The Roman Colosseum, also known as the Amphitheater of Flavius, after the name of the Flavian dynasty that contributed to its construction, starting with the Emperor Vespasian and ending with the Dominitian, never ceases to amaze and delight tourists visiting Rome.
Perhaps not many people know that on the site of the current giant arena was an artificial lake arranged by Nero for his residence Domus Aurea, whose colossal statue placed near the amphitheater gave it the name after which it is well known today. In addition to the Colossus of Nero, the Colosseum Square was completed by the conical artesian fountain Meta Sudante, as well as the Temple of Venus and Rome, whose remaining columns can best be seen from the floors of the Colosseum.
Constantine’s arch, which can be admired near the Colosseum, rises majestically even today, being rich in ornaments with reliefs and statues.
Even less known is the fact that an underground tunnel through which gladiators reached the Colosseum led to a small amphitheater called Ludus Magnus, located nearby, where they used to train and live.
The inauguration ceremony of the Colosseum which took place in 80 AD. lasted no more, no less than 100 days, during which time more than 5,000 animals were killed daily for the delight of spectators who watched the various ceremonies on the four floors of the amphitheater, depending on the social scale: first level family imperial and important people who had the privilege to watch the shows on a marble platform, in the second middle class, the poor in the third level, and in the fourth where stood the women, the poorest people and slaves.
Other activities carried out in the amphitheater and which were meant to spice up the life of the largest city in the world at that time, were gladiator fights, public execution, fights between men, women and animals alike or between criminals and slaves, the latter being won in imperial lotteries, for no other purpose but to follow another cruel fate: beheading.
However, to reach the moment of inauguration, it took about 10 years of construction, the travertine blocks used to cover the outer wall being taken from a small town near Rome. The holes that can now be seen on the walls of the amphitheater were from the iron clamps with which the travertine were fixed. The height of the Colosseum reaches almost 50 meters if we consider the outer ring.
The main entrances to the giant amphitheater were only two in number, one of which being used by the Emperors and the imperial family. The 80 arcades used as exits were called vomitoria and were almost all numbered to facilitate free access and exit in just 12 minutes for spectators.
The wooden arena that tourists can admire today is partially restored to see the tunnels below it. Building structures of the basement, where today are exposed hatches, pulleys and elevators which were used to climb the animals in the arena, can now be viewed on several of the exhibition corridors of the Colosseum.
At the shows that presented naval battles, the pipes and aqueducts under the arena, which was sprinkled with sand to keep the water, were used for its flooding, a process that lasted only a few hours. Only after giving up on such shows, the underground spaces were used for props, some of them creating a truly natural environment by landscaping bushes, hills and lakes.
Along with the exposed models, you can see pieces of commemorative plaques that show in relief the fight scenes between gladiators.
The arena was surrounded by a belt made of wire mesh with the role of preventing the access of animals in the stands.
Archaeological excavations have revealed valuable information in the basement of the amphitheater, such as no less than 110 fountains with drinking water and two public toilets.
Those who want to visit the Colosseum nowdays can have quick access by presenting the Roma Pass card, without having to wait in line for tickets; and if it is a hot summer day outside there are shady places on the interior corridors where visitors can also admire an exhibition.
As much as 70,000 spectators, as they fit when the amphitheater was functional, benefited from the shadow with the help of a retractable roof made of a canvas called velarium, maneuvered by sailors from the military fleet. But the center of the arena remained uncovered.
Perhaps the present appearance of the Colosseum would have been more impressive if after the cessation of gladiatorial fighting it had not been partially destroyed by earthquakes, or pieces of it used to build the palaces, churches and bridges of the Eternal City.
If we think about the fact that during it’s history parts of this grandiose architectural and engineering monument were in turn a cemetery, a fortress, a shop or a house, then we can realize the scale of the events that contributed of its successive deterioration.
Two hours are enough to visit the Colosseum, the ticket being valid also for the visit of Palatine Hill where you can admire the Roman Forum.
A beautiful image of the Colosseum in all its splendor can be captured by tourists in the middle of Via dei Fori Imperiali on Sundays, when it is closed to traffic and becomes a wonderful place of promise.