Rome - Colosseum, research on the arena and basement level
The Flavian Amphitheater, known from the 11th century also as the Colosseum, lies in the 3rd Augustan city region (Isis and Serapis) between the hills of Oppio and Celio and the Velia (a ridge connecting the Palatine and Oppian Hills excavated in 1932).
After the great city fire of 65 A.D., the Emperor Nero transformed the area into his private park, the so-called Domus Aurea. Under Emperor Vespasian (69-79 A.D.), it was given over to public use and official buildings were installed, including among them the Colosseum. Exactly when the entire complex was constructed, including among other structures a gladiator school and store houses for weapons and stage decoration, is not exactly known, but an estimate of 70-72 A.D. is likely. During the 100-day inaugural celebration, gladiator contests (munera), animal hunts (venationes), as well as a sea battle (naumachia) took place. The amphitheater was utilized for this purpose up until 523 A.D. (the date of the last traditional animal hunt) and underwent many restorations and rennovations. The first systematic excavation of the basement level was planned in 1812 by Carlo Fea but on account of the high ground-water it was soon discontinued and the area covered over again.
In Spring of 1995, after a generous offer was made to the Institute by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma, research and documentation of the Arena (which has never been measured) as well as investigation of the basement began, starting with an examination and documentation of the architecture. Part of the work is to distinguish the successive building phases over the 500 year use of this amphitheater, the largest in the ancient world. Moreover, for the first time, attempts will be made to reconstruct the wooden floor of the arena based on a thorough architectural examination of the structure.
As a result of the work to date, the documentation of the extension of the first sectional level (ca. 1 m high) can be considered finished, likewise the recording and reconstructing of the wall sections executed in tuffa stone that presumably belong to the earliest building phase. In the course of time, the building was stabilized and rebuilt many times over, so much so that for the time being only four large building phases have been distinguished. On the basis of newly discovered brick-stamps and construction features, one of these phases can be dated to the end of 1st to the beginning of the 2nd century A.D.
A report on the status of the work, in which also gives the first results, will appear in the journal »Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung«, volume 105, 1998.