Compare and Contrast essay on Teotihuacan- Pyramid of the Sun Vs Roman Colosseum

Teotihuacan - The Pyramid of the Sun

The pyramid of the Sun is Teotihuacan's largest building and also the largest in Mesoamerica. It was found in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, along with the Avenue of the Dead. The Pyramid is in the shadow of the mountain Cerro Gordo and part of a huge complex in the center of the city. Teotihuacan was the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas in the first half of the first millennium. The cultural complex and the civilization associated with the site are referred to as Teotihuacan. Its impact spread specifically throughout Mesoamerica and can be viewed at various sites in the Maya and Veracruz region. The city was located in today's San Juan Teotihuacan municipality in Mexico. It covers a total surface area of eighty-three kilometers and was made a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 1987.

Historical Context

Teotihuacan's early history is quite mysterious and the founders' origin is also widely debated. For several years, most of the archaeologists were of the view that it was built by the Toltec. The main reason of this belief was based on the colonial period texts like Florentine Codex attributed to the Toltec's site. However, the Toltec civilization flourished and prospered after Teotihuacan, they cannot be regarded as the founders of the city. Several urban centers, in the late Formative Period, arose in central Mexico. The most famous and prominent of these seems to have been Cuicuilco on the Lake Texcoco. It has been speculated by many scholars that the explosion of the Xitle volcano could have initiated a huge emigration from the central part of valley towards Teotihuacan valley. Therefore, these settlers could have founded and supported the growth of Teotihuacan. (Fisher 22)

However, other scholars are of the opinion that the Totonac people are the founders of Teotihuacan, and this particular debate continues even today. Evidence is found about the fact of some people living in Teotihuacan migrated from areas under the influence of Teotihuacan civilization, including the Mixtec, Zapotec, and Maya peoples. The architecture and culture of Teotihuacan was influenced by the Olmec people regarded as the 'mother civilization' of Mesoamerica. It is pertinent to mention that the earliest buildings at Teotihuacan date to 200 BCE. The Pyramid of the Sun, being the largest pyramid, was completed by 100 CE.

The name 'Pyramid of the Sun' is said to be derived from the Aztecs who visited Teotihuacan centuries after it was deserted and abandoned, however the name given by the Teotihuacanos is not known. It is believed that construction was made in two stages; the first phase of construction was around 100 A.D that brought the size of the pyramid to almost today's size.

The second phase of construction resulted in its complete size of 246 feet high and 738 feet across, making it the third largest pyramid in the world after the Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid. The second stage also witnessed the construction of an altar atop of the pyramid. Platform of the Adosada was added to the pyramid in the start of the third century- at the same time that the Temple of the Feathered Serpent and Ciudadela were constructed.

The ancient Teotihuacanos, over the structure, finished their pyramid specifically with lime plaster imported form neighboring areas on which colored murals were brilliantly painted. Although the pyramid has endured for several centuries, the plaster and the paint have not and are no more visible. Some images are believed to have been included in the mural decoration on the pyramid's sides. Paws and heads of Jaguar, snake rattles, and stars are among some of the images related with the pyramids. It is widely believed that the Pyramid of the Sun venerated a deity within society of Teotihuacan; however, the destruction of the temple on the pyramid's top, by both natural and deliberate forces before the archaeological study has so far prohibited identification of the pyramid with any specific deity. It has been suggested by some scholars that the divinity of the pyramid was, in fact, the Great Goddess, one of the two main Teotihuacan divinities and also one of the few goddess in ancient Mesoamerica. Little evidence, however, exist to support this point-of-view.

Roman Colosseum

Coliseum is considered as one of the most famous buildings as well as enduring monuments of Rome. They Pyramid of the Sun represents ancient cultures of Maya and Veracruz region in Mexico while Colosseum represents ancient Roman culture. Construction of Colosseum was initiated by Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD. It was built around Nero's Domus Aurea “Golden House”. It is evident that Vespasian, successor of Nero, wanted to erase Nero's extravagant reign's memory from the minds of Romans. The name Colosseum was taken from the Nero's colossus statue of himself which was 120 feet high. (Gabucci 211)

Formal Characteristics of the Colosseum in Contrast to the Pyramid of the Sun

In contrast to the Pyramid of the Sun, the Colosseum was a huge theater that was built encompassing four floors. The first three floors had arched entrances, whereas the fourth floor utilized some rectangular doorways. Each floor measured between 10, 5-13, 9 meters- about thirty to forty two feet in height. The total height of Colosseum was almost forty-eight meters or 144 feet. Measurement of arena was 79*45 meters and consisted of sand and wood. Nets along the sides protected the audience.

The Colosseum was designed ingeniously and with creativity. Pyramids in today's world are not built and buildings being constructed in the modern world do not reveal any of its features. On the other hand, most of the modern stadiums share significant features with the structure of Colosseum. Seating of Colosseum was segregated into different sections. The first level of seating, known as the Podium, was for the senators of Rome. The private, marble, and cushioned box of the emperor was also located on this level. The maenianum primum was located above the podium. It was built for other aristocrats of Rome who were not in the Senate. Maenianum secundum, the third level, was further divided into three sections. The lower part was reserved for wealthy citizens, while- summum- the upper part was for poor citizens. The maenianum secundum in legneis- a third wooden section- was a structure made up of wood at the very top of the building. It was for lower-class women and a standing room only.

Colosseum is entirely different monument from the Pyramid of the Sun as area of the Colosseum is equivalent to six acres and has tunnels which still exist today. These tunnels are configured to the flood and built to evacuate water from the Colosseum floor. Archaeological research conducted recently has shown evidence of drain pipes linked with the sewer system of the City and a large underground holding tank linked with a close aqueduct. Another distinctive feature of Colosseum, totally different from the Pyramid of the Sun' is its cooling system called 'the velarium' which comprised a net-like structure specifically made of ropes. The Colosseum incorporated several vomitoria or passageways that open directly into a tier of seats from behind or below. The design of each vomitorium was made in a way so that huge venue could fill only in fifteen minutes and evacuated in just five minutes. Each exit and entrance was numbered as was every staircase.

Colosseum and Roman Culture

For most of the people, ancient Roman culture is closely associated with the extraordinary Colosseum. It was a setting where gladiators fought and were cheered by crowds. However, there is more to the Colosseum than just fight. It was started by Vespasian and completed by his successor and son, Titus, who opened it with a celebratory hundred days of games. Although, the original name of Pyramid of the Sun is not known, but Colosseum was called the 'Flavain Amphitheater' after Flavian ancestry of Vespasian and Titus. Current name 'Colosseum' was given somewhere in the middle ages because of a 'colossal' statue of Nero standing close to it. Vespasian, on becoming emperor, decided to make an impression on the citizens and suppress the uneasiness. As he was an intelligent emperor, Vespasian knew how to set an example for the people. Therefore, he drained the artificial lake built by his predecessor 'Nero' and started building his project at the site of lake. The intention was to give something to his countrymen; the Flavian Amphitheater. The Colosseum along with its activities was made for a large industry in that area. There were several other buildings built close to it that supported gladiators' game. To its east are the remains of a training school for gladiators known as 'Ludus Magnus' with its own miniature training area.


The paper has presented a comparative analysis of Teotihuacan's the pyramid of the Sun and Roman Colosseum. Both monuments have different and diversified historical contexts and characteristics. In contrast to the Pyramid of Sun, the Colosseum was a huge theater encompassing four floors. On the basis of facts presented and discussions made in the paper, it is concluded that both monuments represent distinctive period-style, represent distinguishing features, reflecting diversified ambitions and culture of the people.

Works Cited

Fisher, Angela Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon Atheneum, 1988, p. 22

Gabucci, Ada The Colosseum Getty Publications, 2002, p. 211