The Colosseum – the center of eternal Rome

Colosseum

Colosseum in Rome – the most detailed information with photos. Interesting facts about Colosseum, history and location on the map.

Colosseum (amphitheater of Flavius)

The Colosseum is a grand amphitheater in Rome, one of the most famous structures of Antiquity. It is a true symbol of the Eternal City and one of its main attractions. The Colosseum is properly called the Flavius amphitheater – after the dynasty of emperors under which the enormous structure was built.

History

The Colosseum was built in only 8 years. Construction began in 72 AD under Emperor Vespasian, and ended in 80 AD under Emperor Titus.

Having become emperor after the despot Nero, Vespasian decided to consolidate his power. He came up with an interesting idea for that – to tear down Nero’s palace (Golden House), which together with the park occupied 120 ha of the center of Rome and build imperial institutions, and to fill in the pond near the palace and build a grand amphitheater for people’s entertainment.

The amphitheater was built by slaves who were brought to Rome after Vespasian’s military victories in Judea. Scientists estimate that 100 000 slaves were used to build the Colosseum. Slaves were used for the hardest works – extracting and delivering travertine from Tivoli to Rome (about 25 km), lifting weights, etc. A large group of sculptors, artists and engineers also worked on the decoration of the Colosseum.

The Colosseum in Ancient Rome

The Colosseum in ancient Rome

The opening of the Colosseum was marked by grandiose games. The amphitheater was the center of Ancient Rome’s violent spectacles for nearly three and a half centuries – gladiatorial fights, animal travesties. People and animals were killed here to the amusement of the crowd and the patricians. Until the Emperor of the Roman Empire banned gladiatorial fights at the beginning of the 5th century. It was then that Christianity became the main religion of the great empire. And its one of the most colossal structures would know its saddest times.

The Middle Ages and modern times have left strong scars on the amphitheater: first the invasion of barbarians led the amphitheater into disrepair, then it was a fortress for the noble families, in the middle of the 14th century a strong earthquake collapsed the southern wall of the amphitheater. The great structure became a source of building material – it was broken down and dismantled for the construction of new buildings and church cathedrals and palaces.

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This continued until the mid-18th century, until the Colosseum came under the protection of Pope Benedict XIV.

The Colosseum is now under state protection. The rubble, if possible, has been put back in place. Yes, the amphitheater has lost its former inner and outer appeal, but even so it is simply stunning. Despite the protection the Colosseum still suffers – the urban environment, exhaust fumes and vibrations are not good for the giant.

Colosseum nowadays

The Colosseum nowadays

Description

The Colosseum is shaped like a giant ellipse. It is the largest amphitheater of antiquity, striking in size – the outer axis is 524 meters long, the size of the stage is 85 x 53 meters, and the height ranges from 48 to 50 meters.

The walls of the Colosseum were built of large pieces of travertine. The amphitheater had many entrances and exits. The lower rows were for the rich. The simpler people occupied the upper rows. To protect them from the Roman sun masts were used to stretch a giant tent over them.

Coliseum inside

The Colosseum inside

Interesting facts about the Colosseum

  1. The amphitheater was originally named after Flavius, the dynasty of emperors who built it. The name Colosseum was fixed only in the 8th century and comes from the Latin word colossus.
  2. The foundation of the building is 13 meters thick.
  3. Thanks to engineering and design solutions spectators could fill the amphitheater in 15 minutes and leave it in 5 minutes. Some of the solutions that were used in its construction, are still used in the construction of large sports facilities.
  4. The amphitheatre had 80 entrances and 76 staircases.
  5. The Colosseum had a capacity of 50,000 people (some reports say 70,000). More than some modern stadiums!

Coliseum at night

Colosseum at night

Opening hours and ticket prices

  • 08:30 – 16:30: November-February
  • 08:30 – 19:15: March-August
  • 08.30 – 19.00: September
  • 08.30 – 18.30: October
  • Adults – 12 euro.
  • EU citizens from 18 to 25 years old – 7,5 Euros
  • Free of charge for children (under 18).

Tickets are valid for 2 days from the date of first use. With these tickets you can also visit the Roman Forum and vice versa. There’s a little trick: there are usually long lines at the ticket offices of the Colosseum, so you can buy tickets at the Forum ticket office.

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Video about the Colosseum

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The Colosseum in Rome

In my opinion, it has a special energy: in order to appreciate this monument, you do not need to be a connoisseur of history or art, you do not need to be able to determine the architectural style of its columns or know the materials and technology used in its construction. The grandeur of the ancient amphitheater, surpassing all knowledge and historical facts, leaves an eternal imprint on the heart of everyone who has ever stood at the foot of the Colosseum.

History of the Colosseum in Rome

From its construction to this day, the Colosseum has dominated the surrounding urban landscape of the historic center. It was the first monumental amphitheatre in Rome: during the Republic, gladiatorial fights took place in the Roman Forum, where temporary wooden structures were erected for them. That all changed with the arrival of Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavius dynasty: after a brutal civil war, the wise ruler decided to channel the energy of the emotional masses into entertainment. Construction of the Amphitheatre of Flavius (exactly as the ancient Romans called the Colosseum) with Vespasian’s suggestion began in 72, and its opening in 80 was performed by the founder’s son, Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian, who instituted entertaining games which lasted for 100 days in honour of this memorable event!

The Colosseum was rebuilt and restored many times because of devastating fires and earthquakes. The amphitheatre was used for its intended purpose until 523, when it slowly declined and became a source of building materials for numerous new Roman structures – a common story at the time. Some parts of the Colosseum were even used to build St. Peter’s Basilica.

The architecture of the Colosseum in Rome

The Flavius Amphitheatre, which surpassed all its predecessors in size and monumentality, is still the largest in the world. Dimensions of the Colosseum: 188 meters on the long axis and 156 meters on the short axis, height – 48 meters, the arena was 76 meters long and 46 meters wide. What was the reason for such an unprecedented height? The answer is simple: only the vertical organization of the rows allowed for the largest possible number of people to be seated as close to the arena as possible: the amphitheater could hold up to 70,000 spectators.

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It is difficult to overestimate the Colosseum’s former splendor! To get an idea of the structure’s original appearance, it is best to enter it from the north side, Via Fori Imperiali: this is where the preserved ring of the outer façade is clearly visible. You will see that the first three levels consist of arcades (there were 80 in total): the arches of the second and third levels were decorated with statues, and between the dormer windows of the fourth level there were luxurious bronze shields. The entire façade was lined with marble slabs.

5 Innovations of the Colosseum

The Colosseum was an innovative structure in every sense.

Here are a few facts that strike my fancy:

  1. The Colosseum was built without the use of mortar: blocks of travertine were held together by metal rods.
  2. A well-organized system of 80 entrances and interior corridors evenly distributed thousands of people, avoiding crushes and ensuring the safety and convenience of visiting the Colosseum.
  3. The amphitheater was equipped with a system to protect spectators from hot sunlight or rain: deftly moving along 320 wooden beams, a huge woven canopy was unwrapped and reinforced by sailors recalled from the Mizene Flotilla on the occasion of the performances.
  4. The world’s first elevators were constructed for the Colosseum; they lifted the animals and gladiators seated on the lower level into the arena. This arrangement made the performances even more spectacular: people and wild animals appeared on the stage as if from nowhere.
  5. The Flavius Amphitheatre was equipped with a unique hydraulic system, which allowed to turn the arena into a huge pool of water, where gladiators or prisoners reproduced the famous Roman sea battles. And in the 1980s the public was presented with a female water dance show!

The Colosseum’s interior

Performances in the Colosseum were free to attend. There was just one uncompromising rule: the seats in the amphitheatre were allocated strictly according to the laws established by Emperor Augustus, according to which it depended on the social status of the spectators. No money could buy the commoners a seat on the marble armchair of the lower ranks instead of the wooden bench of the upper floor. Only senators and vestal virgins sat in the front rows, with the nobles right behind them. The worst seats at the top were occupied by foreigners and slaves.

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The arena of the Colosseum consisted of a wooden deck covered with sand (part of it is reproduced on the east side of the amphitheater). To protect the precious representatives of the nobility from possible attacks by wild animals, high and strong metal netting was erected along its perimeter during the performance, and archers were stationed in specially designated niches.

There were two accesses to the arena on either side of the larger axis: the Porta Triumphalis (which means triumphal gate) on the west side and the Porta Libitinaria on the east. Through the western gate the gladiators entered the stage, and through the eastern gate their lifeless bodies were carried out.

Performances in the Colosseum

The day in the amphitheater unfolded according to a special schedule. In the evening, on the eve of the performance, the Aeditor (the one in charge of organizing the games) invited the gladiators to a dinner open to the public. Gladiators were to the ancient Romans what the stars of modern sports are to us. Not surprisingly, fans looked forward to watching their favorites.

In the morning the warriors opened the show with a solemn procession through the arena in parade armor. Then the games would start: gladiators fighting each other or exotic animals.

Lunch time was reserved for the execution of those sentenced to death: they were burned, crucified or tortured by wild beasts.

The highlight of the afternoon was the duel between the gladiators.

The widespread belief that the public used the thumbs-up or thumbs-down gesture to decide the fate of a gladiator is mistaken. There were two gestures: the thumb pointing upwards or parallel to the ground. Both of these gestures symbolized the naked sword and were something akin to the modern “puck! puck!” in hockey, that is, a call for spectacle and encouragement to the warriors.

The losing gladiator’s life was preserved by a hand clenched in a fist, symbolizing a sword hidden in its scabbard.

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The belief that the public or the emperor called for killing a gladiator is unfounded: warriors became strong only by gaining experience in battle. To order the death of a gladiator would be the same as executing a soccer player who lost a match today. The gesture with the thumb down, which supposedly called for the taking of a warrior’s life, was invented by the Catholic Church to reinforce the bloodthirsty image of the ancient Romans.

How to get to the Colosseum

If you’re staying away from the historic center, for example, in the popular tourist area of Termini Station, getting to the Colosseum is simple – take the subway (a single ride costs 1.5 euros) and getting off at the Colosseo Station, you’ll be right in front of the amphitheater. If you’re lucky enough to be in the middle of the city, I advise you to take a walk because Rome is called the open air museum for a reason! So arm yourself with a map – and go! All the more something, and certainly the Colosseum, thanks to its outstanding size, will be difficult to pass by …

Colosseum opening hours

The Colosseum is open for visits every day. Entrance to the museum stops one hour before closing time.

  • January 2 – February 15: 08:30 – 16:30
  • February 16 – March 15: 08:30 – 17:00
  • 16 March – last Saturday in March: 08.30 – 17.30
  • Last Sunday of March to 31 August: 08.30 to 19.15
  • September 1st to 30th : 08.30 to 19.00
  • First Saturday of October – February 14th : 08.30 – 18.30

The Colosseum is closed to the public holidays of January 1 and December 25.

Ticket price

  • Full adult ticket – 12 euro.
  • Privileged ticket for EU citizens aged 18-25 – 7,5 euro.
  • Free admission for persons under 18 years old.

Students of art history of higher education institution are entitled to a free ticket on presentation of an international student ID (such as ISIC). The name of the university and the department must appear on the card.

The Colosseum is also free to all who wish to attend on the first Saturday of each month.

A ticket to the Colosseum is valid for 2 days and allows you to visit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill once.

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