However, looking at the Coliseum now is the equivalent of looking at Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel if the paint had chipped off and his work had been left to decay. The Coliseum was not left to decay, but was destroyed by earthquake after earthquake and countless fires and even used as a quarry; it is now just a ruin of the great amphitheater. In its day, the Coliseum was a marvel to look at. It was a full three story elliptical arcade (row of arches) with a fourth story full of windows. In between each arch and window sat statues of great heroes and gods, and in the middle of the ellipse sat a pit for the fights. Set deep in the heart of Rome, the Coliseum was once the greatest amphitheater in the Empire.
The citizens would flood there to see men fight beasts and other spectacles. Inside, there was seating for approximately fifty thousand people and a special area for emperors and city leaders. Around the pit and underground lay an intricate set of rooms where beasts such as lions would be kept and supplies stored; today it looks somewhat like an excavation of secret passages. Although it was one of the last of its kind made, the Coliseum remained active until AD 523. For the citizens of Rome it was a great place for leisure and fun, and also a beloved structure. Today, although it is damaged, many still view the Coliseum as the epitome of Roman architecture.
perhaps the greatest work of architectural engineering left to us by Roman antiquity is Romes Coliseum With its tiers of arches, its superimposed orders in the form of half-columns, and its crowning range of pilasters, it was to become a pattern for Renaissance architecture. (Wheeler 118) The next structure, the Circus Maximus, was one of the more popular structures built by the Roman people. The outer dimensions of the Circus tally at nearly 610 meters long and 190 meters wide and the inside tiers of seats could accommodate close to two hundred thousand people. During Caesars reign, the Circus was reconstructed and enlarged. The Circus was a very popular place for Romans to watch chariot races and other events, The race course and processional track first received comparably monumental treatment in the imperial Circus Maximus at Rome, where it was the most venerable of festival places It was compelling enough to annul the functional asymmetry for the starting end with its oblique arc of starting boxes and canted right wall. (Brown 29) The Circus is not revered as a true masterpiece of architecture, but, as a public area of entertainment, it does represent an important part of imperial Roman architecture.
These were not the only great works of Roman Architecture. Hadrian's Wall, the Emperors Forums and many others all were symbols of the great Roman Empire and their superior builders. Although many of these masterpieces were not necessary for survival like the aqueducts, they were favorites of the Roman people; and they signify to us ages later a magnificent empire with a sophisticated and grand style. If the Roman era were to be classified as a time of advancement, then let architecture be one of the greatest advancements. Romes ability to challenge and change the precedents set by its older brother Greece was the key to the Roman Empires greatness.
The precedent challenged, or more the limit surpassed that was key to architecture was the incorporation and widespread use of the arch. Romes ability to spread its empire with minimum supplies and efficiency can all be attributed to the advancement in architecture. While it is valid to say that Roman architecture expanded as the Roman Empire did, it might do more just to say that the advancements in architecture led to the advancement of the Roman Empire. If asked how Romans spread their power throughout the world, the response might be that Romes armies spread the power. But how did Romans move across the Empire? And how were towns able to survive across the empire? How is it that Romans were able to sustain such great cities? And how is it that every Roman town was so similar to Rome itself? The profound answer would be the advancements in architecture. Architecture did not win the empire for Rome, but it enabled the brilliant military minds and emperors to spread their power much more easily and in an efficient manner.
The arch alone provided an easy, inexpensive way to construct bridges and build basic defenses for cities. Traveling through the road system, the armies were quickly able to attack enemies and defend cities in distress. Once a city or village was conquered the Roman builders would go to work and begin constructing a greater town with aqueducts, sewer systems, and all the coefficients of a Roman city. The Romans lasting influence from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caspian Sea, from Britain to North Africa was due largely to their ability to navigate forces and sustain cities. The influence of Rome changed many cultures throughout the Empire.