The Colosseo (Colosseum) – The Icon of Rome
This is my first blog entry from Rome, Italy, and what better place to write than in a 500 year old library called Bilbloteca Angelina (see photo below). It is truly an amazing place filled with
extremely rare books.
Arguably one of the most iconic structures in the world, the Colosseo is a marvel of Roman architecture. Though much of it has been damaged over the years in part due to several earthquakes and thieves. The Colosseo only took 10 years to build which is hard to believe considering the massive size of the structure. The proper Roman name is not Colosseo, but rather just amphitheater. Colosseum was just a name given to the statue that once sat in front of it. The Colosseo was in use for about 400 years until the collapse of the Roman Empire (when Rome ran out of money).
There are 80 gates (arches) for which visitors are able to access their seats. Of which, 76 of them were marked using roman numerals and 4 gates were reserved for the most important people of Rome. Also, the entry fee into the Colosseo was FREE. Each spectator was given a small stone which was used as their ticket. The Colosseum sat up to 75,000 spectators. That is even considered a large stadium in our day, but can you imagine what that was like in ancient roman times? Pretty incredible!! The most important people were sat on the first level mainly because climbing the stairs is quite a workout. Women were required to sit on the 5th level, but it was not for the reason my women activist friends are thinking. The Romans did not want the women to distract the men in the male audience allowing them to focus on the games.
Inside Look at the Colosseum
Sorry animal lovers, but the games did use real live animals as part of the show. The entire Colosseum was constructed to support this kind of fighting. The animals were housed underneath the main stage and right at the appropriate time, hoisted up to the main stage which was covered in sand. Gladiators were the superstars of their day. It was considered a highly regarded profession (well, as long as you stayed alive). Contrary to popular belief, many of the gladiators who lost their fights were not necessarily killed. It was very expensive to train a gladiator, so most were spared death.
The Real Purpose of the Colosseum
The Roman leaders were extremely smart people. The real purpose of the games was not to see a good fight and go home, but rather the Romans used this as a way of keeping order over the people of Rome. Part of the games consisted of these public killings which kept the commoners in “check” within society. Nobody wanted to be killed in front of 75,000 people.
Arch of Constantine (Arco di Costantino)
Right outside the Colosseo is the incredible Archof Constantine. Built in honor of Emperor Constantine, this arch is near perfectly preserved as it was in Roman times. It is said that the arch was not destroyed because of the great respect the people of Rome had for their beloved emperor and mainly because Constantine brought Christianity to the Roman Empire and the western world.
Insider Travel Tips
The Colosseo is surrounded by the most amazing ancient Roman ruins I have ever seen (called the Roman Forum). When you go to visit the Colosseo, I highly recommend you leave a few extra hours to see the Roman Forum as well. The two together will give you a real feeling of what life was like during ancient Roman times. I also highly recommend that you do the guided tour. It is about 60 euros including the entrance fees for both attractions. If you don’t have a guided tour it is hard to really understand these incredible sites. One more tip: They recently (not sure how recently) began to allow a limited number of visitors to see the upper floors of the Colosseo and the underground below the main stage. There is very limited access, so try to book in advance if you want to gain access. You will find that just like other things in Rome, if you want access to things, you can usually pay off someone to get it).