Colosseum Battle!

I thought this had been settled, but apparently they’re still arguing about the details of the Colosseum restoration … from the Gazzetta del Sud:

Italian consumer group Codacons thumped for patience in escalating furor over the restoration of the Colosseum on Wednesday, saying unnecessary alarmism over its condition threatened to bias the outcome of a pending judicial decision over its fate. “News arriving with ever-increasing urgency over new (structural) collapses and risk of breaking (stone) appear aimed at creating an unjustified and generalized alarmism, and seems to have the precise purpose of pushing the judges of the Council of State (administrative appeals court), which will decide next April 16 on the merit of the appeal presented by Codacons, to rule in favor of giving a go-ahead to restoration work by Tod’s,” wrote Codacons Chairman Carlo Rienzi. In recent weeks, Roman Mayor Gianni Alemanno has pressed hard for clearance to begin 25 million euros worth of work on the Italian landmark, to be financed by the Italian luxury shoemaker Tod’s, and called upon on judges to issue a ruling. Meanwhile the Roman Superintendency of Archeology began work in January to create a safety-zone around the ancient Roman arena to prevent injuries from possible falling materials. The press reported that pieces of facade and other bits fell with increasing frequency during 2012, also cited a fire department report from August that spoke of disintegrating stone material. Codacons has an on-going legal complaint against the Tod’s-backed renovation plan for the Colosseum, claiming the bidding process lacked transparency and yielded too many concessions to Tod’s in exchange. The regional administrative court ruled against Codacons’ complaint last summer, but Codacons filed an appeal to Italy’s highest administrative court. The Codacons president concluded his message on Wednesday calling for “a clear and transparent bidding process, which rewards the most capable operators without ‘pawning off’ assets that belong to the public”. Reinzi said he “mistrusts the Superintendency of Archeology’s issuing of declarations” about the Colosseum’s state of decay “that can, on the one side, bring unjustified alarm and on the other illegitimately influence justice decisions.”

Wow …

Erotic Fresco (and Graffiti) From the Colosseum

Kind of surprised this isn’t getting more coverage … via AFP:

Italian archaeologists have found brightly coloured fragments of frescoes depicting heroic and erotic scenes inside a corridor of the Colosseum in Rome, along with samples of ancient graffiti.

“We have found traces of decorations in blue, red and green,” Rossella Rea, director of the 2,000-year-old amphitheatre, told AFP.

The fragments “seem to depict the glory of the gladiator world, with laurels, arrows, victory wreaths and even erotic scenes,” the Repubblica newspaper said.

The frescoes were found in a corridor currently closed to the public while archaeologists were working to restore an area between the second and third floor of the Colosseum, which has fallen into disrepair in recent years.

“We have also found writing dating back to the 17th century as well as the signatures of spectators and foreign visitors” who had come to watch the Colosseum’s famed gladiatorial contests and mock sea battles, Rea said.

“We hope to be able to find other traces in this corridor but that depends on the funds available to continue with the restoration,” she added.

The frescoes are located in an area covering several square feet in a corridor which is around sixty metres long, and should be open to the public by summer 2014, Rea said.

The Colosseum, which was completed in 80 AD by the Roman emperor Titus and is now one of the most visited sites in the world, is in a pitiful state.

Bits of stone, blackened by pollution, have fallen off in previous years, and some experts have voiced concern that the foundations are sinking, giving the amphitheatre a lean.

The number of visitors to the Colosseum, which measures 188 metres (620 feet) by 156 metres and is 48.5 metres high, has increased from a million to around six million a year over the past decade thanks mainly to the blockbuster film “Gladiator”.

… no photos yet … then again, there really isn’t much coverage of this one yet. One would suspect the fresco was to ‘encourage’ the gladiators in regards to what success might bring?

The coverage finally arrived:

Colosseum Restoration Coming Soon?

I have definitely been remiss in covering all the assorted goings-on with proposed restoration of the Colosseum by the Tod shoe folks and bits falling off and the whole thing sloping, so in anticipation of better coverage from me on this sort of thing, here’s a brief item on where we’re at in terms of the restoration:

Restoration of Rome’s 2,000-year-old Colosseum will to begin on time, said shoe magnate and project underwriter Diego Della Valle.

Della Valle, president and chief executive officer of the Italian leather goods company Tod’s, said at the IHT Luxury Conference in Rome Friday preparations are “running smoothly and (restoration) will begin soon.”

Repairs to the iconic amphitheater will begin in December, the Italian ANSA news agency reported.

“Tod’s will take care of the Colosseum. I hope other entrepreneurs will follow suit and fix up other Italian monuments,” Della Valle said.

A 50-year-old man climbed to the top of the structure Friday and threatened to jump if he did not receive help for his heroin addiction. The man, whose name was not reported, told police and firefighters who were trying to coax him down he wanted to be sent “to a recovery community,” the news agency said.

The report did not indicate whether the attempt to talk the man down was successful.

Documentary of the Day: Seven Wonders of Ancient Rome (2004)

As always, not sure how long this one will stay up:

Seven Wonders of Ancient Rome (IMDB)

This documentary is not bad/pretty good and looks at the Circus Maximus, Trajan’s Forum and Market, Aqueducts, the Baths of Caracalla, Roman Roads, the Pantheon, and the Colosseum. When it is just talking about the buildings and their construction, it is very good, but in obvious places it tends towards sensationalism and seems obsessed with the idea that assorted emperors were doing these things to mend tarnished reputations with the people. There is an obsession, it seems, with ‘impressive statistics’, the sources of which are unclear to me. It also is kind of ‘blurry’ chronologically at times.

Despite that, there is a good list of talking heads:

My random notes as I watched:

Circus Maximus

- focus on Trajan and the spina (“the broken back of Rome’s enemies”)

- “newly discovered miracle building material” (!)

- assorted events

- 50 died every year (source?)

- charioteer celebrities, e.g. Scorpus, colours, and betting

Trajan’s Forum and Market … first the Forum

- Apollodorus the architect

- funded by the Dacian campaign

… then the Market

- construction methods (brick, rubble, concrete)

- corn dole on the 5th floor (source?)

Aquaducts

- 900 million litres of water to Rome a day

- Vitruvius, Frontinus

- 416 km network; purification tanks

- all about the arch and how it was made

Baths of Caracalla

- built to reverse a failing image

- soundbite from the psychiatrist declaring Caracalla a “genuine psychopath”

- a big list of statistics; not sure where they’re from

- strange shots of Pompeii frescoes under water when talking about mosaics in the baths

-  the hypocaust system

- what folks did there

Roads

- Appian Way

- 288,000 km network, eventually

- claim that 1/2 a km a day was being built at one time

- “core of Roman communication system” (but not explained)

- how road was built

Pantheon

- built by Hadrian (no mention of Agrippa!)

- Hadrian’s architectural obsession (including his villa)

- repeated mention that we don’t really know the Pantheon’s function

- five types of cement

- Hadrian and Apollodorus didn’t get along (executed)

Colosseum

- “the most infamous building in the world”

- Vespasian had to win back public support after Nero (?)

- usual stuff about building, seating, the awning

- V dies before completion; Titus’ opening games (usual)

- usual gladiatorial stuff; claim that 700,000 died there

Some good potential excerpts on Roman construction techniques, but not one which you’d probably show in its entirety to a class ..

Documentary of the Day: Secrets of the Gladiators

One of my summer projects is to get as many of these documentaries lurking in Youtube on rogueclassicism (and possibly in some form of revived AWOTV newsletter) … I’m not sure how long they’ll be available, so I’ll provide a bit of added value in the form of a semi-review. So here goes:

When Rome Ruled: Secrets of the Gladiators (IMDB)

This one is excellent and really is one of the better made-for-tv-documentaries on this subject; it does have the now-common reenactment sort of stuff, but it isn’t the main focus. There is much presentation of artifacts with scholarly, rather than sensational, explanations … the talking heads are very high quality folk:

Here’s my outline of sorts (with less detail as it goes on):

- the focus will be on opening of the Colosseum
- political/social setting of Vespasian’s and Titus’ time
- Colosseum engineering (including the geometry of the amphitheatre)
- image consciousness of the Flavians
- plenty of building stats; funded with spoils from Jerusalem

- the origins of gladiatorial bouts; Rome borrows from other cultures
- importance of games for politicians
- nice treatment of the naumachia question
- nice treatment of the awning question (and the recreation is how I actually imagined it)

- gladiator life (training, weapons, etc.)
- 1/6 chance of dying << whence that statistic?

- social groupings in the stadium
- “damnio ad bestios” << ouch!

- concludes with Martial’s ‘eyewitness account’ (a translation of the relevant section of de spectaculis)

** the above video abruptly ends, but it doesn’t sound like there was more than a sentence or two left.

Citanda: Why Can’t Rome Protect Its Cultural Treasures?

Rome - Colosseum long
Image by kevsunblush via Flickr

In the wake of last week’s chunk of mortar/plaster falling off the Colosseum, Newsweek has an interesting editorialish thing … here’s the last bit:

At the Coliseum, which attracts nearly 4 million visitors per year, pathetic preservation measures like flimsy safety netting and metal braces put in place almost 30 years ago are now inadequate. And a more recent effort—to sandblast the traffic soot off the porous exterior walls in 1992—was abandoned after the city and key sponsors ran out of money. In the meantime, decades of traffic, vandalism, and neglect have taken their toll. “The Coliseum suffers from its 2,000 years of history,” says Adriano La Regina, superintendent of Rome’s antiquities. “It needs constant, intensive surveillance and intervention; it is like a cancer patient with a bad prognosis.” The structure has an annual maintenance budget of just $867,000—half of what the Ministry of Culture says is necessary to save it. Now an emergency restoration plan by the culture ministry is in place, at a cost of $8.4 million. No one knows yet where the money will come from.

The ambitious project, set to begin later this month, again includes a much-needed exterior cleaning and replacement of key support structures—including new metal bands that hold some of the marble in place. Stone archways will be reinforced and safety netting under the fragile ancient ceilings will be updated. The area around the Coliseum will also be cordoned off, and pedestrian traffic near the monument will be restricted in case of further collapse during the work. In 2000, the city of Rome installed a gladiator exhibit on the second tier, complete with an elevator and gift shop. Now, the museum and elevator will likely be removed, and parts of the ancient amphitheater will be permanently closed to the public. Plans to open the third tier and the subterranean tunnel system to attract even more visitors were also in the works before last Sunday’s collapse. Those areas will likely now never be accessible to the public.

The Coliseum is open again, but a quota system is now enforced to control the number of visitors who are in the ancient amphitheater at any given time. This week the city will consider an emergency measure to limit traffic on the busy throughway that passes within a few hundred feet of the building, turning the entire area into a pedestrian island and diverting thousands of cars and buses that pass by each day.

In recent years, the city of Rome has rented out the Coliseum as a venue for special events like concerts to help offset the maintenance costs. But after Sunday’s collapse, all events scheduled for the busy summer season were canceled or moved to other venues. The vibration from loud speakers is simply too risky, according to La Regina. Smaller indoor events were also canceled, including boxing matches in the ancient underground cages and private VIP dinners and fashion shows, which were scheduled to be held on a wooden floor erected above the subterranean tunnels. The lost revenue from renting out the Coliseum will now have to come from other sources.

According to an archeologist for the culture ministry, Francesco Maria Giro, the priorities have now changed. “Sunday’s event was small, but it is yet another wake up call and confirms the need to study the ancient monuments of Rome,” he said during a walking tour of the Coliseum on Wednesday. “A plan of intervention and ongoing maintenance now supersedes everything else.” But until the government realizes that increasing, not cutting, its culture budget should be the real priority, saving Rome’s cherished symbols will be a race against time.

via Why Can’t Rome Protect Its Cultural Treasures? – Newsweek.com.

In a similar vein:

Oh Noes! Mortar Falling Off Colosseum!

00000 - Rome - Colosseum
Image by xiquinhosilva via Flickr

A brief AP report is making the rounds detailing something of concern about the Colosseum. Here’s the incipit of a representative piece from the Globe:

Rome archaeology officials say three chunks of mortar have fallen off from the Colosseum but that no one was hurt and tourist visits will go on as normal.

The pieces, covering a total of about a square meter about 10 square feet, occurred about 6 a.m. Sunday, hours before the ancient arena opens to the public.

Archaeology official Roberto Cecchi said the area involved was already scheduled for maintenance and will be further inspected on Monday.

via Chunks of mortar fall off Rome’s Colosseum – Boston.com.

… the Colosseum remains open. I guess they’ll add this to the list of things to take care of with their ‘big restoration plans’

More coverage: