Roman (Colosseum) vs Modern concrete
Ancient Concrete— Colosseum
Today, no matter where we are, we’re barely a few feet from anything partially or entirely made of concrete. I had the chance to visit Rome, Italy for my first solo trip in 2018 and I definitely did not regret joining the insane queues and groups of tourists to enter Colosseum—the largest amphitheatre built during the Roman Empire— that was made up of concrete and other materials. To be able to experience, see and touch the concrete of the 2000year old was just amazing.
With such a rich history being the site of celebrations, gladiatorial battles and wild animal fights, public executions and bloodshed, I could visualise and almost hear the past through my senses. It’s the pinnacle of that trait of being so old (built since 70 A.D.) yet so alive; and storms, earthquakes and fire had damaged part of the structures, I could only admire in awe and marvel at it being one of the best kept ancient ruins. How did they get around building it without using steels in the concrete?
Roman vs Modern concrete
Concrete was just a recent invention when the Colosseum was built and the Romans were still learning how to use cement for the structures— they did not know how strong it’d be or how long it’d last. Curiosity got me researching more on Roman concrete and it was said they got stronger over time instead of getting brittle and weak despite all the rains and harsh sun, and that’s because they had cautiously mixed aggregates like volcanic ash, heavy limestone and seawater in the concrete mix that created extremely durable minerals.
For concrete countertops and towering buildings today, steel bars are the foundation to be reinforced in them—they are like the spines of the concrete structures even though they rust over time and the corrosion would reduce strength, leading to cracking. Maybe the Romans just had a better recipe for their concrete that somehow got lost over time, and now we, in the modern era, are to live with substandard infrastructure. But then again…the technology of concrete continues to advance just like everything else does, and maybe today’s concrete may outlast that of the Romans? We’ll have to wait probably 2000 years before we get the definite answer.
Just thought I’d start my blog with the first article about Colosseum not only because the understanding of the concrete structure of the site is interesting—for me at least, digging back on these photos reminds me greatly of how it was a great privilege to be there. Covid had made 2020 a year that broke my travel streak and there’s no better chance than now, in this moment of the pandemic, to look back and cherish the times we could travel freely and soak in a new culture and understand history.