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Built in the 1st c AD when the Roman Empire peaked, the Colosseum represents Rome at its grandest. This colossal structure is a massive marvel of engineering. Ancient Romans, whose taste for violence exceeded even modern America's, came here to unwind. Gladiators, criminals, and wild animals fought to the death providing 50,000 roaring fans with a festival of gore.
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Everything You Need to Know About the Colosseum in Rome
The Colosseum is perhaps Rome’s most famous attraction, and is one of the best things to see in Italy. It represents a rich history, and is a show of architecture that impresses most. This marvelous structure is recognized by people around the world, and just looking at it allows the imagination to run wild with images of Roman soldiers, fierce battles, and Italy’s elite society from days gone. If you’re visiting Rome, the Colosseum is something that you can’t miss. So, here’s everything you need to know about visiting the city’s most-loved destination.
What is The Colosseum?
You’ve heard of it, learned about it in school, and have seen photos of this world wonder. But, do you really understand what it is? Here’s what to know before you go.
The Colosseum is a historic amphitheatre the largest that was ever built. It dates back to AD 70 and is one of the best preserved ruins from the Roman Empire. Stories say that this sand and stone structure was capable of fitting 80,000 people at one time. On average though, crowds of 65,000 would enter the oval building to watch gladiators at work. The arena is 83 meters by 48 meters.
There’s also an underground portion called the hypogeum, which is visible today. According to historians, this was the area that held animals, prisoners, and gladiators.
Today, visitors can find the Colosseum just east of the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.
The History of The Colosseum
Between 70-72 AD, the Colosseum was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty. He wanted the structure to be a gift to the Roman people.
Funding for the building came from money taken from the Jewish Temple after The Great Jewish Revolt. Historians believe that much of the workforce was made up of Jewish prisoners who were taken to Rome. The Colosseum was also built using paid artists, builders, engineers, painters, and decorators.
Emperor Vespasian died before the Colosseum was finished, but his son, Titus finished the work his father had overseen. It wasn’t until AD 80 that Titus, opened the amphitheater to the public under the official name, Flavian Amphitheater. The opening went off with a bang as Titus arranged 100 days of games which included animal fights and gladiator combats.
It’s been said that 9,000 wild animals were killed during these games, and special coins were issued in order to remember the event. After Titus, the emperor, Domitian, continued to build the Colosseum by adding underground tunnels and a gallery.
The arena was used continuously for four centuries although the usage changed over the years. A small chapel was built within the structure during the 6th century, and the arena was converted into a cemetery. Much of the building was converted into housing and workshops that were rented out until the late 12th century. And, the Frangipani family apparently turned the structure into a castle by fortifying it.
During 1349, the building was damaged by an earthquake and as it fell apart, much of the building materials were used to construct other buildings.
At the beginning of the 18th century, different popes wanted to conserve the building as a Christian site. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, nearly two thirds of the Colosseum was destroyed from natural disasters and the removal of materials. It wasn’t until the 1990s that restorative efforts really began to turn the building around. This is also when it started to attract thousands of tourists worldwide.
- The Colosseum was the largest amphitheater, measuring 620 by 513 feet.
- The building was unique as it was freestanding instead of being built into hillsides.
- The exterior was three stories.
- The building had 80 arched-entrances, which were supported by columns.
- There were three styles of columns including: Corinthian Order, Doric Order, and Ionic Order.
- The Arch of Constantine was built in AD 315 and is located near the Colosseum’s main entrance.
- There was seating for around 50,000 spectators.
- There were awnings to protect spectators from the sun.
- Sometimes the arena was flooded with water so that performers could put on naval reenactments.
- The gladiators who usually performed were often prisoners, criminals, or slaves.
- The cathedrals of St. Peter and St. John Lateran were built using materials from the Colosseum.
- It’s estimated that the outer wall required 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone.
- These walls were held together by 300 tons worth of iron clamps.
- The ground level had 80 entrances so that people could come and go quickly.
- There was a special entrance used only for the Emperor and his close group of people.
- It’s said that shards of pottery with numbers on them were used as tickets, and as a way for people to find their aisle and seats.
- Seats were assigned based on societal position. Wealthier people sat in the lower section while the poor citizens sat closer to the top (which had less of a view.)
- There were levels for senators and the noble class.
- The underground tunnels connected to nearby stables so that animals could easily be brought into the arena.
- There was a training school for gladiators which was also linked by tunnel to the Colosseum.
- The animals for the shows were imported from the Middle East or Africa and included: Rhinos, elephants, panthers, giraffes, tigers, bears, hippos, crocodiles, and ostriches.
Visiting The Colosseum
The Colosseum can be found right in the center of Rome. It’s near the Piazza Venezia and the Roman Forum. Only one minute from the site is the Colosseo metro station, line B. Visitors can take one of the buses that run through this area, or join a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Uber is available in Rome, but visitors can also hail a taxi to get to a from the site. On Sundays, many of streets are closed to vehicles so make sure to plan ahead. You may want to cycle or walk to the attractions.
Tickets to Visit The Colosseum
There are three main ways to get tickets to the Colosseum by tour group, at the ticket office, or by booking online. There are countless tour operators around Rome and all will offer different packages to see the attractions. While these tours can be limiting, they take care of all of the tickets and planning for you. So, you’ll get to see the Colosseum, hear about the history from your guide, and tickets will be included in the overall price.
If you want to purchase tickets at the ticket office, be prepared to wait in line. There is a desk right outside the Colosseum, but this isn’t the only place where you can get tickets. Instead of waiting in that long line, try other ticket windows such as: Via Sacre, Via di San Gregorio, and Largo Salara Vecchia. You may be in for a wait that is 45 minutes to an hour.
Lastly, you have the option to book online. This is one of the easiest and quickest ways to gain entry to the Colosseum. You won’t have to wait in long ticket lines and you can print out the tickets instead of waiting for them in the mail. But, even if you print the tickets ahead of time, you may have to wait in a small line to get them scanned.
What to See and Do When Visiting The Colosseum
See The Outer Wall
You can see the exterior of the Colosseum without even buying a ticket. However, if you want to get up close, you’ll need to gain entry to the area. Just walking around and viewing the arches is a great introduction, and you’ll be able to take plenty of photos to show friends and family back home.
See The Interior
This is probably the highlight of the attraction. You’re allowed to enter and view certain areas of the Colosseum. You’ll be able to see what it looked like, how people were seated, and where the underground tunnels went. Plus, the photo opportunities are incredible.
Arch of Constantine
Located next to the Colosseum, this arch honors the Emperor Constantine for winning the battle of the Milvian Bridge. It is both the largest and most well-preserved Roman arch that represents triumph.
This hill looks out over the Roman Forum and offers incredible views of the ancient ruins and the city itself. It’s said that this area was once the center of Rome and was home to temples, emperors, and other members of the Roman elite. This was a neighborhood that most people wanted to live in and even today it is covered in beautiful greenery. Visitors here can tour the ruins, learn about the local legends, and have a picnic near the shady gardens before leaving.
The Roman Forum
This must-visit attraction is right by the Colosseum and was an epicenter for local life and religion during the Roman Empire. Visitors can wander around the temple ruins and get a glimpse of the main street that was once bustling with people. There are grand columns, arches, and a basilica that all are fantastic points of interest.
Tips For Visiting The Colosseum
- Arrive at the Colosseum before 8:30 am. This is when it opens, but if you get there earlier, you’ll be able to enter faster.
- Use the metro for transportation since it is quite efficient and convenient.
- Try to stay in the historic center as it is much easier to get around and visit each of the historic sites.
- Wear sturdy shoes as you’ll be doing plenty of walking.
- In the summer, make sure to carry a water bottle and sunscreen. It gets quite hot.
- Wear a money belt or keep your backpack on your front. Pickpockets tend to wander around these crowded tourist destinations.
- Try to dedicate an entire day to seeing the Colosseum and the associated sites. There is a lot going on here and you’ll want to take your time while soaking it all in.
- Try hiring a guide. Even if you’re an independent traveler, a guide can make the experience better. They will be able to share their knowledge and point out things you may not have noticed on your own.
- Visit more than once. Seeing this site both during the day and at night makes the visit so much better.
Where to Eat Near The Colosseum
- Trattoria Luzzi: With locally sourced food and an authentic, Italian atmosphere, this restaurant is a top choice for visitors in Rome’s historic district. They are well-known for their wood-oven pizzas and assortment of pastas.
- Divin Ostilia: This small eatery is a hidden gem near the Colosseum. It’s popular as a wine bar but it also serves up some fantastic antipasto plates and classic pasta dishes. The wine list and the craft beers are top notch and the staff will do their best to find you a table.
- Taverna dei Quaranta: This authentic, Roman restaurant offers all of the Italian classics. It has checkered table clothes and high-ceilings which add to the antiquated atmosphere. The food is high-quality and the entire experience is charming.
Where to Stay Near the Colosseum
- Eurostars Hotel St. John: It’s only a 15-minute walk from the Colosseum with access to the metro. Rooms have WIFI, LCD satellite T.V, and some have Jacuzzi bathtubs. There’s an onsite bar with international cocktails and a breakfast buffet that is included in the rate.
- Best Western Hotel President: This 4-star hotel is only a ten-minute walk from the Colosseum and also has access to the metro. It has satellite T.V channels, WIFI, and a buffet breakfast. The onsite restaurant offers classic, Italian cuisine as well as a bar.
- Mercure Hotel Colosseum Centre: This hotel is located in one of the liveliest neighborhoods in the historic district. It’s extremely close to the Colosseum and offers a roof terrace and a swimming pool. It has a bar, free WIFI and satellite T.V.
The Colosseum is not only Rome’s top attraction but is also one of the most visited places in the world. Learn about the history and significance of this architectural feat first-hand. Whether you spend a day or just a few hours exploring the grounds, it will surely be one of the most memorable parts of your visit to Rome. Get in touch with us today to find out more about arranging a tour of Rome with one of our excellent guides.
Rome, Italy: The Colosseum - History
In 1990, the Colosseum, along with all the historical center of Rome, the Vatican extraterritorial zones in Italy and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, while in July 2007 was included among the New seven Wonders of the World.
Visit the Colosseum The Colosseum is open to the public almost every day , except December 25 and January 1, with a time ranging from 10:30 in the morning to the afternoon - evening ( 16:30 in winter, 19:30 in summer) .
Sometimes, they are also open to visitors on the third ring and the underground and in the summer , on some days of the week, You can visit the Flavian Amphitheatre even at night.
The entrance fee is valid for 2 days and allows igresso also to the Roman Forum and the Palatine.
After killing the emperor's statue was remodeled to depict the sun god , by adding the appropriate solar crown . The Colosseum was then moved from its original location to make way for the Temple of Venus and Rome under Hadrian . The site of the base of the colossal statue after the move and ' currently marked by a modern tufa base .
The Flavian Amphitheater is elliptical in shape , with a circumference of 527 meters , 188 meters along the major axis and the minor axis 156 57 meters high .
Could hold up to 70,000 seats and the arena was 76 meters x 46 . The first 3 floors were made of arches framed by half-columns , the fourth floor and ' scompartito by pilasters and there were inserted the poles that supported the large curtain into wedges to protect the spectators from the sun.
Among the 7 Wonders of the World! On the night of 7 July 2007, in Lisbon, the Colosseum was included among the 7 wonders of the modern world in a universal survey in which 100 million people from all continents participated.
With the Colosseum were elected: the Great Wall of China, the ancient Jordanian city of Petra, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the Inca Ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, the Mayan Pyramid of Chichen Itza in Mexico, and the Taj Mahal (India).
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In 135 ce the emperor Hadrian began his tomb a towering cylinder about 65 feet (20 metres) high on a square base, it was in size and form a typical imperial mausoleum. In 271 it was incorporated into the Aurelian Wall and became a key fortress in the defense of Rome. In the 6th century St. Gregory I, leading a procession to pray for the end to a plague, allegedly had a vision of the archangel Michael atop the tomb. The epidemic ceased, and the tomb-citadel became known as the Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel). In time it became a papal castle, with richly furnished and frescoed rooms, loggias for the view, a siege store of 5,800 gallons (22,000 litres) of oil and 770,000 pounds (350,000 kg) of grain, a centrally heated bathroom, a prison that incarcerated the artist Benvenuto Cellini, among others, and a still-intact fortified passage from the Vatican to carry the pope to refuge there. It is now a state museum with an arboured terrace.
Colosseum In Rome
The Colosseum in Rome is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This ancient gladiatorial arena in Italy has about 50,000 seats. With beautiful architecture, it gives a glimpse of the atmosphere when the gladiators used to fight with animals and also with each other. The whole structure has deep roots with underground complexes. These underground complexes are called hypogeum and were used to keep the caged animals.
History of Roman Colosseum
Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the place was started in AD 80 for the very first time. However, the construction was started by Emperor Vespasian in a time around AD 69 to 79. After his death, his son Titus ensured the completion of the structure. The inauguration games were held to celebrate, during which more than 5000 animals were killed.
Facts about Roman Colosseum
1) It was built over the span of 10 years by Roman Emperor Vespasian who was the founder of the Flavian dynasty.
2) The original structure had more than 80 entrances and 36 trap doors for special effects.
3) Elliptical in shape, it is 189 meters long and 156 m wide.
4) More than 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone was used to build its outer wall.
Architecture of Colosseum
The marvelous exterior wall of the Flavian Amphitheatre has a unique oval shape. The grand structure of 186 meters length and 156 meters width makes it mesmerizing. A big section of the outer wall collapsed in 1349 due to many earthquakes. The remains somehow enhance the beauty of the overall outer structure. There are four locations of getting inside the structure.
2) The interior structure
The basic idea behind the Colosseum in Rome was to embrace the games and get entertained. Hence, the interior of the structure was designed for both the general public as well as the emperors. The distance between the royalty and the public can be seen in the interior. The boxes and high platforms were constructed for the royalties. The names of the senators are still readable, which shows that the platforms were reserved for senators and royalties. The whole seating arrangement is divided into three levels. The first level includes the reserved places for emperors. Then, there is second level is for the noble families of Rome. After that, the stairs are there that were used for the more than 50,000 members of the public. The remains clearly introduce visitors to the glimpse of old lavishness and architectural beauty of the Roman Imperial time period.
3) The underground complex
Below the arena, there is a long chain of rooms and cages in an underground complex. Also known as hypogeum, the underground complex was used to keep the gladiators and wild animals. The tunnels were used to bring the gladiators to the arena.
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Traveling to the Colosseum
The fascinating history involving bloodbaths and battles associated with the structure is what draws visitors to this historical site. Getting to the Colosseum by taxi or bus from the airport is easy enough, but the line to get into the site itself can be long, especially during the very busy summer season. Aside from going there at any other time, there are other ways to get around these long lines. You can buy your ticket either at the Roman Forum or the Via de San Gregorio (these ticket counters are usually line-free), or you can even get them online. You can also buy a combo ticket that covers several of Rome’s main attractions, or call the office to reserve your ticket in advance. Another good way to avoid long lines at the Colosseum entrance is by joining a tour group.
Located in Piazza del Colosseo within proximity of Metro line B, Colosseo stop, and Tram Line 3, Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. So after the grand tour of the Colosseum, continue to marvel rich Roman architecture of the Roman Forum which was once a meeting ground of the city’s politicians. You can also enjoy a short hike on the Palatine Hill from where you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the ancient Circus Maximus, the chariot racing track. And yes, the sunset from the peak is worth every sigh you take while climbing the Hill.
Book an online tour that not only saves you from the scorching sun while standing on a queue but also gives complete access of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
2 thoughts on &ldquoThe Roman Colosseum&rdquo
I found all of the facts in this post really interesting the Colosseum was not something I knew much about besides that it’s in Rome and it was home to gladiator combats. I had no idea that other things were done in the colusseum for entertainment purposes because I thought it was strictly for gladiator combats. I agree that it is incomprehensible that people would pay to see such awful events taking place. However, I definitely would like to visit the Colosseum one day because I find it amazing that it is still standing and it is an important part of our history.
I found this post really interesting. I knew that the Colosseum was home to pretty brutal ancient games, but I had no idea of the extent of some of them, such as the raping of women by animals. That is just disgusting and incomprehensible in my eyes. However, the Colosseum is one of those monuments that I believe one should see in his or her lifetime because it holds so many historical stories. My sister is actually traveling abroad to Rome this summer, and I am sure that the Colosseum is one of the many famed monuments she will visit.
The Colosseum facts and history
The Colosseum is an elliptical amphitheatre in the center of the city of Rome, Italy. Originally the Flavian Amphitheatre, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire. It is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started in 70 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under his son Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian’s reign (81-96). The Colosseum hosted large-scale spectacular games that included fights between animals, the killing of prisoners by animals and other executions, naval battles via flooding the arena, and combats between gladiators. It has been estimated that about 500,000 people and a million wild animals died in the Colosseum games.
After Nero committed suicide in 68, Vespasian (emperor 69-79) decided to shore up his shaky regime by building an amphitheatre for the people on the site of the lake in the gardens of Nero’s palace. The Colosseum was a grand political gesture. Suitably for that great city, it was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman world, capable of holding some 50,000 spectators.
The Colosseum was opened in AD 80 by Vespasian’s son and successor, Titus. Given the scale of the enterprise it was built remarkably quickly. And given the site, in a valley where there was previously a lake, it had to be planned carefully. When the Colosseum opened, there was a marathon of celebrations that went on for 100 days at every level of society from royalty to the barbarian, as they revelled in their new stadium (by johnson). 9,000 wild animals were killed in the one hundred days of celebration which inaugurated the amphitheatre.
The Colosseum was ingeniously designed. The invention of arches and vaults made of brick-faced concrete allowed Roman architects much greater spans and more visual variety. The Colosseum’s elaborate honeycomb of arches, passages and stairways allowed thousands of spectators to get into the space to watch murderous games. And the Colosseum’s imposing exterior was then, as it still is, a marvelous monument to Roman imperial power.
The ordered beauty and formal regularity of the Colosseum’s exterior is created by three storeys of superimposed arches with engaged (i.e. semi-circular) columns. These columns are of different orders on each storey (Doric at the bottom, then Ionic, with Corinthian columns in the third storey). The fourth higher blind storey is punctuated by pilasters, decorated with Corinthian capitals. The exterior was decorated at the top with glistening gilded bronze shields, and the arches were filled with painted statues of emperors and gods.
The passage of the Colosseum was designed so that the immense venue could fill in 15 minutes, and be evacuated in 5 minutes. Each entrance and exit was numbered, as was each staircase. There were 80 entrances in all, 76 for ordinary spectators and 4 for the imperial family. The entrances were marked by giant porticoes, each topped by a gilded horse-drawn chariot. The emperor also had a private entrance, which went under the seats, and emerged in the imperial box.
Seating was divided into different sections. The podium, the first level of seating, was for the Roman senators, and the emperor’s private box was also located on this level. Above the podium was the maenianum primum, for the other Roman aristocrats who were not in the senate. The third level, the maenianum secundum, was divided into three sections. The lower part, the was for wealthy citizens, while the upper part was for poor citizens. A third, wooden section was a wooden structure at the very top of the building, added by Domitian. It was standing room only, and was for lower class women.
The most ingenious part of the Colosseum was its cooling system. It was roofed using a canvas covered net-like structure made of ropes, with a hole in the center. This roof sloped down towards the center to catch the wind and provide a breeze for the audience Sailors manipulated the ropes.
The Colosseum has suffered many disasters including a great fire of 217 following a lightening strike which put the Colosseum out of action for 21 years. Two earthquakes in 442 and 508 damaged the main structure of the historic stadium forcing it to shut down for good in 524.
After the splendor of imperial times, the Colosseum was abandoned, and in turn it became a fortress for the medieval clans of the city, a source of building materials, picturesque scenery for painters, a place of Christian worship. Today it is a challenge for archaeologists and a location for events and shows. And even though the once-perfect red brick arches are falling apart and the animals and warriors that moved through those gates are no longer here, the ghosts of glory days gone by are easy to sense.
As a visitor, you will be overwhelmed at the architecture you see at the Colosseum site and you will recognize the designs because they have been used in stadiums all over the globe. The Colosseum is ranked one of the premier attractions in Rome and tourists from different corners of the world assemble here to explore the mystic aura that engulfs this grand monument.
About the Author
“Ganagi” is an Indian university student and has never been to Italy, but wrote this excellent essay about the history and architecture of the Colosseum through accurate research. He wins saffron from San Gimignano in arttrav’s 2009 writing contest.
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