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Secrets of Lost Empires
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Questions & Answers | List of Questions

How many people lived in Rome when the Colosseum was active as an arena?

How many people did it take to build the Colosseum, and how many bricks or stones did it take?

Many box seats on several levels contain matching sidewall joist holes approximately 4-by-4 at about 7 and 12 feet above floor levels. Guides say no wood was used and these do not represent flooring requiring crotching or lying. Could this possibly be true?

Was the status of a sailor enhanced because of their role in covering the Colosseum?

Were the Roman sailors as skilled as others who lived during that time period?

Which of the methods used in the NOVA program did you favor?

Were there any other stadiums in antiquity that used awnings?

Did the Romans borrow construction techniques for the Colosseum from even more ancient cultures?

What made the Romans actually build the Colosseum?

How did they go about flooding it for mock sea battles?

It seems that either method needs further support beams closer to the stage area. Is there any evidence to support any more beams further down toward the center?

Why couldn't the suspension system be used, but use the bottom ropes to suspend a series of ropes through the rings on the awning, allowing the awning to retract from the center to the edges?

Is it a possibility that the Romans constructed a giant circular piece of cloth that was held taut over the Colosseum like a lid on a jar—no complicated system of ropes?

What does the word "Colosseum" mean?

I think the idea of the booms is a good one, but could they have had a smaller set of awnings covering the important people?

The Romans are portrayed as leading lives of excess. Is this accurate?

Regarding the mast erected to support the sails, is there any evidence to suggest that they might have been metal-banded for increased strength or height?

My main concern is once the canvas—what was the weight, i.e., ounces per yard?—was in place, whatever method was used, was water drainage/collection and uplift a problem? How was this avoided?

At the beginning of your program, the architect, Chris, had shown us a drawing of the Colosseum as it might have looked if the Romans had put a concrete roof on it using their system of arches. Would it be possible to use the same concept, but instead of using concrete maybe the Romans could have constructed an arched wooden structure and then put canvas over that?

Weren't there structures outside the Colosseum to which block and tackle were thought to be used to raise the sail roof from outside the Colosseum?

Could a wooden circle with pulley attachments have been raised by ropes from outside the structure through the tops of the masts, lifting the wooden circle from the center floor to the center near the opening, and then sails pulled along these ropes? Like the spider web theory, the roof would have sloped down and in toward the center.

Was the sailcloth back then a similar fabric to the type you used in the experiment?

How were the Vestal Virgins chosen?

How long was the Colosseum in use, and why did people stop using it?

Did you consider the fact that bullfights are scheduled at 5:00 p.m., when there is half sun and half shade? This would support the first theory of sails and beams.

The Colosseum is so enormous—is it know how they handled crowd control?

If you got a chance to do this experiment again, would you do it differently?

I believe that the Romans used the archways in the Colosseum to string parallel ropes across the top. The fabric would then be attached to the ropes using rings. This design would cover the entire building and would fit all of the descriptions. Could this have been the way?

Is the Colosseum ever used for events now, other than as a tourist attraction?

Was the Colosseum the original "sports stadium"? Were there other big gathering places?

There may be a combination of both ideas. Use the booms to suspend the canvas as in the first experiment to give retractable characteristics, then stretch ropes across to the opposite boom to extend the canvas to the desired distance, depending on the weather, wind, etc., the ropes could be adjusted with the support of the booms for added stability.

How complicated was the rigging that you did for the bullring roof compared to rigging that sailors of that time would have done?

What type of wood were the masts made of, and where were these trees found?

Do you think the blood and gore shows that took place in the Colosseum have any parallels to today's extreme sports, or violent talk shows?

What was the most populated event that took place in the Colosseum?

Which of the solutions shown in the program to cover the Colosseum is best supported by archaeological evidence?

How long did it take to build the Colosseum and how much did it cost?

How did the elevators work that brought animals from the underground passageways?

One post on top, like on the show—both theories—then another post toward the bottom; wood span between the two posts like a bridge. Canvas is strung between the posts on top, furled to the posts on the bottom, and fastened along the way. This way, the rich are shaded; the poor are, too, but they get a crummy view because of the downward slope of the support posts and fabric. That's okay, though; they're poor.

If canvas awnings used in your experiments were uncolored, would the Romans, in their lavishness, have dyed these cloths into decorative hues?

We were in Rome last week looking at the Colosseum. One guide says the place held 83,000 people, and a book I bought at the shop says that counting also the standing spectators, the amphitheater could accommodate about 70,000 people. The place is really huge, so wouldn't it really hold a lot more than 45,000, as you cite? Remember, these people were probably much smaller.

Was the Colosseum considered an architectural wonder at the time, or was it standard, if grand, for that time?

What caused the ruin of the colosseum? What was the reason for not rebuilding?

Why should we assume that the Romans used only one method to roof their arenas? Is it not reasonable to assume that they experimented with various methods?

Is there any evidence to suggest that the Romans knew of and used suspension bridges? (which technology could presumably be adapted to a suspension roof)?

Were the bodies of humans killed in the arena simply tossed in a mass grave or were there family members who claimed the bodies?

Question for Roberts: Why don't the boom structures show on the few remaining examples (of how it could be done beside the stamping limits)? Is it possible that the same type of boom could be used with all support gear underneath the cloth? Could the cover be deployed via end wheels at the far end of the booms (reducing complexity)? Could the structures on the outside of the Colosseum be knoches (I saw no holes to capture the end of poles)? Are there any indications that adjustable angle support braces running to the seating area 'could' have been used or 'pre-loaded overbuilt structures' like the ones you tried? Funny you made your test structures in a bull ring when rings may hold the possible answer (like on ship masts)?

Wouldn't a net-like fabric reduce weight, allow wind tolerance and provide dappled shade adequate to the need? If the riggers were sailors, as am I, wouldn't they cast a net over the sea of air that would allow its fluid to pass, stow in a small area, dry quickly if wet and bear its own weight without heavy rigging?

Use rope network, but NOT CONVERGING at center; rather use parallel ropes to a central cross-rope over stadium mid-line. Use the parallel ropes upon which to pull the "sails" towards center rope, just as done with the horizontal poles to support them. Sails could be deployed or retracted in a matter of minutes, as wind might dictate. This is suggested by looking at the picture of an early "roof" shown in program. It appeared to me that the supports were parallel, not convergent! What do you think?

Why couldn't the rope structure use a central ring-shaped rope anchored by ropes in V's to the masts. The canopy then could be one solid piece that irises shut by means of a rope through the inner part of the canopy. With this modification to the rope method, you would still have a means of retracting the roof by loosening the iris rope. It also would look much like the renderings you refer to in the story.

First, congratulations to all involved for devising two solutions that are both plausible and elegant. Regarding the problem with Chris's design in the wind: large parade banners and advertising banners strung across city streets are perforated with crescent-shaped slices to lessen the effect of the wind. Perhaps the fabric of the Colosseum roof was similarly perforated. Semicircular slits in the canvas would have a minimal (if any) effect on the shade provided, but they would allow the wind to pass through with less lifting effect.

I have an idea. If you wanted to extend the horizontal beams farther. You could put in vertical beams to make the horizontals stronger and be able to extend them farther.

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