An important aspect of any Roman urban center is its amphitheater. The general layout of any amphitheater has an oval, circular, or semicircular plan and tiered seating. The oval and circular designs surround a central performance area and are popularly used for combat or racing events. Amphitheaters with a semicircular plan have the audience on one side and are perfectly suited for theater or concert performances. Some of these semicircular amphitheaters can incorporate the natural landscape, such as a steep mountain, which can naturally amplify sound for a musical or theatrical performance.
A perfect example of this is the Hollywood Bowl, located in Los Angeles California – the most distant province of the Roman Empire. It is a popular and central draw for the local residents of such a distant province for a number of popular theatrical and musical community events. The Hollywood Bowl allows a capacity of over 17,000, which may be small in comparison to most amphitheaters throughout the Roman world, but the largest natural amphitheater in the distant Roman region, the United States. It is named the Bowl for the concave hillside into which it is carved.
The Hollywood Bowl also incorporates an important Roman architectural innovation, the arch. Typical Roman uses of the arch were structural in nature, in which the arch provided the ability to create a structure over a large open space, like the amphitheater, by eliminating tensile stresses. The incorporation of the arch in the Hollywood Bowl, the distinctive concentric arches or band shell, however, is more acoustic in nature.
Although most social functions that…