The Roman Colosseum stands proudly for almost 2,000 years! Photography: Jeff Titelius
Opening in A.D. 80, the Roman Colosseum has been standing for almost 2,000 years - a testament to the tenacity and engineering prowess of the people of ancient Rome. This must-see on everyone’s Rome itinerary captures the imagination and one can’t help but be awe-struck by its sheer size, not to mention the fact that it’s been standing here for almost 2,000 years! Are you ready to journey back to the age of the gladiator, back to be among the 80,000 spectators who attended any number of the public events to watch gladiators battle to the death, to witness public executions or to seek the thrill of the hunt? Come along on this guided tour of the Roman Colosseum. See slide show at end of article.
Also known as the Flavian Ampitheatre because it was erected during the Flavian Dynasty between A.D. 69 and 96, the Roman Colosseum was built by three Flavian Emperors and opened to the Roman public in A.D. 80. It is uncertain how this structure came to be known as the Colosseum but two theories prevail: the first for the apparent reason – its titanic proportions; and the latter and lesser known but more commonly believed, a derivation of the "colossal" statue of Nero that stood outside the gates of the Roman Colosseum of which only its base remains today planted with five trees.
Behold the architectural details of this mighty edifice that transcends time! Its façade is comprised of four levels of which the first three are adorned with increasingly ornate columns as you ascend from its base. “Ionic” columns, the simplest in design, grace the lowest level followed by “Doric” columns on the second level which feature more ornate capitals at the tops. Finally, the third level features the most ornate of all – the Corinthian columns – the most decorative of the three with highly fashioned capitals capping them off. In between the columns on the second and third levels, statues of Classical mythology filled the archways and niches. Unfortunately, not one remains today. At the fourth level or “attic,” Corinthian pilasters adorn the façade and it was at this level that an enormous awning – engineered with ropes and pulleys – cantilevered over the spectators protecting them from the harsh sun and rain.
If the exterior fascinates you, wait until you venture within the shell of the Colosseum and gaze out into the cavernous interior of the ancient arena. From the upper tiers to the labrynths below, the entire view is quite spectacular! Look down to where the partially reconstructed wooden floor reveals the pens that housed the gladiators and wild animals. Then look all around, it’s absolutely breathtaking!
Once you reach the upper tier, this is where your audio guide tour begins. If you're not on a guided tour, I strongly recommend the self-guided audio tour because it's extremely informative. While following directional cues to the next markers, this tour explains in detail everything you need to know about the ancient Colosseum from the top of the arena to the underground pens. Word of advice. Before you begin your audio tour, take a few moments to immerse yourself into your surroundings. Take your time and enjoy the scenery. After all, it's not everyday that you're standing in the 2,000 year old Roman Colosseum.
Before you go to the Roman Colosseum:
- Pre-purchase your tickets to avoid the extremely long queues that can develop throughout the day. For the best value, purchase the combination ticket for both the Roman Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Check out ItalyGuides.it for an amazing virtual tour of the ancient ruin and for information on purchasing tickets.
- The audio tour mentioned above is only a few Euros to rent the equipment and is available just after you enter the gates.
- If budget is no concern, let me suggest one of the many guided tours available. Prices range from approximately $30-$60 per person but are well worth it. Check out Roman Strolls or Viator Tours for starters.
- Be sure to do your homework and read a few of the guidebooks such as Rick Steves' Italy 2010 with map or National Geographic Traveler: Rome.
If you want to discover more of Rome, see articles below:
|Journey along via Sacra or Sacred Way and uncover more than 2,000 years of history in the Roman Forum.|
|Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.|
|A guided journey through Rome with Angels and Demons guiding the way.|