An ancient underground tunnel that links the Colosseum with the remains of a gladiatorial training barracks could be restored and opened to the public thanks to a donation from Kuwait.
Generations of gladiators lived and trained in the Ludus Magnus or Great Gladiatorial Training School, the largest such facility in Rome, which was located just a few hundred yards from the amphitheatre.
The remains of the training school can still be seen, squeezed between two busy roads in the shadow of the Colosseum and frequently littered with rubbish.
The authorities in Rome have long wanted to restore the archaeological site and open up the tunnel which leads from the barracks into the bowels of the Colosseum. Read more.
Colosseum lift that carried wild animals into arena rebuilt after 2,000 years
Archaeologists recreate lifts that carried up Roman lions into the Colosseum where they fought to the death with gladiators.
“The number of lifts here was more than in any other Roman amphitheatre and Roman sources talk of 100 lions appearing together,” Rossela Rea, director of the Colosseum told the Times.
“The wooden life we have rebuilt is for the public, but is to be studied, too. This is experimental archaeology that worked brilliantly,” she added.
A million animals are believed to have been killed in the arena, ferried there by 28 timber machines from the hypogeum, the basement where lions, tigers, wild boar and condemned criminals were kept. Read more.
The Amphitheatre of El Djem: Gladiatorial Arena of Tunisia
The amphitheatre is one of the most iconic
architectural contributions of ancient Rome. The most famous example of such a
structure is the Colosseum in Rome, where brutal gladiatorial battles took
place. Nevertheless, amphitheatres were built all throughout the Roman Empire,
with around 230 known amphitheatres that are still surviving today. One of the
most magnificent examples can be found in the Tunisian city of El Djem,
considered to be home to the most impressive Roman remains in the whole of
Africa, and famous for its starring role in the Hollywood epic ‘Gladiator’.
“It was the last thing they would see: a trapdoor opening in the floor of the Colosseum to unleash a snarling lion or bear, which sprang for the jugular as the crowds roared.
Where prisoners sentenced to a grisly death in ancient Rome’s most barbaric playground once quaked in their sandals, today tourists can explore the cage that carried their killers thanks to a reconstruction in the ancient arena.
The seven-meter high (23-foot) wooden machine, powered by slaves deep in the stadium’s belly, could lift a load weighing 300 kilograms and brought wolves, boars and even antelopes to do battle with the empire’s fiercest gladiators.
“This unique project began with a meeting with the (American) director Gary Glassman” in 2013, the site’s director Rossella Rea said.
Glassman wanted to recreate one of the arena’s 28 lifts for a documentary entitled “Colosseum, Roman Death Trap,” and Rea persuaded him to use original materials and methods to reconstruct one which would remain there for tourists.
Now visitors to the passageways under the 2,000-year-old monument can see where eight slaves straining to rotate a vast windlass would, through a system of lead weights and pulleys, slowly winch the cage to the surface and open the trapdoor.
Up to 80,000 spectators at a time would throng to the Colosseum to see greats such as Carpophores — who reportedly defeated a bear, lion, leopard and rhinoceros in one battle — or cheer on sea battles held in the flooded arena.
- ‘Roman Genius’ -
Rome’s rulers “had to enthral them, for the good of the empire,” said Francesco Prosperetti, superintendent for Rome’s Archaeological Heritage, adding that some 120 days of festivities were put on a year to keep the plebeians happy.
The idea was keep the baying audience on its toes: sometimes the trapdoor in the sand would creak open to reveal a surprise, from bare-breasted female gladiators to elephants, or sometimes even common garden chickens.
Building the cage, which measures 180 by 140 centimeters (71 by 55 inches), took 15 months and cost the production company some 200,000 euros ($223,000).
“The project was incredible. We had to show how one of the most amazing cultures, the Roman genius, created such violent and bloody scenes,” said Glassman, whose documentary was released in February in the United States.
The cage may just be the first step in recreating the Roman amphitheater’s past.
In December, Italy’s cultural minister Dario Franceschini came out in favor of a plan to rebuild the wooden and sand floor, which was removed by excavators in the late 19th century.
The idea is that the arena could be used once more to house events and perhaps even re-enactments of spectacular Roman-era shows, while the area below where the beasts, scenery and props were kept would be turned into a museum.
The biggest amphitheater built during the empire, the Colosseum is 48.5 meters (159 foot) high and welcomes over six million visitors a year.
Long-delayed repairs, funded to the tune of 25 million euros by Italian billionaire Diego Della Valle, began in 2013 and are expected to be finished in early 2016.”