Originally named as the Flavian amphitheatre in Roman Italy, the elliptical amphitheater now called the Colosseum is the largest structure of the Roman Empire. Its construction started around 71 AD that was over only in 80 AD. Located in the east of the Roman Forum, it holds the capacity of 50,000 people and that gladiatorial competitions formed one of the major spectacles, the others being mock sea battles, animal hunts, exterminations, and drams of famous wars and mythological episodes. Later, its use was only for housing, workshops, fortress, and a Christian shrine.
Speaking of its importance nationally, this iconic edifice is also seen on the five-cent Euro coin. In addition, the Colosseum is associated with the Roman Catholic Church, as on every Good Friday, there is a procession of torchlit Way of the Cross that begins starts around by the Pope.
The Colosseum is a free-standing edifice whose exterior and interior design consists of two continuous Roman theatres.
The exterior of the Colosseum is composed of travertine stone joined together with iron clamps extending four storeys high. Each entrance and exit had a number for its identity along with each staircase. It has some 80 entrances among which the two main ones were only for the emperor and his staff, while three more were reserved for the privileged people. All these four reserved entrances were adorned with tinted stucco reliefs whose pieces can be seen today. Many entrances have vanished due to the crumbled perimeter wall out of which only entrances XXIII (23) to LIV (54) are seen today along with the north side of the wall.
Today, what you see is wall’s monumental facade that holds three stories of overlaid arcades holding a tall attic whose top was once capped with 240 mast corbels. While the arcades are flanked by half-columns of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian guidelines, the attic is adorned with the Corinthian pilasters. Herein, each arch on the second and third floor arcades is decorated with statues of holy figures from the Classical mythology.
Spectators’ tickets were also numbered to direct them to the right section and row. The tickets were available via vomitoria, walkways above and at rear to a row of seats. Such an arrangement would quickly lead to entry or exit of huge crowd in few minutes
Roman Colosseum Interior
The Cavea, seating area, is split into three tiers namely, the lowest for knights, the middle for wealthy, and the top for the common people. The arena was ringed by a 5 m high wall as a safety fence between the spectators and wild beasts. The wall’s top holds the podium, where the imperial folk and other VIPs used to sit in their own chairs, if brought.
For social groups, there were special sectors that include boys with tutors, soldiers on leave, foreign VIPs, messengers, and priests. Originally stone and then marble places to sit were offered to the citizens and nobles. According to the survey, another level, the maenianum secundum was made atop the building during the rule of Domitian. Herein, a gallery for the common poor, slaves, and women was included in form of a standing room or steep wooden benches. There were some groups that were prohibited to enter the Colosseum such as gravediggers, actors, and ex-gladiators.
Colosseum Arena and Colosseum Hypogeum
The arena held a wooden base layered with sand carpeting an ornate underground arrangement known as the hypogeum. Today, what you can see is this hypogeum that holds subterranean series of tunnels and cages where gladiators and animals used to stand after coming from the nearby stables before entering the contest floor. A few tunnels were kept for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins to allow the contestants without letting them to pass via crowds.
Colosseum Rome Tours – Attraction
The Colossus Statue of Nero is mostly not missed by the tourists as it was responsible for the naming of the amphitheater. It is seen between the Colosseum and the adjacent Temple of Venus and Roma.
TIP: Daily tours are available for €10 along which you can also take a joint ticket to visit the nearby Palatine hill. Be alert from the guides who do not have a valid license.