Colosseum Travel Guide
Also known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum of Rome was once the largest building during the era of the Roman Empire and was also the most impressive. It has since fallen into disrepair (partly due to modern day stone robbing and earthquakes) but there are restoration efforts underway, and even in its current state, it still remains an imposing sight and is one of Italy’s iconic landmarks. It also remains as the biggest amphitheater in the world, and is considered a marvel of ancient Roman engineering.
Built on the site of an artificial lake that was part of Nero’s large park in the center of Rome which included his palace, the Domus Aurea just east of the Roman Forum, it was commissioned to be constructed on this specific spot in order to minimize the current ruling family’s associations with the infamous tyrant. It was completed in 80 AD by the emperor Titus and was designed to accommodate between 55,000 to 80,000 spectators from various social strata. In order to gain popularity among the people, the emperor staged bloody gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles, executions, reenactments of famous battles, staging of dramas based on myths, and wild animal hunts within the Colosseum, all of which were fervently followed and enjoyed by the ancient Roman audience. Sometimes, these events lasted up to 100 days.
Thankfully, the Colosseum ceased being the venue for such violent spectacles by the Middle Ages, and has since been used for other purposes such as housing, workshops, a Christian shrine, quarters for a religious order, a quarry, and a fortress. These days, it is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions. It has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and more recently, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
What to See
The Underground Chambers
During the time when the Colosseum was still hosting bloodbaths on a regular basis, the underground tunnels known as the Hypogeum ran underneath the actual surface where events were staged, known as the arena. The Hypogeum was where unfortunate fighters and wild animals waited for their turn to be brought into the arena. The gladiators were usually prisoners, convicts, or slaves, and more often than not, both people and animals were left to prepare and/or languish in small cells underneath the main event area. The Hypogeum also contained various passageways which allowed guards to not only keep an eye on the contenders of the day, but it also allowed actors, assistants, and non-fighting slaves, to navigate from place to place within the Colosseum, out of view from the spectators.
The Third Ring
What is known as the third ring or tier of the Colosseum is the highest level of seats inside the structure. It can be accessed by purchasing special types of tickets or tours which allow visitors to climb up to this level. Back in ancient Roman times, the third ring was where the general populace would have been seated, as the lower levels were reserved for merchants and affluent spectators, while knights, royalty, and other prominent citizens sat closest to the arena. Taking the extra trip to reach this level is worth it as it affords you a magnificent view of the interior of the Colosseum, as well as a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding area of Rome.
Tips and Advice
- Visitors are admitted into the Colosseum daily from 9 am to sunset during the summer, while hours go from 9am to 4:30pm during the winter months.
- There may be quite a long queue to get into the Colosseum, so be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours in this area. Also, to get the best out of this experience, it is recommended to tour this structure with some sort of guide, either in the form of an audio guide which can be acquired at the venue, or via a tour guide from a tour operator you have booked with, or with one of the guides that you can hire at the venue as well.