Friday, May 25, 2012

If the Colosseum had been built on the University of Utah campus...

The BBC has a cool tool that puts the size of the Colosseum in perspective by letting you plop down the amphitheater's footprint in your own neighborhood. (They also offer comparisons of the pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, the leg span of the Colossus of Rhodes and more.)

The Colosseum compared to Rice-Eccles Stadium and the Huntsman Center, via the BBC
 I dropped the Colosseum on the middle of the University of Utah campus and it's interesting to see how it compares to the modern sports arenas. There are two arenas on campus: Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the Utes' football team plays and where the 2002 Winter Olympic ceremonies took place, and the Jon M. Hunstman Center, where the Utes' basketball teams and women's gymnastics compete. While it is roughly similar in size to Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Colosseum would probably have dwarfed Rice-Eccles in appearance due to the difference in building techniques.
The Colosseum vs. Rice-Eccles Stadium (photos by author)
The stats:

The Colosseum
First Game(s): 80 A.D.
Cost: Unknown
Seating: 54,760, estimates vary from ca. 50,000 to 80,000[1]
Overall Square footage: 258,334
Arena Dimensions in feet: 282.15 x 177.17[2]

Rice-Eccles Stadium
First Game(s): 12 September, 1998
Cost: ca. $50 million ($71.3 million in 2012 according to Wikipedia)
Seating: 46,179
Overall Square footage: 234,350
Arena Dimensions in feet: 360 x 160 (NCAA regulation)

Jon M. Huntsman Center
First Game(s): 30 November, 1969
Cost: $10,392,00 in 1969 ($65.9 million in 2012 according to Wikipedia)
Seating: 15,115
Overall Square footage: Unknown
Arena Dimensions in feet: 94 x 50 (NCAA Men's Basketball regulation)

It's interesting to compare the seating arrangments of the three arenas. In the Colosseum, the best seats were front row seats. Bomgardner has calculated some numbers: for the tribunal, where the emperor and his guests sat, ca. 60 seats and ca. 2,190 seats for the podium, where senators and various priests and priestesses, like the Vestal Virgins, sat. These VIP's sat in portable folding chairs that they would have brought with them, while the rest of the audience sat in bleacher-style seating, packed in like sardines, if we extrapolate from Ovid's comments (Ars Amatoria I.139-142) about being compelled to sit glued to the side of one's neighbor in the Circus Maximus. (Of course, Ovid doesn't mind this as he thinks it's a great way to pick up girls!) 
Seating arrangments in the Colosseum (excerpted from A. Claridge (1998) Rome, p. 279)
It is debatable which are the best seats at Rice-Eccles. There are the front line seats, closest to the action, or the "luxury suites" (953 seats) up in the skyboxes. There are generally better seats at Rice-Eccles than in the Colosseum, because it has 15,015 "chair seats," but the other ca. 30,000 seats in the bleachers aren't much better than what the Roman enjoyed! The Huntsman Center has better overall seating, everyone gets a "chair seat", but there are only 194 front row seats.

[1] Bomgardner, D.L. (2000) The Story of the Roman Amphitheater, p. 20.
[2] Richardson, L. (1992) A New Topographical Dictionary, p. 10.

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