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Amazing amphitheater of Scribonius Curio

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Amazing amphitheater of Scribonius Curio
Amazing amphitheater of Scribonius Curio

Pliny the Elder mentions a certain amazing amphitheatre of Scribonius Curio, erected in 52 BCE.

He caused to be erected, close together, two theatres of very large dimensions, and built of wood, each of them nicely poised, and turning on a pivot. Before mid-day, a spectacle of games was exhibited in each; the theatres being turned back to back, in order that the noise of neither of them might interfere with what was going on in the other. Then, in the latter part of the day, all on a sudden, the two theatres were swung round, and, the corners uniting, brought face to face; the outer frames, too, were removed, and thus an amphitheatre was formed, in which combats of gladiators were presented to the view; men whose safety was almost less compromised than was that of the Roman people, in allowing itself to be thus whirled round from side to side. Now, in this case, which have we most reason to admire, the inventor or the invention?

Pliny the Elder, Natural History, XXXVI.24

In general, Pliny appreciates Scribonius’s ingenuity but also has some doubts. Namely, he is most concerned about the lives and safety of the viewers. This is how he was supposed to state: “Here is that conqueror of the lands and lands of the whole world, who divides nations and states, sends laws to foreign ones and in the human race, as it were, represents gods, hangs in the machine and claps his hands at his own danger!”.

As for the rotation itself. A mechanism based probably on rails and rollers was used. Pliny says that on the last day of the games in honour of Scribonius’ father, the mechanism was so worn out that the theatres were not rotated – they were set in the position of an amphitheatre, and they were divided by wooden stage buildings set in the middle.

  • Bomgardner David Lee, The Story of the Roman Amphitheatre
  • Starożytność nieznana
  • Smith William, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London 1875

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