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The Grandeur of Roman Amphitheaters

Colosseum-interior.01I was browsing through Blake Shelton concert tour schedule and saw that he’s going to perform at Austin360 Amphitheatre on June this year. What a lovely word, “amphitheater”. It sounds so ancient and mysterious. It got me wondering about the very first Amphitheatre in the world.

While there are no certain records of the very first amphitheater, it is certain that the tradition of building these open-air venues to host entertainment events started in ancient Rome. Who among those who watched The Gladiator will ever forget how majestic those circular structures seemed? Pliny the Elder, an ancient historian, claimed that the amphitheater was constructed in the era of Gaius Scribonius Curio in 52 BC. This early form of amphitheater consisted of two wooden semicircular theaters faced toward each other to form one large circular theater.

Jean-Claude Golvin states that the earliest stone amphitheaters, built towards the end of the second century BC, are in Campania, Capua, Cumae and Liternum. The next oldest amphitheater is the Theater of Pompey, built after 70 BC. It was dedicated by Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar’s rival. It was a gigantic structure, capable of holding 20,000 spectators. It was meant as a victory monument to celebrate Pompey’s military victories.

Activities in the Amphitheaters

Ancient Romans loved entertainment so much that they built enormous buildings for this sole purpose. They held religious rites in the amphitheaters, and also stage plays, athletic competitions, chariot races, gladiatorial combats, and other wild beast shows. These events are hosted by sociopolitical elites to promote themselves and their authority over the land.

Gladiatorial combats are the main events in amphitheaters, no questions asked. Ancient scholars record that gladiatorial combats were first introduced to Rome in 264 B.C during the funeral for an elite person named D. Iunius Brutus Pera. Since then, gladiatorial combats were regularly held during state-sponsored festivals (ludi). It has been a popular route for emperors and leaders to gain public favor.

Since the fall of Rome, the wonders of amphitheaters spread throughout the world. Amphitheaters are scattered throughout the United States of America, Europe, and even Asia. As other ancient Roman culture, the art of building amphitheaters is not to be lost any time soon.

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