), but in at least part of the Roman times games were held there 10 times a year. These were all-day events that I've heard were free. I'll get into seating in another post. The scenes on the stage were changed during the day, thus the need for a place to store props.
 The killing of wild animals in the arena is well documented and verified through the discovery of bones at the Colosseum (see the exhibits post). The ruins of the pulley systems to hoist animal cages to the arean floor can be seen here - note the circular hole in the floor. Parts of the pulleys themselves are shown in the exhibit post. While it sounds like I idolize the Romans at times (I do love their engineering and architecture), the killing of wild animals for entertainment is definitely one of the many areas where I object to their civilization - not to mention slavery and wars of conquest.
 Parts of the tour underground are done without modern lighting, which lends itself to how it must have felt in Roman times.
 The ruins of a series of pulleys.
 Here, we are at the edge of the rebuilt arena floor. That's our tour guide with the cloth on a pole.
  This is probably a lot like it felt like 2000 years ago. Only with a lot less light back then!
 Due to the missing arena floor, we could see all the way to the top of the Colosseum.
 Another hole for the pulley system, filled in now with rock chips to avoid twisted ankles.
 Here, the cement overlay for us tourists to walk on has been removed (worn away?) exposing the original flooring of the Colosseum basement.
Another section looking much like it did 2000 years ago.
 I'm glad they reconstructed part of the arena floor. There reaches a time in every object's life that one must weight originality versus reconstruction, and I think the time is right to rebuild at least part of the arena floor to (a) protect objects in the basement, and (b) recreate the original feel of the Colosseum.
Another view of the recreated arena floor, protecting basement walls.

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