The Colosseum: Symbol of the Grandeur of Rome
The Colosseum is hugely impressive among other Roman architectural structures kept through time. It stands as a glorious reminder of Roman imperial power, as well as its cruelty. Inside it, behind a series of arches and columns, Romans had thousands of people and animals killed to the delight of the bloodthirsty spectators at the shows. It is one of the most popular Roman tourist attractions and a trip inside is an absolute must. We will explain the origin of the Flavian amphitheatre, its history, and what you can visit nearby.
The Colosseum: History
The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was begun by the emperor Vespasian in 70 A.D. in a densely inhabited area and was completed under Titus in 80 A.D. The name "Amphitheatrum Flavium" derives from both Vespasian's and Titus's family name (gens Flavia). The name Colosseum has long been believed to derive from a colossal statue of Nero placed nearby. This Roman masterpiece can be interpreted as a great triumphal monument built in the Roman architectural and engeneering tradition in order to celebrate its great military victories. After the Great Fire of Rome in 64 A.D. Nero claimed the area for his personal domain and built his private residence, the Domus Aurea, there. After his demise the area was reclaimed and the giant arena was built over the site Nero's former artificial lake.
The Colosseum can contain 50,000 spectators. Once it was used for gladiators’ games and public spectacles such as sea battles, animal hunts, executions, and dramas. Damaged by fires and stone robberies, the building ceased to be used for entertainment in the Middle Ages when a small church was attached to it and the arena was converted into a cemetery. The several vaulted spaces in the arcades were converted into housing and workshops. After an earthquake in 1349 its stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings in Rome. In 1749 Pope Benedict XIV declared the Colosseum a sacred site, because it was the place where early Christians had been martyred. He consecrated the building to the Passion of Christ and installed the 15 Stations of the Cross there.
The Colosseum: Description
The external elliptical shape of the Colosseum was built in travertine while the monumental façade comprises three series of superimposed arcades. The arcades are framed by half-columns of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders. Each of the arches in the second- and third-floor arcades framed statues, probably honouring gods and other mythological figures. The amphitheatre was ringed by eighty entrances at ground level. Spectators sat according to their social status. The best view was for the emperor and senators. At the top there was the podium, on which the imperial party and other important people had their seats. Depending on the weather, an awning known as the velarium could be used to protect the audience from rain or scorching sun. Wooden flooring was used to cover the section of the arena located underground where the gladiators as well as the animals were kept before their performance. In fact below the ground there were rooms and cages containing wild animals and mechanical devices used in the bloody spectacles. At the beginning the Colosseum was also filled with water and used for mock naval battles. Games were held for a whole day or even several days to honour the Rome's grandeur. The interior is made of brick, tufa and marble.
The Colosseum: How to Get There
The Colosseum can be reached by the Rome Metro Line B, Colosseo stop or by bus, lines 3, 8, 75, 175, 271.
The Colosseum: Opening Hours
From 1st September to 30th September: 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
From 1st October to the last Saturday of October 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
From the last Sunday of October to 15th February 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
From 16 February to 15th March 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
From 16 March to the last Saturday of March 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
From the last Sunday of March to the 31st August 8:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m.
For info call 39 06.39967700
The Colosseum: What To Visit
Domus Aurea, Imperial Forum, Basilica of Massenzio, Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, and the lesser known and unmissable church of San Clemente (see Rome Churches), are all within walking distance of the Colosseum. You will also want to check out the Monti neighborhood which begins right across the street.
The Colosseum: Accommodations
You may lodge in Colosseum b&b Rome, or check out another hotel featured in our guide Central Hotel in Rome.
More and different things to come in Rome-Explorer.com's guide to the Colosseum.
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