The Colosseum in depth
Updated: Mar 14
COLOSSEUM OVER 50,000 SPECTATORS SHOUTED FROM THE STANDS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE’S LARGEST AMPHITHEATRE, MERCILESSLY BAYING FOR THE BLOOD OF GLADIATORS, WILD ANIMALS AND CONDEMNED CRIMINALS.
Winding your way through the old streets, you pass the ancient ruins of the Forum of Augustus, and what must be a version of the world’s earliest shopping mall – Trajan’s Market.
You reach Mussolini’s ugly highway, the Via dei Fori Imperiali, which harshly cuts across this historic landscape. Trying to block out the noisy traffic, you follow the road along. Rounding a slight bend, you suddenly see the imposing walls of the Colosseum lying ahead.This is a monument to raw, merciless power – the centrepiece of Rome and its violent past. Avoiding the gladiator-dressed hawkers beckoning you for a photo, you pass beneath a gateway to the ticket office lurking in the shadows. After paying up, you head through another gate and up a few stairs to find the innards of the Colosseum in front of you. From this height, you have a fantastic view over the whole amphitheatre, from the network of passages down in the belly of the hypogeum up to the tiers for spectators, rising layer upon layer. You head down another set of stairs to explore the hypogeum and the grisly secrets it hides within its walls.
The Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre in Roman times, holding a crowd of over 50,000. The beauty of its tiers, columns and arches contrasts starkly to the horrific violence enacted within its walls. For centuries, nobility and lowly servants alike watched thousands of gladiators, wild animals and condemned criminals fight to their deaths. The amphitheatre was the bright idea of Emperor Vespasian, who recognized the need for somewhere to keep the masses entertained. His unpopular predecessor Nero had built himself an extravagant pleasure palace on prime central land after the fire of AD 64. After Nero’s suicide, Vespasian claimed the spoils of the ensuing civil war. He set about demolishing Nero’s palace, and in its place he built a pleasure palace for the people.Construction started around AD 73, and was almost complete when Vespasian died in AD 79. His eldest son Titus had the building finished. The inaugural games were held in AD 80, lasting 100 days and nights, during which some 5000 animals were slaughtered.