Sunday, February 27, 2011

Inside the Roman Colosseum

The lower arches are the entrance gates. There were 76 entrance gate arches numbered from I to LXXVI, which were used by the general public, plus four special un-numbered gates which were the Grand Entrances. The special, un-numbered gates were used by the emperors, wealthy patricians, senators, and visiting dignitaries.

The special entrances were highly decorated and ornate.
The senators and special guests had front row seats.
Senators had reserved seats with their names carved in the marble stone such as this one.
Entrances for the general public were rather plain. This exposed brick, standing since 80 A.D., shows the foundation for the mighty architecture of the Roman Empire. Even after earthquakes, which damaged the outer facade of the Colosseum, the Roman brickwork stands, used and incorporated into the structures of future centuries.
Entrances were large not only to rapidly seat an estimated 65,000 spectators, but for large animals such as elephants or giraffes to enter the Colosseum.  
The seating arrangements are hard to visualize with present day photographs so I found a public domain drawing depicting the layout. The seating arrangement was strictly according to social class. The emperor had a box at the central narrows point of the stadium. The senators as previously shown were at the same level. The next level were the Equestrians or noblemen and knights. The "intermediate" category seated the wealthy citizens. In the nose bleed section were the poorer plebeians.

This is why it is hard to visualize the seating arrangements. The white stones in the bottom middle of the photos were the senators. What can be see on up are the seating foundations of the different levels but the seats have been removed due to years of people stripping the stadium to use for other projects. 
As with big productions today, each spectator had a ticket that would indicate which entrance to use, what level the seat was located, and the number of the seat.
The emperor's box is said to be marked by the cross on the right.
Emperor's box location marked by a cross (upper center).
Christine exploring the stadium. Present day spectators may rent an audio set and listen to the explanation of the location one may be touring and historical information. For example, we have said that up to 65,000 people would attend a performance. The 76 public entrances gave admission to a corridor, running uninterruptedly around the building leading to staircases and passages to the seats. The passages were called the vomitorium, which in Latin means rapid expulsion or discharge. The English language adopted the word and now vomitoria has a different connotation. It is said that the entire stadium could exit in five minutes.

The massive crowds needed drink and other necessities. Up to 100 drinking fountains have been located, and a complex water and sewer system for toilet facilities was located beneath the Colosseum at the lowest level. 

And, Romans could buy food at the Colosseum, but alcohol was banned.

 Partially restored part of the arena. The arena had a wooden floor and was covered by sea sand. The Latin word "arena" means sand and we still use arena in some of our entertainment areas today.

 Below the arena floor was the hypogeum, a system of tunnels and chambers for slaves, gladiators, wild animals, and hoists and pulley houses.  It consisted of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. Eighty vertical shafts provided instant access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath; larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and the like. 
The hypogeum was connected by underground tunnels to a number of points outside the Colosseum. Animals and performers were brought through the tunnel from nearby stables, with the gladiators' barracks at the Ludus Magnus to the east also connected by tunnels. 

Incidentally, the word gladiator comes from the word gladius which was the short, two-edged sword worn by the Roman Legionaries. Thus, a gladiator was a swordsman.  

Cages on the sides as well as trap doors in the arena let animals leap dramatically into the fray (remember the film "Gladiator"? ).

 No matter how many shots I took or from what perspective
I was awed by the planning,
 the structure,
 the underground layout,

 the movement of animals,
the movement of gladiators, all in the dim tunnels,
and the immensity of the stadium.
It was so mind boggling that the only way to end is where we began.    

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roman Colosseum

Roman Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum, also know as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is one of Rome's most famous buildings. The name Flavium is the family name of the Roman Emperors who built the Colosseum.
Something that was frustrating at the time, but funny now, was that as we approached the structure and were looking for the entrance, we turned right. Had we turned left, we would have been within 50 yards of the entrance. However, turning right, we journeyed around the whole building. So instead of the usual front entrance photographs, we are able to show the whole building. (So Rosemary, we did get to do some walking and discover rarely seen angles of the building).

 Off to the RIGHT of the Colosseum is the Arcus Constantini (Arch of Constantine). After years of civil war, Constantine's army defeated Maxentius at the Battle of Milivian Bridge in 312 AD. To commenorate this victory, the Senate of Rome awarded Constantine a triumphal arch.
 One may recall that this arch served as the finish line for the marathon at the 1960 Summer Olympics

Although one could see that the Colosseum was huge, unknown to me at the time that it was a large ellipse measuring 616' x 510', with a base of about six acres.

The walkway was picturesque (old) and reminded me of the 8 mile stretch of torturous road at the Mineral Wells Krazy Kicker bicycle tour some years back.

 Construction of the Colosseum was started by Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD and inaugurated in 80 AD. The Colosseum was built as for "entertainment" of the Roman leaders and public. The opening ceremony is documented to have lasted 100 days, and between 5000 and 11,000 wild animals were killed.  

The large perimeter wall structure is made up of three sets of columns, Doric (at the bottom) then the Ionic and then Corinthian. The uppermost section of the perimeter wall is referred to as the attic and was constructed with Corinthian pilasters every second span having a window.  

Having walked the six acres, finally, we see the entrance. Next installment--inside the Colosseum.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday February 12 Group Ride

Spring Creek crossing FM 2335

Spring creek starts on a ranch outside of Mertzon. Some years back, the ranch owner would let a Boy Scout Troop camp, and swim in the cold spring. As I recall, the spring gushed about a million gallons per day...and it was cold, cold enough that I would only wade in it. The scouts would place their water melons in it to keep them cold. Spring Creek is the source of water for over 12 reservoirs, one of the largest, Rust Reservoir, is just above this area near Tankersley. 

In a round about way,Tankersley was the destination of nine of us cyclers on a social group ride Saturday the 12th. The temperature was to get over 65 and the wind was not supposed to get over 15 mph making it a perfect day for a ride.
 Cindy and Jerry cycled from their house in the area and met us at Knickerbocker. Country living is quite convenient as Cindy is a competitive equestrian and is among the hosts for a Texas Trail Challenge to be held in San Angelo in April. What better place to keep your horse(s) than in your own back yard.
 Brian arrived shortly and lined up for the ride.
 Mark mentioned he was glad to get in a ride as he had been having to ride on his home trainer.
 Mark and Liz lead out as we traveled straight in the wind for the first five miles.
 Christine B. arrived a little late at the beginning but caught up to and over-took some of the riders.
 Cindy arrived at the end of the first leg of the ride.
 Jerry rolled in at the re-group area.
 Being in a rural area with little traffic, these were our only spectators. One can see we are still in dire need of moisture even though we received a little rain and about an inch of snow recently.

 As the first leg was an out and back, the return was with the wind mostly to our backs. We do not normally ride three abreast. Liz (lt) was just chatting before she passed Cindy and Christine J. Christine J. (rt) is still building strength and stamina after her hip replacement. Although she hasn't gone the whole distance of any group ride this year, she put in her most miles to date on this ride.  
Dorothy arrived a little late for the ride and met us on our return to the start position. As such, she did not get the full enjoyment of the open roads and wind in the face of the first leg.

Re-group time back in Knickerbocker.
Being in a rural area with little traffic, these were about our only spectators on the next leg of the ride. The exception is the rancher in the middle of the pictures standing by his truck. The way he looked at us I would really like to know what he was thinking.
 Pavilion and rest rooms of the park by Spring Creek. The park would make a nice place to incorporate a picnic into one of our rides this summer.
On the return trip, we tried to huddle in small groups as we were heading back into the wind again. Everyone finished the ride in good spirits with wishful thinking that the weather warm up and the winds die down.

At the beginning of the story, we talked about the origins of Spring Creek and its meandering to crossing under FM 2335. Spring Creek continues to San Angelo and goes into Twin Buttes. Twin Buttes discharges Spring Creek and it continues on into Lake Nasworthy. On our Monday group rides, our route parallels Spring Creek.
Typical Monday Group. Christine B., Mark, Liz, Christine J., Rick and Velma. We group at what we call the beach at Lake Nasworthy.
Velma and Mark ride along Spring Creek.
 The creek is protected enough that even on windy days, fishermen are out trying their luck.
At the end of one leg of the Monday ride, we also parallel Twin Buttes dam. Spillway in the background. Shown are Mark, Velma, and Christine B.
Christine B. and Spring Creek.

Back at the Lake Nasworthy "beach", the gulls depart the scene giving me the cue to end this story also.