Rome to Rebuild the Colosseum’s Retractable Floor
It’s one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, a genuine wonder of antiquity, and an architectural symbol of a national capital and an ancient hub of innovation. However, Rome’s Colosseum – the mighty amphitheatre built at the height of the Roman empire, which continues to dominate the city’s skyline to this day – is about to undergo a radical transformation, one which will surely see even more crowds flocking to its doors.
The city of Rome has just announced far-reaching plans to reconstruct a key element of the ancient amphitheatre; the ground floor which will cover and conceal a fascinating network of cages, tunnels, and other assorted secrets.
The denizens of ancient Rome, seeking some of the most grisly forms of entertainment ever known, would gather in their thousands to watch gladiatorial battles within the vast theatrical space. Slaves would fight against wild animals, battles would be reenacted, and ceremonial rallies would be held to the cheers of the assorted masses. In its heyday, the colosseum was engineered to create a truly wondrous effect: the fighters, the lions, and the chariots would rise from the ground as if by magic – the result of a labyrinth of hidden tunnels, now exposed to the air and in full view for over a hundred years. The government of Italy has pledged the equivalent of $12 million to secure a new, retractable floor, which will restore the arena to its original and truly awe-inspiring glory.
With the funding now secured, the race is one to find a design team up to the task of working on one of the wonders of the Classical world. The project is expected to include the full range of original features, including hidden lifts and trapdoors which allowed caged animals to leap out and slaughter the unlucky individuals condemned to fight.
It’s a truly fascinating project, and one which allows insight into the kind of entertainment that the Romans enjoyed. The system of tunnels and lifts (known as the ‘hypogeum’) allowed the event organisers to consistently spring surprises on the crowds – and the gladiators – and build suspense in much the same way a modern filmmaker would. The hunter in the arena simply wouldn’t know what was coming, or where it was coming from… and the bloodthirsty thrill of seeing tigers and lions emerge from hidden doors undoubtedly heightened the proceedings, albeit in brutal and deeply unpleasant ways.
In a statement to the BBC, Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini stated that the renovation will involve dramatic technological intervention, allowing visitors a greater insight than ever before into the workings of the colosseum. It will allow entry not only to the underground rooms, but for the first time in modern history, the chance to stand in the centre of the arena and see the building as the gladiators would have done.
The project is planned for completion in 2023, with proposals for the rebuilding to be submitted by the end of February this year.