Sunday, 11 November 2012

Putting the Colosseum out to tender

You might find this surprising, but the Flavian Amphitheatre - more commonly referred to as the Colosseum -  wasn't something the Emperor Vespasian just dreamt up one day and ordered constructed forthwith. This was a complicated structure built to the most modern standards of the time - and it was, above all, being built in a commercial Roman world. This was a state-funded project, but it wasn't a state-built project. That's right, this was something for the lowest bidder to build. Planning began in 71AD, tenders were written, and to speed up the construction process, four successful bidders were each given a quarter of the 50,000-seat concrete stadium to build. Work began in 73AD and was completed seven years later...a time line we still often see for structures on this scale. Many of the design elements were standardised so much of the work was done in workshops off-site, with the completed sections being brought together in an ordered fashion. Ever the canny businessman, Vespasian made sure each of the bidders had to buy their work force from the state auctions, which at the time were overflowing with war captives from the Jewish revolt in Judea...and brought to Rome by...guess who, yep, Vespasian. He probably even made money on the deal.

Find out if Calvus ever got to be the lowest bidder

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