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An amphitheatre is an elliptical stadium. The Colosseum is 513 feet at its widest, is 620 feet long, and stands 157 feet tall. There are four main floors, and it was built to seat 50,000 spectators. Later additions to the structure brought the seating capacity up to around 75,000. People entered and exited through 80 different numbered arches, and the design was so efficient that the stadium could be emptied of spectators in less than 15 minutes. The Colosseum is constructed of extremely strong concrete, which could be poured into pre-made forms and allowed to harden. The central arena was a wood floor covered with sand. Today, none of the floor remains, so visitors directly into the hypogeum, where gladiators and wild animals were kept.
The Romans were famous for their arches, and it's the science of the arch that allowed them to build a structure as large as the Colosseum without it collapsing on itself. Roman arches were built in a semi-circle shape with a series of wedge-shaped bricks that could hold each other in place. The bricks must be fitted correctly so there are no gaps in between - the pressure between them creates a strong form and allows the structure to stand up under its own weight. The Romans used arches in many of their buildings, and in constructing the aqueducts that carried water to cities.
The Colosseum was the sports and entertainment center of Rome, where spectators could watch animal fights, gladiator games, theatrical presentations, and even mock naval engagements. Starting in the 18th century, several popes have tried to conserve the area as a sacred site, but it's uncertain whether early Christians really were martyred in the Colosseum.
Oh look! I found a drawing Kennady made of the Colosseum when she was probably five or six years old. I'm not sure she'll draw it again this year, but if she does, I'll be sure to share.
If you'd like a quick tour of the Colosseum and more information, check out these short videos on the History Channel website: Deconstructing History: Colosseum
Games in the Colosseum
We found a lot of our information at SchoolhouseTeachers.com. There's a 10-day lesson plan related to the Colosseum in Everyday Easels, which touches on art, history, math, science, and more. And there's also a lesson in the elective course Introduction to Architecture.
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