Segments in this Video

Colosseum—Roman Death Trap: Introduction (02:45)


Shows at the Colosseum included wild beasts, crucifixions, sea battles, and gladiators fighting to the death. In this episode, experts will explore tunnels, study gladiator skeletons, and re-construct special effects. (Credits)

Roman Engineering (02:53)

The largest building the Romans constructed, the Colosseum, was adorned with statues and bronze shields. Entertainments led to 1,000,000 deaths and the extinction of several animal species. The complex was designed to create and maintain Roman world order; Martial described the events in "Book of Spectacles."

Ancient Lift System (04:34)

Roman texts and mosaics inspired the movie "Gladiator," but none of the artifacts explain how special effects occurred. Heinz Beste discovers clues to an ancient lift system in the hypogeum; he plans on reconstructing it.

Colosseum Background (04:38)

Holes in the stone outside the monument once held a bronze inscription. The Arch of Titus depicts Roman soldiers carrying the Menorah, Torah, and sacred table after sacking Jerusalem. To portray himself as the Anti-Nero, Vespasian built the Colosseum atop Nero's pleasure palace.

Reconstructing the Lifts (03:17)

Beste collaborates with Umberto Baruffaldi, Giovanni Squillacioti, and Flavia Campanelli to create a series of authentic pulleys and counterweights. The team constructs a model. As the capstan turns, the cage with an animal rises.

Roman Amphitheaters (02:23)

Amphitheater means "double theater" in Greek, and should be circular. Designers used an oval shape to accommodate 50,000 people and prevent gladiators from getting stuck in a corner. Events at the Colosseum celebrated being a citizen.

Full Scale Lift Model (02:32)

After locating a tree to use as the capstan, the team constructs the model. The Trajan column depicts how Romans cut down trees and built campsites for military operations. Baruffaldi worries the model will damage the Colosseum.

Colosseum Decorations and Opening (04:17)

Coins and carvings indicate the Colosseum was once decorated with shields, statues, and columns—amplifying Roman power. Vespasian dies before the monument is completed and is succeeded by Titus. Martial in "Liber Spectaculorum" describes the opening games and mass executions.

Hidden Engineering (04:05)

Martial detailed a Colosseum event where a mock sea battle occurred in the morning and gladiators fought in the afternoon. Adriano Morabito discovers evidence of four sewage drain collectors. Using aqueducts, engineers flooded the Hypogeum to five feet and designed flat-bottomed boats.

Colosseum Model (06:07)

Because the Colosseum's walls are a protected World Heritage Site, the team plans to assemble the model outside the monument. Giovanni Cirillo discovers the model is overweight. After removing the cage, Baruffaldi decides to proceed even though the model is still 150 kilos too heavy.

Forensic Studies (04:41)

Austrian archeologists discovered a mass grave in Turkey; Fabian Kanz studied the remains and determined it was a gladiator cemetery. Suetonius describes seven gladiator characters including the secutor and the retiarius. Gladiators received a potion made of strontium to prolong their lives and protect their owner's investment.

Testing the Model (08:10)

The team installs wheels and ropes. Baruffaldi realizes that the Roman ship's system for raising sails might help raise the cage because it re-distributes the weight. A wolf tests the lift after adding a 12 pulley system to the capstan.

Colosseum Legacy (01:36)

Over five million tourists visit the Colosseum annually. Ancient Romans believed the games stiffened moral fiber, reminding citizens of the power of the empire. Barbarians ransack Rome in 476.

Credits: Colosseum - Roman Death Trap (01:11)

Credits: Colosseum - Roman Death Trap

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The Colosseum is a monument to Roman imperial power and cruelty. Its graceful lines and harmonious proportions concealed a highly efficient design and advanced construction methods that made hundreds of arches out of 100,000 tons of stone. In its elliptical arena, tens of thousands of gladiators, slaves, prisoners and wild animals met their deaths. Ancient texts report lions and elephants emerging from beneath the floor, as if by magic, to ravage gladiators and people condemned to death. Then, just as quickly, the Colosseum could be flooded with so much water that ships could engage in sea battles. Could these legends be true? Now, with access to one of the world’s most protected world heritage sites, archaeologists and engineers team up to re-create ancient Roman techniques to build a 25-foot lifting machine and trap-door system capable of releasing a wolf into the Colosseum’s arena for the first time in 1,500 years.

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: FPT131275

Copyright date: ©2015

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