|Assignment I CLST 260, Spring 2015
Plan an arena for the first Roman emperor, Augustus.
Due in class February 2nd; if you are taking the one-week extension you must email us to let us know by midnight of February 1st.
Length: 1,000-1,400 words (the word limit will be strictly enforced)
Prompt: Arenas were important civic buildings, meant to last for generations,1 reflect the builder’s social and political status, and honour them and their families. They were also used to legitimate aristocratic families’ authority, aid in elections, and, in the case of emperors, to support their rule and dynasty. They were also very expensive. Very, very expensive. You didn’t build one on a whim. A great deal of attention and care went into designing them and locating them in the best and most effective public location.
In the year 10 CE, an aged Augustus has decided that he wishes to leave the Roman people a stone amphitheatre worthy of the city, the empire, and of his dynasty. The amphitheatre built by Statilius Taurus in the Campus Martius has been very disappointing and Rome needs an arena worthy of her greatness and which can challenge the glories of Pompey the Great’s theatre in the Campus Martius; this year he has just dedicated a temple to Concordia Augusta (Augustan Peace) and feels the need to build more. He hopes that building a new arena will ensure his dynasty will be thought of fondly by the Roman people for many years to come, and the arena will be an amenity and wonder for the Roman people. As a renowned architect you have been called upon to sketch up a proposal for this arena, to suggest the best possible location, as well as its size, amenities, and other features. Augustus has only asked for you to consider the following requirements:
The building should be easily accessible to most people who live in the city of Rome, thus it cannot be located far from the city
It should honour his adoptive father, Julius Caesar, in some way. Perhaps a temple or a giant statue of Caesar or some other feature…
It should seat at least 20,000 people and have all the amenities that you would expect in such a building: toilets, food vendors, awnings, etc.
You should not knock down any public building (temple, forum, theatre, to build it). Not even the grossly inadequate arena built by Statilius Taurus
It must conform to his seating legislation (i.e. even aristocratic women will have to sit in the summum maenainum in lignis). However, despite this and the fact that he wants to ensure that Rome’s social hierarchy is enforced, he does want everyone to have a good time, so please consider adding nice features even for the cheap seats and the women’s section.
It should have some expensive or innovative feature that will wow the Roman people. Anything from air conditioning, to exciting stage machinery, to underground chambers from which animals enter the arena.
How is this going to be financed? Usually the Romans like to use proceeds from some recent war to fund very expensive civic buildings and to memorialize that fact. But you could raise the money via other means including taxes on the empire or via some other means.
The format of the report is up to you, though it may help to break it out into sections. No thesis statement is necessary: Augustus is very busy and wants you to get to the point. He also expects you to use his full title (Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus). These questions may help guide your writing: and help you decide what elements to include:
Location. Where in or close to the city of Rome will you place this arena?2 Why is this a good location? What benefits will it have for Augustus and his dynasty? If you are going to do any levelling of hills or major landscape features you will have to justify this as it will be very expensive.3
How people will access your selected location. Don’t forget: you have to get people in and out of the place quickly and without causing issues with crowd control and possible crushes/trampling – no one wants a repeat of Caesar’s games where senators were trampled to death. Thus placing it in a confined space is not a good idea, unless you plan to excavate some room. You also want people to enter it via good entrances and streets, and not have to go through a slum or somewhere unpleasant to get there.
The size/area of the arena and how many people it will seat. This will have an impact on your decision where to locate the arena: the larger it is the more issues you will have with crowds and finding the right amount of space; however, if you make it too small then Augustus won’t be able to have many people at his games and their impact is lessened.
How many levels, entrances, staircases, etc it will have: how will people enter the building, and how will they find their way around the building? How will you ensure that senators don’t find themselves rubbing shoulders with peasants as they go to their seats? How will the emperor and the vestals get to their boxes?
Extra features you will include in your building to make it special. This might be underground chambers for funnelling animals into the arena, machinery to allow special stage effects, features to stop animals escaping into the seats, cooling mechanisms, a velarium, etc,
Decorations: what sort of statues, decorations, features, will you include? Why are you including these, given that Augustus will have to pay for them?
Seating. What boxes will you provide? What percentages of seats will you give to various groups? (Remember Augustus’ strict rules on seating).
What accommodations for animals, equipment, and people will you supply? How will you get gladiators and large amounts of animals to the arena on the day(s) of events? Where will they wait before their bouts?4
References: Be sure to list any sources you have consulted at the end of your assignment: this includes websites as well as articles, books, etc. including those websites and resources listed below.
I strongly recommend The Story of the Roman Arena (on reserve at Koerner), if you are looking for details on arenas. It’s not only very to the point, but is well organized and clear. Below I’ve also listed some online resources to help you get started and give some further information.
Useful links, images and information.
Digital Map of Augustan Rome Very useful for finding out more about the specific location you select for your arena as you will want to understand more about the significance of the location you select for it.
Building projects in Augustan Rome: gives an invaluable timeline of when certain projects were built and more information each building.
The entire topographical dictionary of Platner and Ashby which gives descriptions of sites around ancient Rome. A great resource, especially when you’ve decided on your location.
Platner and Ashby entry on the Colosseum with lots of details about its location. Reading this and going over class notes will help you understand why the Colosseum was placed where it was and what you should be looking for in your location.
Platner and Ashby entry on the Campus Martius, should you chose to locate your arena there.
Platner and Ashby entry on the 14 regions that Augustus organized the city into
Link to plan of the Colosseum. Click on the image to magnify.
Very useful site on the Colosseum, although it has a few issues, especially with its claims that 70,000 people could fit in the Colosseum. However, it has great plans and discussion of construction methods, etc. that are very useful.
http://www.theaterofpompey.com/ Useful information on Pompey the Great and his theatre and its effect and impact on Rome. Also helpful for thinking about the effect and impact Augustus would want his arena to have.
Details on amphitheatres:
Colosseum: The Flavian dynasty (69-98 CE) built the Colosseum on the site of the lake of Nero’s5 Domus Aurea, thus returning to the people public land which Nero had seized after the Great Fire of Rome (66 CE).6 The Flavians decorated the Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre in the world, magnificently (see your reader for descriptions) and used the proceeds of their victory in the Jewish War to pay for it. It had an inscription stating that, so everyone could read about it long after the war was over. By building this great structure, they presented the Roman people with a magnificent gift for all time from the very start of their rule. This building promised them not just pleasure, but showed Rome’s might and wealth to the world, and reinforced the emperor’s complete power. According to the poet Martial, it was one of the wonders of the age (see your reader also) and in inaugurating it the Flavians threw spectacular games.
The third and final Flavian emperor, Domitian, not only added the underground substructures, but also built the Ludus Magnus and linked it to the Colosseum via an underground tunnel. As for the colossal statue of Nero from which the building takes its current name, they turned it into a statue of the sun god.
Date built: begun 75 CE; dedicated 80 CE; completed in the reign of Domitian (81-96 CE)
Located: On the lake of Nero’s Domus Aurea in Rome
How was it paid for? Proceeds of the Jewish War (announced by plaque over the
Boxes: one for emperor (with private entrance); one for Vestal Virgins7
Entrances: 76 numbered entrances (marked I-LXXVI); four unnumbered main entrances along the axes of the building, two of which led to special boxes, two led to arena itself; underground entrance to the Ludus Magnus
Height: 48.5 m: three tiers of arcades and an attic story
Overall size: 188x156 m
Arena floor: 76.96 x 46.18 m
Overall area covered: c. 29,300 square metres
Underground galleries? Yes. Underground galleries were added for stores and animals; animal storage consisted of 32 iron cages each in its own pen, which could be hoisted up close to the surface after which animals would climb up a ramp to the
Seating arrangements: Tribunalia8 (.1% of total seats), Podium (4% of total seats); Ima cavea (21% of total seats); Media cavea (37% of total seats); summa cavea (18% of total seats) summum maenainum in lignis (19% of total seats)9
Crowd control features: bollards outside the structure, which was in a plaza, managed to filter pedestrians entering the arena, and stop vehicles driving on the pedestrian plaza (17.5 m wide) around the amphitheatre
Date built: c. 40s CE
Located: south side of the city in alignment with the city grid
Overall size: 152.43 x 123.24m
Arena size: 75.68 x 44.43 m
Total area 14,754 square metres
Perimeter: 866 m
Underground structures? No: arena had a large, shallow pool (36.13 m, 8.77m wide, less than 2m deep, fed by aqueduct; drained by three large drains)
Date built: c. 80s CE (Flavian Era)
Paid for by: the inscription over the amphitheatre says that the Roman colony of Flavia Augusta Puteolana paid for the amphitheatre from its own resources.
Overall size: 149 x 116 m
Arena size: 74.8 x 42 m
Total area 13,575 square metres
Underground structures? Yes. There were 46 trap doors in the arena floor through which animals could enter the arena
Amenities: rooms for various guilds to meet in were added in the 2nd century CE
Boxes: Yes: one with shrine beneath it (shrine added c. 2nd century CE)
Figure Map of Ancient Rome. Please note that some of the buildings in this map - such as the Colosseum - did not exist in the age of Augustus. However, it gives you a sense of the shape of the city and the major regions. The Campus Martius was outside the walls of the ancient city in the Augustan era. However, it was also one of the few remaining spaces that was not entirely built up.
Figure Map of Republican Rome (or Rome as it would have been when Augustus became emperor
Figure Map of Imperial Rome (many of these buildings would not have beeen there during Augustus' reign)
Figure Cross Section of the Colosseum showing various levels of seating.
Map of the Campus Martius (from Patterson, “The City of Rome Revisited” Journal of Roman Studies 82, 1992: 186-215)
Figure Another map of Rome showing some of the gardens (horti), some of which were private, some which were public, which were on the outskirts of the city.