Colosseo Seating


Above the podium were the gradus, or seats of the other spectators, which were divided into maeniana, or stories. The first maenianum, consisting of fourteen rows of stone or marble seats, was appropriated to the equestrian order. The seats appropriated to the senators and equites were covered with cushions (pulvilli), which were first used in the time of Caligula. Then, after an interval or space, termed a praecinctio, and forming a continued landing-place from the several staircases in it, succeeded the second maenianum, where were the seats called popularia, for the third class of spectators, or the populus. Behind this was the second praecinctio, bounded by a rather high wall, above which was the third maenianum, where there were only wooden benches for the pullati, or common people. The next and last division—namely, that in the highest part of the building—consisted of a colonnade or gallery, where women were allowed to witness the spectacles of the amphitheatre. Some parts of this were also occupied by the pullati. At the very summit was the narrow platform for the men who had to attend to the velarium, and to expand or withdraw the awnings, as there might be occasion. Each maenianum was not only divided from the other by the praecinctio, but was intersected at intervals by spaces for passages left between the seats, called scalae or scalaria; and the portion between two such passages was called a cuneus, because this space gradually widened, like a wedge, from the podium to the top of the building. The entrances to the seats from the outer porticos were called vomitoria, because, says Macrobius, “Homines glomeratim ingredientes in sedilia se fundunt.” (That’s the source of the so-called vomitoria we have in venues for shows, which allow people entering in a mass to disperse into their seats.)

Edward Gibbon. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. London. Frederick Westley and A.H. Davis. 1837.

John William Bailly  14 April 2018

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