AN ongoing $33 million restoration project at the Colosseum in Rome has led to the startling discovery of painted red numbers on the seats of the 2,000-year-old gladiatorial arena, indicating that it likely used a seating system not unlike those found in modern sporting venues.
Earlier it had been learned that the Colosseum had at times been painted in bright colors, and painted graffiti was rife ... but the new discovery of the seating plan came as a surprise.
According to the website Wanted In Rome, the newly discovered traces of Roman numerals painted red on the arches, apparently marking different sections of the amphitheatre. They would have guided people to the areas dedicated for their respective social classes.
The numbers were first carved in travertine stones, and then painted in red so that people could see them from a distance, Discovery News explained.
There were a total of 76 numbered entrances for use by the general public, as well as four special gates that were not numbered.
Two gates were reserved for the emperor, the senators, the magistrates, wealthy patricians and the Vestal Virgins, (priestesses that maintained the sacred fire within the Temple of Vesta).
One gate was used for gladiators parading prior to the start of battle, while the fourth was used for the dead gladiators and wild beasts that fell during combat, the website added.
While entrance to the Colosseum was free for anyone who wanted to come, a strict seating plan was in place that restricted where different groups could go to watch the events.
The equivalent of modern-day luxury boxes went to the emperor, who sat in his own special section in the first tier, while the rest of the first level was reserved for senators, magistrates and Vestal Virgins.
The second tier belonged to the upper class, while ordinary Roman citizens were seated in the third level and women and the poor either sat on wooden benches in the “nosebleed” seats or had “standing room only” access to the arena.
The Roman numerals measure 13 inches (34 centimeters) tall and over 3/4 inches (2 centimeters) wide, according to International Business Times. The numbers read “ XXXVIIII – XLII” (39-42) and were engraved in such a way that they would have been visible from a great distance.
Rea called the discovery of the numbers an “exceptional finding,” telling Discovery News that the restoration team did not believe that the paint would have survived at all.