Rome’s Colosseum unveils wild beast trapdoor

Rome’s Colosseum unveils wild beast trapdoor

ROME - Agence France-Presse
Rome’s Colosseum unveils wild beast trapdoor

A dancer performs after emerging from the remake of the movable cage. AP Photo

It was the last thing they would see: a trapdoor opening in the floor of the Colosseum to unleash a snarling lion or bear, which sprang for the jugular as the crowds roared.

Where prisoners sentenced to a grisly death in ancient Rome’s most barbaric playground once quaked in their sandals, today tourists can explore the cage that carried their killers thanks to a reconstruction in the ancient arena.

The seven-meter high wooden machine, powered by slaves deep in the stadium’s belly, could lift a load weighing 300 kilograms and brought wolves, boars and even antelopes to do battle with the empire’s fiercest gladiators.

“This unique project began with a meeting with the [American] director Gary Glassman” in 2013, the site’s director Rossella Rea said. 

Glassman wanted to recreate one of the arena’s 28 lifts for a documentary entitled “Colosseum, Roman Death Trap,” and Rea persuaded him to use original materials and methods to reconstruct one which would remain there for tourists.

Now visitors to the passageways under the 2,000-year-old monument can see where eight slaves straining to rotate a vast windlass would, through a system of lead weights and pulleys, slowly winch the cage to the surface and open the trapdoor.

Building the cage took 15 months and cost the production company some 200,000 euros.

“The project was incredible. We had to show how one of the most amazing cultures, the Roman genius, created such violent and bloody scenes,” said Glassman, whose documentary was released in February in the U.S.