eli5 why ancient historical buildings haven’t been kept up? Why are buildings like the Parthenon and the Colosseum in such disrepair? Greece and Rome/Italy have existed the entire time?


eli5 why ancient historical buildings haven’t been kept up? Why are buildings like the Parthenon and the Colosseum in such disrepair? Greece and Rome/Italy have existed the entire time?

In: 508

Resources. These constructions represent somewhat of a pinnacle of entire empires. So there is this vast foundation that is needed for any society to build stuff like this.

If a society expends 95% of their effort merely to give basic food and shelter to their populace, they won’t have resources left over to build or maintain such structures. Apart from a few notable empires (and in historic times, it TOOK the resources of an empire), most of the time humanity could basically only get by.

So underlying these things are conquests, slavery, and much looting etc. Once an empire collapses, it basically cannot afford the resources.

This was mostly true until the Industrial Revolution when humanity started to use a lot of non-muscle based energy on demand (not like wind energy for sails, windmills etc). Think of it this way, until the mid 1800s the vast majority of humanity had to engage in agriculture and livestock rearing just to feed itself. Today, modern economies have less than 10% of their human population engaged in agriculture. This frees up a lot more resources to build and do stuff.

Importance, take Greece for example temples to the Greek Gods fell into disuse when Greek Orthodox Church became the main religion and therefore that church wanted the money from worshippers to build its own places of worship and would discourage belief in what went before. This allowed older religions structures to fall into disrepair (much like the in the uk when monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII) helped to highlight they were failed institutions.

However it’s worth noting that in Italy and Greece there is evidence in history that earthquakes led to much of the initial damage leading to the buildings being unsafe and too expensive to repair and from there the time weather and deconstruction did the rest. obviously really tall structures still standing are much harder to steal stone from than the bits that have collapsed which is why some bits still stand and some bits are gone completely. We must remember though that some of what we see today in the colosseum is due to reconstruction works done over the last hundred years.

Buildings like the colosseum in Rome once damaged simply fell out of use because they had no further use, they were to big to take down and it was easier to let them decay. The once flooded and abandoned parts of New Orleans or the car factories in Detroit are chilling reminders that abandonment is something that even happens today.

All of these examples and places like the great pyramids are structures that fell out of use and much of their decay following their abandonment was because local people used them as sources of building materials almost like a quarry only the stones were already cut and piled up.

Remember with many of these old buildings disuse allowed soil/sand to build up and structures slowly being lost under the ground and out of sight. much of the ancient Roman architecture we see in Rome today was only “rediscovered” through excavation in the 18th/19th centuries.

The Parthenon is an interesting one. It was mostly intact until 1687. The Ottoman Empire controlled the city and was using it to store gunpowder. The city came under attack by the invading Venetian army, and the Turkish garrison withdrew to the Acropolis, at which point the structure was struck by mortar fire causing a massive explosion that killed 300 and destroyed the Parthenon.


Nope, they didn’t exist for the entire time. Greece was missing from the map for centuries; at first, it was a part of the Eastern Roman Empire (though a core part), then a part of the Ottoman Empire (an oppressed colony). Italy was split into disparate city states for the entirety of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The city of Rome was held by the powerful Papal State (a much larger predecessor to modern day Vatican), but it was not interested in preserving “pagan” monuments (the same could be said about the Eastern Roman Empire).

The Colosseum has been under control of many different people and used for many different purposes. Each change resulted in modifications (ie the wooden seats were all removed to be used as barricades when people started using it as a fortress instead of a stadium).

A lot of the building has fallen down due to earth quakes. Some of which are quite recent. There’s markers around the outside that show where the REAL outer walls should be. It used to be a lot bigger.