Colosseum

Colosseo

Every gladiator had a dream to step on the arena of Colosseum and die. Every actor had a dream to play on the stage of this theatre and be glorified in the centuries. This Amphitheatre was constructed even before Christ was born. Contemporary unconcerned Italians would daily drive round the Colosseum on their scooters and wave "Ciao!" to Italy’s top tourist attraction, the most famous and admired symbol of the city. Colosseum is that very place where one can feel the history. It had long been referred to Rome’s symbol of greatness. "Till the Colosseum stands, said pilgrims in the VIII century, - Rome will stand; when the Colosseum falls Rome shall fall; when Rome falls the world shall fall".

There are different versions of the origin of Colosseum’s name. According to one of them the name Colosseum was referred to colossal size of the structure itself, according to another the name has long been believed to be derived from a colossal statue of Nero nearby. Colosseum is the largest antique Amphitheatre which construction began in 72 AD on the spot of the artificial lake at Nero’s Domus Aurea. It was under the rule of the Emperor Vespian who wanted to strengthen the position of the Flavian dynasty in Rome and to show concern about the recreation time of the Roman citizens. The Colosseum was completed in AD 80 after eight years' construction. To mark the occasion, Vespasian's son and successor Titus held games that lasted 100 days and nights, during which some 5000 animals were slaughtered. Colosseum could accommodate 50-55 thousand people of audience.

Architectural solutions that were used within construction of Colosseum are still used for stadiums today: numerous entrance arches along the perimeter of the edifice allowed the spectators to enter and be seated in a matter of minutes, same with leaving the building. No later structure could outgo Colosseum’s people-throughput capacity! The outer walls have three levels of arches, articulated by columns. The external walls were originally covered in travertine, and marble statues once filled the niches on the 2nd and 3rd storeys. The upper level, punctuated with windows and slender Corinthian pilasters, had supports for 240 masts that held up a canvas awning over the arena, shielding the spectators from sun and rain. Every span in the lower level served the entrance to Amphitheatre. Above the arches one can still see the number of entrances from I to LXXVI, there are also 76 stairs to reach the seats. Colosseum could be entered free of charge but people were seated in a tiered arrangement that reflected the rigidly stratified nature of Roman society. Out of 80 entrances 4 main gates were for the nobles (in the south part – for the Emperor and Vestal Virgins), a little further the level for the senatorial class and non-senatorial noble class, then middle class and wooden seats for ordinary Roman citizens. The arena separated from the audience by the wall had wooden floor that could be lifted up and down with the help of special structures. At first the arena could even be filled with water for the purpose of arranging mock sea battles, these were very cruel fights that resulted in human victims. Colosseum was also used as the sports venue.

But the edifice was mostly famous for the gladiators games. According to current calculations only 20% of gladiators died during the fights while others irrespective of their origin could inspire admiration and popular acclaim. They were celebrated in high and low art, and the best girls of Rome had a dream of spending time with a gladiator! To become a gladiator one had to go through a strict selection process. Tourists have a chance to meet with the "gladitors" today as well – it is quite a business for local population! In 248 Rome celebrated one thousand anniversary of the city: 2 thousand gladiators participated in the games. But Emperor Trajan later topped that: while celebrating the victory over Dacians he arranged the games involving 10 thousand gladiators! Colosseum continued to be used for gladiator battles until the VI century.

With the fall of the empire in the VI century, the Colosseum was abandoned. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, and quarters for a religious order. In the Middle Ages, it became a fortress occupied by two of the city's warrior families: the Frangipani and the Annibaldi. The latter had to yield Colosseum to Henry VII who presented it to Rome. Damaged several times by earthquakes, it was later used as a quarry for travertine and marble for Palazzo Venezia, Palazzo Farnese and other buildings. Pope Benedict XIV was the first who took Colosseum under his protection. He endorsed the view that the Colosseum was a sacred site where early Christians had been martyred. He forbade the use of the Colosseum as a quarry and consecrated the building to the Passion of Christ and installed Stations of the Cross (the Cross stood on the site until 1874), declaring it sanctified by the blood of the Christian martyrs who perished there. There is a legend that one of the creators of Colosseum, Gaudens, adopted Christianity and was martyred on its arena. Presently the fragments have been returned to its original places where possible, the arena structure was partly excavated and fully exposed to public to show basement facilities that held people and animals’ cages.

On 7 July 2007 Colosseum was acknowledged to be one of the 7 New World’s Wonders. You should better devote half of the day to visit Colosseum. Take the audio-guide that will perfectly fulfill the function of the guide but you will be able to manage your time and be in no rush. Another advice is to buy one pass ticket for Colosseum, Palatine and Roman Forum (valid for two days) at the Roman Forum that usually has no lines. Standing on one of the upper levels of the current remains of Colosseum, close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the city! We promise – you will hear the eternity!

Address: Piazza del Colosseo, 1
Opening hours: 2 Jan – 15 Feb, last Sun of Oct - 31 Dec 8.30 am – 4.30 pm; 16 Feb -15 Mar 8.30 am – 5 pm; 16 Mar – last Sun of Mar 8.30 am – 5.30 pm; last Sun of Mar – 31 Aug 8.30 am – 7.15 pm; 1-30 Sep 8.30 am – 7 pm; 1 Oct – last Sun of Oct 8.30 am – 6.30 pm; upon booking and special arrangements Colosseum can be visited at night.
How to reach: metro Colosseo
Coordinates: 41.890202, 12.492204