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Essay Example: Roman Colosseum and the Forbidden City Architecture

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Harvey Mudd College
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Roman Colosseum also referred to as Flavian Amphitheater is an iconic building located in Rome, Italy. The building was commissioned during the Flavian Dynasty in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian (Welch 15). At the time of construction of the Colosseum, there was no specific architect attached to its design as it was constructed during the medieval times. However, the design of the building traces its origin from the literary works of the Roman poet known as Vigil. The Forbidden City, on the other hand, is a prominent Chinese architectural structure located in Beijing, China. This structure was constructed during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911). Chen Gui was the architect that was responsible for the construction of this palace. The erection of The Forbidden City was commissioned by Emperor Yongle. The architectural design for the two buildings is unique as it relates to the cultural contexts at the time of construction. This paper examines the model of Roman Colosseum and the Forbidden City, and the relevance of the two architectural plans to the period styles. The architectures signify the royalty and symbolic pride given to the leaders that governed the respective countries of location.

The construction of the Colosseum took ten years to complete. The project was initiated during the time of Emperor Vespasian in the 72 AD. A year later, Vespasian passed on and his successor Titus completed the structure in 81 AD (Luciani 16). However, advanced modifications were made to the during Domitians reign. Domitian was the third Emperor of the Flavian Dynasty. The Colosseum was designed to hold a population of approximately 50,000 people. It is a huge structure covering an area of six acres and measuring 620 feet long, 513 feet wide, and 160 feet tall. The architects incorporated staircases and arches in the building during construction. To facilitate smooth movement of people inside and out of the building, the Colosseum was fitted with 80 archways (Luciani 16). As a result, the occupants could quickly move in and out of the structure within ten minutes. The Flavian Amphitheatre had an oval shape unlike, other amphitheaters that are circular. It is worthwhile noting that 4 out of the 80 archways were explicitly reserved for the emperor and his family. The other remaining seventy-six was for the ordinary citizens. Also, the structure comprised of three floors. The first floor was made of Doric columns, the second had Ionic, while the third floor had Corinthian. The base of the building was built of wooden material and stones.

On the other hand, the Forbidden City had a unique architectural design. The structure had the Chinese design, and the pillars were made of wood. The building covers an area of 74 hectares and is rectangular. It is surrounded by a 10-meter-high wall and has a total of 8,700 rooms (Moffett et al. 10). The Forbidden City is dived into two sections which include the northern and the southern section. The southern part (outer court) formed the venue where the emperor exercised power to his subjects whereas the northern part (inner court) was the residence for the royal family and they are the people who got access to the inner court. Structurally the Forbidden City is made up of wood. The highest place in the building is about 36 meters, and it provides the picnic view for the entire palace. The city has four gates that include the Meridian on the South Gate, two Glorious Gates in the east and west, and the Gate of Devine Might located on the north side. Additionally, there are four distinct corners incorporated at the walls surrounding the palace. However, the notable difference in the design is that the prominent buildings in the Forbidden City are made of wooden structures compared to the cut stone and bearing masonry used in the Flavian Amphitheater. The roof is made of yellow glazed tiles reinforced with white marble terrace (Moffett et al. 12).

The Colosseum culturally was essential to the Roman Empire as a monument that uniquely identified them. This structure increased the popularity of the Roman citizens during the Flavian dynasty. Also, this building was an arena for various forms of entertainment. After the completion of the construction, Titus launched the building an event that was marked the inauguration with games that lasted for 100 days and nights (Luciani 54). This was accompanied by the slaughtering of five thousand animals that was consumed as food by the celebrants. Another crucial socio-political event that is linked to the Flavian Amphitheater is the marathon 117-day event. This involved approximately ten thousand animals and nine thousand gladiators. The construction of the building also signified the political supremacy that existed after the Jewish revolt. The primary source of labor during the construction was the Jewish prisoners conquered after the revolution. Moreover, the Colosseum is an iconic figure of the Romans as it presents the pronounced Roman engineering techniques to the whole world.

The Forbidden City was the royal palace for the emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasty. This place formed the venue for the royal celebrations that included the birthday parties for the Chinese emperors as well as the New Year celebrations. The leadership supremacy that existed during the construction of the palace influenced the layout and design. The dragon throne is common within the Forbidden City, and this indicates the thrones for the emperor (Berliner and Mark 8). Also, in the structure, there are two portraits of an elephant, and these denote the peaceful coexistence that the Chinese people enjoyed during the two dynasties the building was commissioned. The most outstanding cultural aspect that the building portrays in both the design and the significance is the royalty and respect that was accorded to the ruling class. The inner court was purposefully meant for the emperor and his family, and no other member of the society could access that particular segment. The fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty were housed in this palace as well as the ten emperors that were there in the Qing dynasty.

The main objective of both the Forbidden City and Colosseum construction was to present to the other nation the architectural engineering techniques in China and Rome. Both buildings had the distinct design in the structure and dimensions. While the overall structure for the Forbidden City was rectangular, the Flavian Amphitheater was oval-shaped. The central construction material used in the construction of the Chinese Palace was wood and roofing tiles. However, the Colosseum was mainly constructed using stones and concrete, and essentially, it had three floors. The entry points to the Colosseum were 80, and this facilitated the stress-free movement of people in and out of the building within ten minutes. However, the four gates positioned on each side of the walls surrounding the Forbidden City regulated the entry and exit to the palace.

In conclusion, the Forbidden City represents the Chinese leadership structure during the Ming and Qing dynasties. On the other hand, the Colosseum represents the Roman culture throughout the Flavian dynasty. This place had the significant social impact on the people as it formed the venue events and games. The design of the Flavian Amphitheater also represented the unique social classes that existed at that time as there was the specific entry point for the royal family, gladiators, and the ordinary citizens. The Forbidden City also represented the royalty that dominated among the ruling class through its design. The inner court was for the high class while the outer court formed the administrative section of the place. It symbolizes the treasures that the emperors enjoyed during the Ming and Ding dynasties.


Works Cited

Berliner, Nancy Z, and Mark C. Elliott. The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from The Forbidden City. Peabody Essex Museum, 2010.

Luciani, Roberto. The Colosseum: Architecture, History, and Entertainment in the Flavian Amphitheatre, Ancient Rome's Most Famous Building. Istituto geografico De Agostini, 1990.

Moffett, Marian, et al. A World History of Architecture. King, 2003.

Welch, Katherine E. The Roman Amphitheatre: From Its Origins to the Colosseum. Cambridge University Press, 2007.


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