Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium

The site of the first modern Olympic games in 1896, the 2,300-year-old Panathenaic Stadium in Athens is one of the most significant historical sites in Greece.

Originally built around 330 BC, the ancient stadium was used to host the Panathenaic games every four years. The stadium was rebuilt in the mid-second century AD by Herodes Atticus, a wealthy Greek-born Roman senator who built a number of grand public buildings in Athens at the time. At this stage the stadium would have been able to accommodate around 50,000 people.

Abandoned through the ages, it was not until the late 19th century that the stadium was excavated and subsequently rebuilt to host the reborn modern Olympics. As well as being a site of great historical importance, the Panathenaic Stadium now hosts modern competitions and famously hosted events at the 2004 games.

Today, the Panathenaic Stadium remains one of Greece’s most significant and popular tourist sites and includes the annual culmination of the Athens marathon. You can even do your morning jogging round the track!


LATE 5TH CENTURY BC

To escape the midday heat, the philosopher Socrates and his pupil Phaedrus decided to venture out to an idyllic area outside the city walls. There, beneath a towering plane tree, the pair conversed about love and hate – as Plato, Socrates’ disciple would later describe, transforming their dialogue into his play Phaedrus. Beside them, the waters of the Ilissos River rolled gently by, flowing past temples, altars and shrines.

338 BC

The orator Lycurgus was elected for four years as Curator of the War Fund, a post he would keep for another two four-year terms after he managed to more than double the government revenues of the city and find money to build grandiose public works projects. The Panathenaic Stadium was created under his supervision, built in the sacred riverside spot close to Ilissos where Socrates and Phaedrus had sought quiet and shade. Athens now had an appropriate venue for sporting competitions held during the Panathenaic Games, one of the city’s great celebrations.

The stadium would be used for the first time in 330/329 BC.

A ravine between two hills was deemed the ideal site. Significant excavation work was carried out, transforming the natural cavity into a space for athletics, while the “theater,” i.e. the area for the spectators, was hewn into the surrounding clay slopes. The stadium had a rectangular shape, the typical form of ancient Greek stadiums also seen at Olympia and Epidaurus.

The land on which it was built belonged to Deinia, who gave it to the city, while the exorbitant construction costs were covered by major donations, such as the thousand pairs of oxen provided by Eudemus of Plataea.

“Α true gem in the heart of modern Athens, the gleaming Panathenaic Stadium hosts cultural and sporting events, as well as being one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.”

The Panathenaic Stadium was turned into a vast construction site during its 1895 reconstruction. In the foreground, wooden scaffolding used to place the marble.

© Getty Images / Ideal Image

The Panathenaic Stadium was turned into a vast construction site during its 1895 reconstruction. In the foreground, wooden scaffolding used to place the marble.

© Getty Images / Ideal Image

Treasures of the Panathenaic Stadium, these two double-sided herms from the 2nd century AD were discovered during the 1869-1870 excavations.

Treasures of the Panathenaic Stadium, these two double-sided herms from the 2nd century AD were discovered during the 1869-1870 excavations.

Ornate thrones were sculpted for the kings of Greece, as protocol dictated, but also to provide more comfortable seating

Ornate thrones were sculpted for the kings of Greece, as protocol dictated, but also to provide more comfortable seating

2nd century AD

During the period of the Roman Empire, Athens was not a political power. However, for the duration of Emperor Hadrian’s rule (AD 117-135), intellectual and artistic expression flourished the city acquired new, extravagant buildings, churches and wealthy mansions with gardens beside the riverbed of the Ilissos.

The stadium still had a plain dirt surface. Apart from sporting events, it also hosted animal fights, such as the historic event organized by Hadrian, involving 1,000 wild animals. Soon, however, the quarry on Mount Penteli, which had supplied material for the Acropolis monuments, would also provide its famous white marble for a complete transformation of the stadium, thanks to Herodes Atticus.

The son of an extremely wealthy, aristocratic Athenian family, the orator and sophist Herodes was one of the major sponsors of Athens’ various public works projects. The most important were the famous Odeon of Herodes Atticus, on the south slope of the Acropolis, and the Panathenaic Stadium, which changed drastically in appearance after two significant innovations. Firstly, its original rectangular shape of was adjusted to a horseshoe – typical of stadiums during the Roman Age – while the seating area for spectators was enlarged and veneered with brilliant Pentelic marble. Equally impressive was a three-arched bridge at the front of the stadium, which crossed the Ilissos and served as a monumental point of access for Athenians to make their way to the arena. Numerous marble statues also provided a lavish decor.

The stadium’s capacity exceeded 50,000 fans and historians of the time wrote that it represented a marble “miracle,” a work that was incomparable to anything of its kind in the world.

The Athenians, for their part, playfully teased that it rightly bore the name Panathenaic Stadium since it was built with money from all of the citizens. They were implying that, in financing the Stadium, Herodes had disregarded the wishes of his father Atticus for every citizen to receive an annual payout as a gift from the family’s vast fortune.

“The stadium’s capacity exceeded 50,000 fans and historians of the time wrote that it represented a marble “miracle,” a work that was incomparable to anything of its kind in the world.”

The white Pentelic marble covering the Stadium from end to end is what gave the monument its nickname, Kallimarmaro, or beautiful marble.Α true gem in the heart of modern Athens, the gleaming Panathenaic stadium hosts cultural and sporting events, as well as being one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

The white Pentelic marble covering the Stadium from end to end is what gave the monument its nickname, Kallimarmaro, or beautiful marble.Α true gem in the heart of modern Athens, the gleaming Panathenaic stadium hosts cultural and sporting events, as well as being one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

The underground passage, used by athletes to enter the racetrack, is believed to have been opened when the stadium was originally built in the 4th century BC.

The underground passage, used by athletes to enter the racetrack, is believed to have been opened when the stadium was originally built in the 4th century BC.

Athens 2004 Olympics: Italy's Stefano Baldini crosses the Marathon finish line for the gold, with a time of 2:10:55.4.

Athens 2004 Olympics: Italy's Stefano Baldini crosses the Marathon finish line for the gold, with a time of 2:10:55.4.

THE 19TH CENTURY

After centuries in the doldrums, the stadium returned to the spotlight in 1896 when it was decided that it would host the first modern Olympic Games. The reconstruction costs were far too high for the country’s own coffers, however, as the stadium was covered by tons of soil and had long ago been stripped of its valuable marble – for reuse in the construction of other Athenian buildings. The entire cost was instead taken on by a Greek benefactor, Georgios Averoff but on one condition: the stadium would be rebuilt exactly on the foundations of the ancient monument, which were uncovered thanks to an archaeological excavation. The architect Anastasis Metaxas took on the project.

The reconstruction work became a race against time as it had to be completed in less than a year. In the summer of 1895, the stadium resembled a construction site, filled with stacks of marble slabs, wooden scaffolding, stone masons, laborers and sturdy horse-drawn carts carrying materials to and from 350 different mines. A total of 550 people were involved in the project. The snow that covered Mount Penteli at the start of 1896 made it impossible to fully complete the project with Pentelic marble, forcing the Hellenic Olympic Committee to cover the remaining parts of the Stadium temporarily with limestone statues and wooden benches.

6 APRIL 1896

The Panathenaic Stadium hosted the inaugural international Olympic Games, making it the celebrated place where the Olympics were revived in modern times. By 1900, the stadium was covered entirely in marble, prompting its new nickname “Kallimarmaro,” or beautiful marble. The Greek state honored Averoff by erecting a statue of him to the right of the stadium’s entrance, just as ancient Athens had honored Herodes by placing his tomb at the top of the hill to the left of the entrance.

2004

Athletes and spectators alike experienced moments of thrills and chills at the Panathenaic Stadium, which played host to archery and the finish of the Olympic Marathon.

Α true gem in the heart of modern Athens, the gleaming Panathenaic Stadium hosts cultural and sporting events, as well as being one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

INTERESTING FACTS

• It is the only stadium in the world made entirely from marble the same brilliant white Pentelic marble as the monuments on the Acropolis.

• It is the only stadium in the world that has hosted three Olympics: the inaugural modern Olympic Games in 1896, the 1906 Games, and events during the 2004 Olympics.

• The word “stadium” derives from stadion, the unit of measurement used by the ancient Greeks to mark out where competitions took place. The stadion was 600 feet, with each foot being 0.308m. Thus, the total length of the Panathenaic Stadium is approximately 185 meters.

• The Panathenaic Stadium was reconstructed for the 1896 Olympic Games. The enormous cost, which was deemed unaffordable for a state which only three years earlier had declared bankruptcy, was covered by the Greek benefactor Georgios Averoff. The total cost came to 907,973 drachmas, a very significant amount at the time.

• The finishing line for the Marathon, the most important event of the first modern Olympic Games, was laid out in the stadium. A crowd of 80,000 spectators spent a long and increasingly tense afternoon waiting for the runners of the Marathon. The man to enter the stadium first was the Greek, Spyros Louis.

• The stadium is built to host up to 50,000 spectators. The two tiers are separated by an aisle at the 23rd row and the rows are intersected by 18 staircases, forming a total of 30 stands.

• The Panathenaic Stadium was depicted on the Olympic medals awarded in Athens in 2004, in Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012. It will appear again this year on the Rio medals.

LIVE IT UP!

Monuments are more beautiful when they come to life. Every autumn at the Panathenaic Stadium, you can experience the festive atmosphere of The Athens Authentic Marathon, either from the stands, along the route, or by participating yourself in the most important international sporting event in the Greek capital. It’s not often that we get to enjoy a concert at the stadium, but when it happens, it’s an event in itself (Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Stranglers, Run-DMC, Culture Club, Bonnie Tyler, Joan Jett and REM are just a few of the musical acts that have rocked the venue).

All-weather tips

Because of the marble, temperatures in can get quite hot in the stadium during the summer. The best hours to visit are early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when temperatures are lower. Bring along a bottle of water and sun protection. In winter, care is advised on the steps, especially during rainy weather.

Amazing photos

If you want a panoramic shot of Athens, you should climb to the highest row of stand 21, where you can see the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Filopappos Hill, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Zappeio, the National Gardens and Lycabettus Hill. For a perfect “selfie,” stand on the podium against the backdrop of the stadium.

If you’re feeling energetic, you can go for a run around the stadium, following in the footsteps of great athletes. Running shoes are required.

Morning jogging

Athenian runners love going for a jog around the horseshoe-shaped track just outside the top of the stadium. The running track is open from 8:30 until sunset.


Location and Design

The stadium lies in Pangrati, a district of central Athens close to the National Gardens. The Ilissos River once flowed close to the entrance to the stadium, and in earlier times the area was highly susceptible to flooding. This changed when the river was covered by new development in the 1950s. The stadium forms part of a notable sporting district in the city, with a number of other facilities being close by. These include swimming pools, tennis clubs, and other athletics tracks.

The white marble used for the building of the stadium originates from Mount Penteli. The arena’s size and dimensions closely conform to the usual ancient Greek model, with tight hairpin bends rather than the more open curves seen on a modern running track. At its peak, it is believed that as many as 80,000 spectators were able to squeeze into the marble steps which surround the track. The stadium’s modern capacity is around 45,000.


Historical flashback of the Panathenaic Stadium

The Panathenaic Games, organized in the 6th century BC, were actually both religious and athletic festival that took place every 4 years to honor goddess Athena – a patron of wisdom, craft, and war. At that time no special seating was available for the spectators, so they used the natural slopes around to watch the games.

Interesting facts about the ‘Marble Stadium’

‘The marble stadium’ is the only one stadium in the world, built entirely of marble. It should be noted that the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympic games in 1896 were held there. Additionally, The Panathenaic Stadium is the finishing point for the Athens Classic Marathon, which is organized every year at the beginning of November.

Today the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens is not only a venue, related to the Olympic games but also a popular place for large-scale concerts. When I watch some big sport event on TV, I remember this remarkable construction that was recover for the modern people from the Antiquity.


Panathenaic Stadium - History

The site of the Panathenaic Stadium was originally a small natural valley, between the two hills of Agra and Ardettos, over Ilissos river. It was transformed into a stadium by Lykourgos in 330-329 BC for the athletic competitions of "Panathinea", the greatest festivities in ancient Athens.

Between 140 and 144 AD, Herodes Atticus restored the Stadium, giving it the form that was found at the 1870 excavation: the horseshoe construction with a track 204.07 meters long and 33.35 meters wide. It is believed that the Stadium had a seating capacity of 50,000 people.

The Panathenaic Stadium holds a unique world record: on April 4 1968, AEK Athens won the European Cupwinners' Cup (beating Slavia Prague) in front of 60,000 spectators, the largest crowd ever to attend a basketball match.

The Stadium (owned by the Greek Olympic Committee) is now a tourist attraction, used only for special events. It will be used in the 2004 Olympics the marathon race will finish there (following the tradition of the 1st Olympics). It will also host the finals of archery.

A visit to the Stadium is an absolute "must" when in Athens. It is located in the centre of the city, on Vassileos Konstantinou Avenue, on the east side of the National Gardens.

The Panathenaic Stadium (in Greek: Panathinaiko Stadio, meaning "stadium of all the Athenians") is also known as Kallimarmaro (which means "made of fine marble"). Some foreigners also call it "Olympic Stadium". When you're in Athens (especially when you're looking for directions), NEVER call it this way, as people will think you are talking about the modern Olympic Stadium, in the northern suburbs. Also, try not to confuse it with the home ground of Panathinaikos FC, Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium (aka "Leoforos").

All this may sound a bit perplexed, but if you follow this advice, you'll never get mixed up. Call it either "Panathenaic" or "Kallimarmaro" and people will know what you are talking about.


History of the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens

In 338 BC, the orator Lycurgus was appointed to monitor the finances of Athens. It was his decision to build a new stadium, to host the future Panathenaic Games.

The stadium was built between two hills, Ardettos and Agra, on the banks of Ilissos River. It is likely that a lot of land was removed, in order for the surface to be flat enough for a stadium.

The new stadium was originally rectangular, and mostly made out of limestone, with wooden seats. The first Great Panathenaia were held in the new stadium in 330/29 BC.

During the Roman era, the stadium was restored and reconstructed. Important works were commissioned by Herodes of Atticus, the affluent orator who also built the Herodion theatre.

As a result, the stadium acquired a new horseshoe shape, and white Pentelic marble was used liberally. It is believed that the new, magnificent stadium could fit up to 50,000 people. Gladiatorial fights and other popular events were held in the subsequent years.

In the centuries that followed, Christianity took over the ancient world. Eventually, these “barbaric” celebrations slowly ceased to exist. Like all other ancient monuments, the Panathenaic Stadium lost its former glory. The beautiful marbles were gradually detached and used elsewhere in Athens.

Excavations around the Panathenaic Stadium began in the 19th century. At the time, all the marble was gone, and Ilissos River was still flowing in Athens. Yes – like most European capitals, Athens had a river, not too long ago. In the early 1960s the river was filled in, and new avenues were constructed on top.

Revival of the Olympic Games

So how did the Panathenaic Stadium regain its former glory? In the late 19th century, there was a lot of interest in reviving the ancient Olympic Games. The original Games had started in Olympia, in the Peloponnese. However, the Greek capital was deemed more suitable for the modern Olympic Games.

A number of people were involved in the revival of the Olympic Games. The first major influencer was the Greek benefactor Vangelis Zappas. In an attempt to revive the concept of the ancient Games, he organized the first so-called Olympia Games in 1859. These were held in Omonia square, and were meant to be the first of a series of Games.

Unfortunately, Zappas died in 1865, leaving a large sum to be used for subsequent Games. After his passing, a committee was appointed to continue his work. In 1870, the second Olympia was organized in the Panathenaic Stadium, which had been refurbished following Zappas’ wishes.

In 1894, the French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin organized an International Olympic Conference in Paris. During the conference, it was decided to organize the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, in 1896.

The reconstruction of the stadium was made possible due to the famous Greek benefactor, Georgios Averoff. Like in ancient times, white Pentelic marble was used once again. For this reason, a new name was given to the stadium, Kallimarmaron, indicating the beauty of the marbles.

The stadium was restored according to its shape during the Roman Era. Its new capacity was over 60,000 people, and it was ready to welcome the modern Olympic Games.

The Panathenaic Stadium today

The first big Games to be held in the Stadium were the Olympic Games in March / April 1896. There appears to be no consensus over how many athletes participated, or how many countries were represented. As it is expected, the majority of athletes were of Greek origin.

The highlight of the Games was when Spyros Louis, representing Greece, won the Marathon race. As you can imagine, the audience went wild, and apparently carried Louis all the way up to the king’s seat.

Since then, the stadium has been used for various celebrations and opening or closing ceremonies of athletic events. Concerts and other events have also been hosted here. The small museum showcases memorabilia from previous Olympics, ceremonies and other events.

The annual Athens Marathon, happening in our capital every November, finishes at the Panathenaic Stadium. This 42.2 km route begins in the ancient Marathon, and ends right inside the Kallimarmaron.

Every four years, before the official Olympic Games begin, the Olympic Flame ceremony takes place. This symbolic ceremony begins in Ancient Olympia, where a prayer to Apollo, the God of Light, is read out.

The flame leaves Olympia and passes by several Greek cities on its way to Athens, where it stops at the Panathenaic Stadium. Afterwards, it sets off to the next Olympic city. For the 2020 Olympics, the Flame will pass by Athens on 19th March.

Fun facts about the Panathenaic Stadium

There are many fun facts related to this amazing stadium!

  • It is the only stadium in the world where three Olympic Games have taken place three times – in 1896, 1906 and 2004
  • It was the first ancient stadium to be used in modern times
  • The Kallimarmaron is the only stadium in the world made out of Pentelic marble
  • It was home to the biggest basketball game audience ever, in 1968. The Greek team called AEK defeated Slavia Praha (89-82). An estimated 80,000 people were inside the stadium, with another 40,000 standing right outside!

Visiting the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens

I’ll be honest – I hadn’t appreciated how impressive the Panathenaic Stadium is, until we actually visited and walked around. It was a winter day so we were there with low temperature, but some very welcome sunlight.

The stadium is really huge, and as we were pretty much the only people there it seemed even bigger. When we walked up the top, close to Archimidous street, the view was really awesome.

We even discovered a secret entrance up there. Apparently, early morning joggers use this entrance to enter the stadium. Yes, you can actually go jogging in the Stadium if you want, but only until 9 am!

Additionally, you can go through the vaulted passage and visit a cool exhibition with memorabilia from past Olympic Games. I loved this poster from the 1968 Mexico Games!

All in all, we spent a couple of hours in the stadium, but we took our time. You can probably visit in less time if you are in a rush. Note that the toilets are located outside the stadium and they cost 50 cents.

How to visit the Panathenaic Stadium

Getting to the Panathenaic Stadium is quite straightforward. The most pleasant way is to begin from Syntagma metro station and stroll through the National Gardens>. Then you can cross over to the Stadium. If you are staying close to the Acropolis, it’s walking distance.

Opening hours in summer (March – October) are 8 am to 7 pm, while in winter the stadium closes at 5 pm. In summer, it’s best to visit outside the afternoon hours, as the marbles are reflecting the strong sunlight!

General admission tickets cost 5 euro, students and seniors pay 2.50 euro and children under 6 enjoy free entrance. You can get a free audio guide with your ticket, explaining more about the stadium. Entrance is free on 18 April, International Day for Monuments and Sites.

Note that the Panathenaic Stadium is not included in the combined ticket to the ancient sites in Athens.

Have you been to the Panathenaic Stadium?

Have you been to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens? What did you think to it? Let us know in the comments!


All about the Panathenaic Games

Most of us know all about the legendary Olympic Games from Ancient Greece, especially since our modern Olympic Games were inspired by the tradition. However, the reality is that there were actually many types of games in Ancient Greece, and they all offered a way for athletes to display their prowess in their chosen sports. Most were also religious festivals, as well. The Panatenaic Games were part of this long-standing tradition. Here’s more information about these games:

Information About the Panathenaic Games

The Panathenaic games are actually a part of the much larger & bigger religious festival that is called the Panathenaia. The Panathenaia was held regularly every year. However, over the times the Panathenaic games gained popularity. The Panathenaic sports or games were organized every 4 years in the great city of Athens, situated in the Ancient Greece. The games took place from the 566 BC to the third century AD. These sports incorporated athletic competitions. What is unique about them is that these games were hosted in one stadium, and this includes the ceremonies and religious celebrations that were also associated with them.

Religious Aspect of the Games

The games themselves were part of a larger religious festival called the Great Panathenaia, which was dedicated to the goddess Athena and also to Poseidon, the god of the sea. The festival itself went on for around four days. The competitions that were held during the festival brought athletes from all over Ancient Greece together. However, even in Ancient Greece, these games weren’t considered as important as the Olympics.

Events During the Games

There were various events that took place during the games. These events that took place including athletic competitions such as wrestling, equestrian competitions, and also musical events. Because of a large number of competitions or contests, the games lasted for about four days, but could go on for longer than that depending on the turnout. People would gather to honor the god, compete in their sports or in one of the other competitions, and in general participate in the religious festival.

About the Panathenaic Stadium

The event as a whole took place in the historic Panathenaic Stadium, which is located in Athens, Greece. The stadium is actually still in use today. In 1865, Evangelis Zaappas, a Greek Philanthropist, and Patriot left behind a will that comprised a considerably vast fortune with the instructions to refurbish and excavate the stadium, in order to make the stadium efficient enough to hold the Olympic Games. The stadium was the host of modern Olympics in the year 1870, 1875, 1896, 1906, and 2004.

The Pantathenaic Games was an annual festival of Athenian that held great importance and antiquity. It was celebrated every 4th year with a lot of enthusiasm and great splendor. However, the festival mainly had the rites and sacrifices to Athena, the protector of the city. There were musical events and contests held, portions of famous & epic poems recited, and many other exciting events. The contests were held inside the grand odium, which was actually built for Pericles.


Origins and History

The first official Panathenaic Games were held in 566 BC. A smaller festival predates this, though few details of it are known. In 566 BC, this festival was reorganized into something much more grand, notably with the incorporation of competitive athletic events, like the other Panhellenic games. Peisistratos (608–527 BC), son of Hippocrates and ruler of Athens during this period, is generally held as the influential figure behind this festival’s revitalization, using it to promote both his popularity and Athens’ presence in Greece.

Much like the Greeks did with the other Panhellenic festivals, native Athenians invented a mythical founding story for the Panathenaic Games. Ancient Athenian legend attributed the origins of this festival variously to Theseus, the mythological founding king of Athens, and the sometimes-conflated, semi-mythological kings Erichthonios and Erechtheus.

The games maintained a level of popularity throughout Greece for around eight centuries. After the suppression of religious festivals under Roman emperor Theodosius in 393 AD, Panhellenic festivals such as the Panathenaic Games faded out of practice.


Contents

The stadium is built in what was originally a natural ravine between the two hills of Agra and Ardettos, south of the Ilissos river. It is now located in the central Athens district of Pangrati, to the east of the National Gardens and the Zappeion Exhibition Hall, to the west of the Pangrati residential district and between the twin pine-covered hills of Ardettos and Agra. Up to the 1950s, the River (now covered by, and flowing underneath, Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue) ran in front of the stadium's entrance, and the spring of Kallirrhoe, the sanctuary of Pankrates (a local hero) and the Cynosarges public gymnasium were nearby.


Embracing the horseshoe: A look through centuries of stadium design

Blame the Greeks for the horseshoe-styled stadium and the Romans for all those high-rising cheap seats. But, hey, at least those two cultures gave us early stadium designs, something we lacked for centuries upon centuries until the 1800s rolled around.

The Ancient Days

The earliest known stadiums—the term itself comes from a Greek word for a unit of measurement�me from Greece, where stands surrounded U-shaped tracks. Some of those stands were built into hillsides, while others used all sorts of stone𠅎ven marble—to give spectators a stair-stepped view of watch foot races.

While the Greeks gave us stadiums in the half-dozen or so centuries before Christ, credit the Romans for really giving stadiums a monumental shift in the first few centuries after.

The Colosseum, built in 80 AD, still serves as the father of all modern stadiums. Tim Cahill, architect of the NFL’s newest venue, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, tells SI.com his design was modeled after a “Roman amphitheater.”

In Rome, the Colosseum certainly holds all sorts of potential for political and cultural studies, but from a pure stadium design, the 157-foot-tall 50,000-seat venue could certainly pass a design board today. The 80 entrances� of them were numbered and four were considered grand entrances—led to tiered seating based squarely on social hierarchy, with the seats farthest from the action left for those of less social standing.

The ellipse-shaped venue allowed the three tiers of travertine (a limestone), concrete, stone, tiles and other materials to surround the field of sport, which was sadly used far too often for something quite unsporting, in a design that packed in the number of spectators.

With hundreds of these amphitheaters built across the Roman Empire over centuries, another style of venue started to take shape: the circus.

While the amphitheater was designed for maximum seating fully enclosing a gladiator field, the circus style of stadium, a take on the Greek’s horseshoe, built stands based on exact measurements of a track and left one end open. The Romans upped the ante beyond foot racing, giving circus-style stadiums a distinct chariot-racing focus.

The largest circus stadium, Rome’s Circus Maximus, welcomed up to 250,000 folks into the three-story stone structure.

With amphitheaters and circus-style stadiums dominating the Roman culture for up to six centuries, the Middle Ages throughout Europe brought a dearth of new stadium design. Jousting𠅊 popular sport for centuries—offered us a smattering of bleacher-style seating in open fields or castle courtyards. For over 1,000 years, though, the building of stadiums lacked intrigue.

But the Colosseum’s place in history would make a return, as amphitheaters and jousting fields combined to start creating a modern style of stadiums by the 19th Century.


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