ANCIENT WORLD IN VR
Virtual tours of ancient sites in Paris, Rome and Athens. Available now, for free, on Google Play!
THE ARÈNES DE LUTÈCE
Hidden among the laneways of Paris’ 5th arrondissement is the remains of the Arènes de Lutèce, a Roman amphitheatre and stage built at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. The town of Lutèce (modern-day Paris) underwent major construction during Roman occupation, with the creation of roads, a forum, bathhouses, a theatre and an amphitheatre. The people of Lutetia would have gone to this amphitheatre to watch gladiatorial contests, wild beast games, and plays, with the stage area capable of turning into a theatre. It could seat anywhere between 12,000 and 16,000 spectators.
The amphitheatre was re-discovered in 1860 during the construction of Rue Monge, where it was excavated under the order of Napoleon III. A community effort, led by influential writer Victor Hugo, saw that this piece of Parisian history remained open and maintained (by the newly created Société des Amis des Arenès). Today it is used as a communal park with only fragments of the original structured visible.
Standing in the centre of the arena, the observer has 360 degree views inside the reconstructed amphitheatre. Additional scenes have the viewer in the seating area, much higher than the present-day remains.
THE ODEION OF AGRIPPA
The Odeion of Agrippa occupied central pride of place in the Athenian agora. A gift of Augustus’ son-in-law M. Vipsanius Agrippa, this building was a potent symbol of Rome’s deep respect for Greece’s cultural legacy, and would have hosted musical performances, poetry recitations and exhibitions of rhetoric skill. Constructed around 15 BC, it had a seating capacity of about 1,000. The interior of the building was richly decorated with marble, and the stage building featured alternating marble slabs and Herms.
After the Odeion was destroyed by a fire in AD 267 it was rebuilt as a gymnasium, in the Greek sense, i.e. a centre for higher learning. Today, the building stands out as an enigmatic structure during a visit to the Athenian agora, thanks to the three statues of tritons that were re-erected in the 19th century by the Greek Archaeological Society.
Our virtual reality reconstruction brings the observer onto the stage, with views out towards the audience. The striking decoration on the floor and walls serve as a reminder that colour was used as an important element in ancient building spaces.
THE TEMPLE OF VENUS AND ROME
The Temple of Venus and Rome was the largest of its kind erected in Rome, consecrated in 121 AD. Positioned on the north side of the Via Sacra, this impressive structure is said to be originally designed by Emperor Hadrian himself (Cass. Dio. Hist. 69.4) acting as a hinge between old and new sections of the city. The temple was decastyle (22 columns at each side) of Corinthian style, dipteral (two rows of columns in all façades), systyle (columns two diameters apart), and amphiprostyle (free standing columns in the pronaos). The structure measures 113 x 56 m in plan and around 30 m high.
It had a back to back cella under a single roof, raised by five steps and composed by a double line of white marble Cornithian fluted columns. The entablature (made from Lunense and Proconnesian marble) was composed of a two-step architrave topped by three mouldings (cavetto, ovolo and astragal) with the roof covered in gold-plated bronze tiles.
Our VR scene takes place during the 1st century AD (5.30 pm on the 21st of June to be precise). The first scene takes place on the southeast corner of the temple, with a street level view of the temple, while the second places the observer in the portico of the temple, on the northeast corner. Both scenes give a modern viewer a greater sense of scale and detail.