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<   No. 869   2005-06-13   >

Comic #869

1 Julius: {gesturing at the impressive round building in the background} Behold, the Flavian Amphitheatre! One of the new wonders of the world!
2 Marcus: Bah, this gladiator kick is just a fad.
3 Marcus: Trust me, Julius, in ten years nobody will even remember this building was ever here.

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The Roman Emperor Vespasian began construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre around 75 AD, but he never lived to see it completed. His son Titus presided over its grand opening in 80 AD, but work on the structure continued into the reign of his brother Domitian. It was constructed from limestone, tufa, and concrete, forming a four-tiered seating complex around an oval floor some 90 by 55 metres in size. It could seat 45,000 spectators, with standing room for another 5,000.

What all those spectators witnessed were battles variously between professional gladiators, prisoners, and wild animals. The floor they fought on was wood, with a layer of sand for traction. This wooden floor concealed a labyrinth of passageways and cells underneath, as well as cunning apparatuses for raising combatants up directly into the middle of the arena.

This remained the largest arena in the world for 1,834 years. Today we call it the Colosseum, and you can still see it if you visit Rome.

Since digital cameras were in short supply back in the Roman Empire, the photo used here is a bit more modern, and shows what the Colosseum looks like today. Part of the structure has collapsed, leaving the partial gap in the wall you can see on the right. The photo is a royalty-free image from morgueFile.

After what I said last time about Romans not wearing beards, I received many e-mails telling me that in fact at certain times they did wear beards. My conclusion from this is that I picked a really bad theme here, since clearly many readers know more about ancient Rome than I do. My solution is to completely ignore any historical inaccuracies from now on and concentrate on the jokes. It should already be clear that Marcus and Julius don't inhabit any particular real period of Roman history. They're going to bounce around to all sorts of anachronistic times as required.

2014-08-08 Rerun commentary: I'm not sure why I used someone else's photo of the Colosseum here, since I visited Rome myself in 2001 and have plenty of photos of the Colosseum which I took myself. I can only presume I decided at the time that I made this comic that none of them were suitable for some reason. Or perhaps I hadn't had them scanned yet. I do have them scanned now. Here's one of them:

2000 years

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