Colosseum Awnings

The Colosseum held historic events and battles. It had amazing and entertaining fights and it was the first large location in history to have an intricate system of retractable awnings. The Colosseum is located in Rome, Italy, which is a far cry from Salt Lake City, Utah. Although time and distance separates Utah from Italy, the Colosseum still is a bench mark for other types of stadiums. Retractable awnings are still in use, even today, all around Utah. One must learn about the past awnings in order to truly appreciate the coolness of a modern day retractable awning.

The Velarium

The Velarium was the Latin name given for the system of retractable awnings in use at the Roman Colosseum. Its purpose was to provide shade against the high sun, much like today’s modern retractable awnings in Utah, for the Colosseum’s patrons in order to watch the gladiator games. Today’s modern retractable awnings lack a cool Latin name.

The System

The retractable awning system known as the Velarium consisted of Roman-made sail cloths, which were either canvas, linen, or cotton, attached to several spokes of rope. It was retracted or extended by rope pulleys depending on the position of the sun. There were 240 mast brackets positioned around the Colosseum’s top, which supported the Velarium. The sockets where these brackets stood can still be seen today. The Velarium covered over a third of the Colosseum and sloped down towards the center, which is something you do not usually see in a Utah retractable awning.

The purpose of the Velarium was to provide sun shade to the patrons, like most retractable awnings in Utah. It only occupied one third of the arena because the posts only had limited strength and the walls on the other side were so high that when the sun hit it, a shadow was cast over the people. The velarium might have not protected the patrons from wind nor rain, since the Roman writer Cassius Dio wrote that most spectators had hats or umbrellas.

Roman sailors who were enlisted from the Misenum Roman Naval Headquarters operated the Velarium, unlike today’s modern retractable awnings in Utah, which are retracted and expanded through motors. These sailors were the only people within ancient Rome who knew how to work and fix the Velarium. They were housed in Rome in Castra Misenatium and the rigging position was one of the most sought after positions in the Roman Navy. 

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Posted by on Aug 28 2012. Filed under Landscaping. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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