Once the source of live sport, the Colosseum in Rome will once again be able to reign as the most modern stage in the world.
After 2,000 years of ruin, the Italian authorities launched an initiative to find an architect with the skill and vision to recreate the floor of the 35,000-seat arena, the first of which eroded more than a millennium after the fall of the Roman Empire in the century V.
“We want to give you an idea of how it went and we are looking for proposals from all over the world,” Coliseu director Alfonsina Russo told the Times.
Italy will subsidize the project with a grant of 10 million euros (about US $ 12 million), with the requirement that the floor imitate some of the elements of the original stage, in addition to being quickly retractable in the event of bad weather. Proposals must be made by February 1, with completion expected in 2022 or 2023.
Erected in 80 AD, the Colosseum drew tens of thousands of Romans to watch gladiators facing men and animals, including lions and tigers, in battles that lasted until the artist’s death in the ring. The stadium floor was also known to be flooded with water, creating a giant tank where artists, usually prisoners, reenact epic naval battles.
The theater’s advanced architecture preceded contemporary stage tricks. At that time, opponents, including high-profile predators, could be hoisted onto the stage through portals hidden in the ground. A skeleton of the once elaborate stage system, including a series of tunnels, cages and hatches, can still be seen today.
Ultimately, Italian preservationists hope that the stage will be used again for decidedly less horrible purposes. Russo added, “The arena will be used for high culture, that is, concerts or theater, but not gladiator shows.”