The Colosseum of Rome

Not long ago we had a weekend getaway to Rome and we visited, of course, many of the historical places the eternal city has to offer. Today we stop in the most famous and photograph one: the Colosseum.

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From the Porta Libitinesis, the arena and finally the Porta Triumphalis: The Colosseum

 

The numbers

But before we start with its history let’s start with the numbers of this imposing structure.

  • It only took 8 years to build (in the I century).
  • It has impressive size: 188 meters long, 156 meters wide and 57 high.
  • It can host between 50 and 70 thousand people.
  • It was active for more than 500 years.
  • It is the second monument most visited in the world, after the Great Wall of China, with 6 million tourists per year.
  • In 1980 became UNESCO World Heritage.
  • On the 07/07/07 it became one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World.

 

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The Colosseum from the Vittorio Emmanuele II rooftop panoramic view

 

Its history

The Emperor Titus Flavio Vespasian ordered the construction in the year 72 on the site where an artificial lake was. But the construction ended after his death, in the year 80, while his son, also, Titus Flavio Sabino Vespasian (the second on the Flavia dynasty that ruled the empire) was ruling. Besides the already mentioned size, it is also worth mentioning that the building has a triple set of arches with semi columns Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Under the area, where the show was taking place, you could find the cages for the animals and the machinery that could allow the audience such an incredible spectacle. Something also important was the place from where the gladiators enter the stadium: the Porta Triumphalis and from which they exited if the were successful; for those not so lucky, the Porta Libitinensis (Death Goddess) awaited them.

 

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From the Palatinos and the Roman Forums you can clearly see the triple set of arcs

 

The stadium was inaugurated by Emperor Titus with the Games of the 100 days in which they had exhibitions, plays and, of course, gladiator fights. Here the numbers are scary too. Among the plays represented those days, one stands out, it was a naval battle between the Corinthians and Corfiots, it is the only time where the amphitheater was full of water (according to National Geographic, other sources can’t assure that play ever occurred). But during the games, around 2000 gladiators died and 9000 wild animals killed by the hunters (or after fighting with other animals or warriors).

 

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From the Porta Libitinesis, the arena and finally the Porta Triumphalis: The Colosseum

 

During its more than 500 years open (the last games were in the VI century), there were exotic animal exhibitions, executions, battle representations and the so known gladiator fights. The combats usually lasted between 3 and 6 days and the entrance was free. So the audience would queue from the day before to get a ticket. The stands were divided into sections according to the job and power of the people, therefore, for example, the closest to the arena were the senators who could have their names engraved into the stone in their seats, and the furthest from the arena were for the women. On the hot or the rainy days, a canvas was unfolded covering the whole amphitheater so that the audience were protected from the weather forecast.

Although today is widely known as the Roman Colosseum, its original name was Flavian Amphitheater (like the emperor). This change came around V century with the high Middle Ages. The reason for this change was because of a nearby statue: The Colossus of Nero; a statue of around 30 meters high that represented Nero with a crown full of sun rays. It is unknown when the statue was really done, but Vespasian took the God-like crown and in 1936 the last pieces of the pedestal were destroyed.

 

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You can see the Porta Triumphalis at the end.

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And on the opposite side is the Porta Libitinensis

 

After the games were finished, the stadium turned into a storage space, a church, a cemetery or even a castle for some nobles. And during the Middle Ages the stone and marble from the amphitheater and used it for the construction of other buildings in Rome, and that’s why part of the building is missing. Pope Benedict XIV, around 1750, stopped this practice, it consecrated the building to the Passion of Jesus and built a Via Crucis around the arena. But the amphitheater has suffered looting, earthquakes, and bombing during World War II.

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Underneath the arena

And that is its history until today, now it is our time to enjoy it and there is no doubt it is worth it.

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19 comments

  1. The Colosseum is an incredible piece of history. I actually haven’t visited although I visited its older sister in Verona, which was equally impressive. I hope to go back to Rome soon!

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    • It is funny, when you see it from the distance with other modern buildings it doesn’t seem that big (I thought of the Big Ben for instance) but when you get inside, you get the full dimension of the place

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  2. How massive this place is! Definitely a place that should`t be missed, Rome is a city that I always wanted to go, and every time I read something about there I just get super excited, can`t wait to go there!

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