What did ancient Roman gladiators see in the moments before their deadly battles began? A forthcoming conservation of the Italian capital’s Colosseum will soon allow visitors to imagine the view they got of the grand arena.
Last year, the Italian Culture Ministry announced that it would seek to add this gladiator floor, replacing the one that was removed in the late 19th century, when the Colosseum’s underground area was first excavated. On Sunday, the ministry announced the winning design, a lattice of wooden slats that will help with airflow. The design by Milan Ingegneria was selected out of 11 entries. With an estimated cost of €18.5 million ($22.2 million), the 32,300-square-foot floor is expected to be completed by 2023.
“Reconnecting the thread of time, we are finally returning to the public the same view that people had from the stage of the monument during antiquity,” Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum and its archaeological park, said at a press conference, according to the New York Times. “The structure is light and recalls both in form and function the original plan of the wooden arena at the time it was first in use.”
The Colosseum has long been Italy’s most visited tourist attraction, drawing 7.6 million people in 2019. Opened in 80 C.E., the Colosseum was Ancient Rome’s premiere site for gladiator battles between men and wild beasts; the underground area, which is currently exposed, included cages and a complex pulley system that would bring the beasts to the arena floor for battle.
“It’s another step forward toward rebuilding the arena, an ambitious project that will aid the conservation of the archaeological structures while getting back to the original image of the Colosseum,” Dario Franceschini, the Italian Culture Minister, told the BBC.