THE COLOSSEUM ARENA
The English word “arena”, which means “battle stage”, comes from the Latin word “arena” that actually means ‘sand’. There was in fact sand on the arena of the Colosseum, but we should not think that the arena was made of sand. The main material which the arena was made of, mainly, was wood — and for a very simple and important reason. Gladiatorial games and hunts followed a script. It was important that the attention of the audience was kept alive by surprises, twists and unexpected turns of events. The arena floor was built in such a way to hide sophisticated mechanisms and machines that were able to chance the whole scenography, in a split second. The directors of the games were able to make a tree appear or disappear, bushes, rocks, exotic beasts, tigers, lions and whatnot through the use of elevators, ramps, revolving wood planks and boards. However, the wooden floor, was covered with a particular kind of yellow sand that is abundant in Rome. Romans had the habit to spread the yellow sand as a sign of blaze, not just on the arena of the Flavian amphitheater but also on the itinerary of triumphs, parades, theatrical stages and public squares. At times, sand of different colors was also used in the Colosseum — or normal sand mixed with glittering minerals — to make everything more spectacular. At the end of the games, the sand was removed, and so it was the wooden floor as well, in order to be refurbished and to allow the sunlight to enter the underground area and facilitate maintenance. Colorful sand, breathtaking scenography, plot twists, everything on the Colosseum arena was made to impress and entertain. But certainly, having ferocious wounded beasts jumping around just feet away from senators, knights, important public figures, not to speak of the emperor, was not without its risks. So the whole arena was surrounded by a removable iron fence. At the bottom of it ivory rolls running downwards made it impossible for the animals to jump above the fence. Even if the could, they would have probably died on one of the elephant tusks placed on top of the fence or hit by the deadly arrows of the archers guarding the fence.