What surprised me most with the Flavian amphitheatre is that this huge construction with a circumference of about 540 m and 50 m high was build within a period of only six years (excepting some decorative elements who took more time).
The construction of the Coliseum is a brilliant example of the efficiency of the Imperial Roman organisation.
The main material is travertine of which it is estimated that 100 thousand m³ were used, with 6000 tons of concrete (so called "Roman concrete") for the vaults and 300 tons of iron clamps to fasten the stone blocks together. I read that to speed up the construction the building site was divided in four operational sectors - quadrants attributed to four different contractors following a meticulous plan.
If nothing is known about the architect of the Coliseum, we know from Suetone that Emperor Vespasien puts hands at work and removed and carried a load of rubble on his back.
VT members who are interested in the technique of this antique building can find full details on
The money for the building came according to an inscription whose translation means:
"Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus had this new amphitheatre erected with the spoils of war" probably the Palestinian war and the plundering of the Temple of Jerusalem.
The spectacle inside the amphitheatre was not as glorious as the construction.
For the inauguration in 80 AD by the Emperor Titus there were 100 days of "munera" i.e. fights with gladiators and "venationes" fights with wild animals.
The difference between Greek and Roman mentality was very visible here. Romans liked strong emotions; entertainment showing more dignity like athletic competitions was not in favour with the Roman public as it was with the Greeks.
Open all days from 08.30 h.
Closing times: 16.30 h in winter, increasing to 19.00 h in summer
Attention: closed on 1/01 and 25/12 !
Tickets available at the Coliseum but also at the "biglietterie" of the Palatino, via di San Gregoriano, 30 or Piazza Santa Maria Nova, 53 at 200m from the Coliseum (also the ticket offices of the Forum as the ticket is a combined one).
Price: normal 12 €, reduced 7,50 € for EU citizens between 18 and 24 years old. (on line + 1.50 or 2 €). Valid for two days. Free for EU citizens less than 18 or 65 years old.
NEW: Diego Della Valle, owner of Tod's shoe company, will invest 25 million euros in the renovation of the Coliseum. The amphitheater looks black from the pollution and the vibrations of the nearby subway make bricks fall down. The renovation would start this year and will last for 3 years. The monument will remain open to the public.
We intended to visited the colloseum. 12 Euros entrance fee which includes the forum and Palatine Hill, but the queues were so long we did not bother. Probably pre-booking on line is your best bet for a visit. Instead of visiting we walked all the way round the outside admiring it from different angles. It looks different from different sides. It is also illuminated at night. It is possible to see the colloseum and forum well without going in. We also walked up the free road on the Palatine Hill but while this gives you good views over the forum, you can see next to nothing of the Palatine Hill remains. Our best view of them came from the Circe Maximus.
We had read in advance that it was OK to get tickets for the colloseum, forum and Palatine from the Palatine entrance. However, at Christmas there were hundreds of people there, too.
What else can I say without repeating what everybody knows? It has nothing to add to what we saw in movies, TV, guides and books. Only the sensation of being there, the sense of proportions, the success of passing all lines and controls.
Reaching an high place, we have the opportunity to free your imagination and mentally replace the crowds with guides and cameras by thousands of nervous people, breeding the smell of blood from below, and the comfort of being out of the arena.
Browsing the lower corridors, it's possible to feel the imprisonment of the fighters, waiting for their destination.
1. Construction: Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian Dynasty, started its construction in 72 AD. His son, Emperor Titus, completed it in 80 AD with improvements by Emperor Domitian, Vespasian's younger son, who also constructed the hypogeum (meaning 'underground'), a number of underground tunnels for housing animals and slaves. Built of concrete and stone, it is considered to be one of the greatest works of Roman ingenuity, Roman architecture and Roman engineering skill. It was easily the most impressive building of the Roman Empire and the largest building of that era.
2. Original Name: Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater. The nearby Colossus statue of Emperor Nero, now no longer visible, gave the building its name.
3. Site: Built on the site of an artificial lake, part of Emperor Nero's huge park in the center of Rome.
4. Current position: The southern side of the Colosseum collapsed during an earthquake in 847. Parts of the building were used for the construction of later monuments, including St. Peter's Basilica. Though in ruins today, it retains its majesty and is a beautiful sight, especially at night when the lights are used to telling effect.
5. Specifications: The elliptical building measures 616 ft (188 m) by 511 ft (156 m) and is more than 160 ft (48 m) in height. In its heydays, its elliptical design could accommodate some 50,000 spectators who entered and exited through 80 entrances for speedy assembly and dispersal. There are 4 storeys above the ground, with sitting arrangements according to social standing, the poorest occupying the top-most storey.
The names of some 5th century senators are carved into the stonework, possibly reserving the area for their use. Rooms below the ground were for cages containing wild animals which could be hoisted directly to the middle of the arena. To protect spectators from the harsh rays of the sun, a huge valarium or awning was used. The seats were inclined in such a way that the angle afforded everyone a perfect view of the arena.
6. Use: For entertaining the public with free games which were a symbol of power and prestige and indirectly, to increase the popularity of the Emperor as well as distract the people from political processes or the humdrum activity of life. Gladiators fights were the most sought-after events, the fighters usually condemned criminals or prisoners of war or slaves. Sometimes these gladiators were pitted against wild animals. It is reported a 100-days' games was held by Titus for the inauguration of the building, with some 9,000 wild animals taking part. It is recorded that as gladiators fought, the spectators reviled them with cries and curses egging them on, much like the wrestling bouts and the boxing events that mark present day man-to-man sports. One contest followed another throughout the day and if the ground became too blood-soaked, it was quickly covered over with a fresh layer of sand and the show went on. (herena=sand'; modern-day 'arena').
The gladiators entered the packed arena to the accompaniment of trumpets from an underground passage that linked their barrack to the arena. One round of the arena and then they paid homage to the Emperor with the words, "Ave Cesare morituri te salutant" or "Hail Caesar, those who are about to die salute you".
It is not true that the Colosseum was used to kill Christians as a kind of spectacle.
7. Its Decline: With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 6th. century, the Colosseum fell into disuse. Threatened with demolition by Pope Sixtus V, Pope Benedict XIV declared it a sacred monument by the simple expedient of placing a cross on a pedestal at the Colosseum and dedicating the site to the Passion of Christ as a symbol of the sufferings of all Christian martyrs. On Good Friday, this cross is the starting point for the Way of the Cross procession. Subsequent Popes restored and consolidated the building.
8. Cannibilisation: Almost the entire outer surrounding brick wall is gone. During the Middle Ages, the marble, lead and iron was used to build Barberini Palace, Piazza Venezia and even St. Peter's. The holes seen in many columns are the places from where the lead and iron were extracted. These had been used by the ancient Romans to hold the marble blocks together.
9. Attractions Close by: Arch of Constantine; Arch of Titus; Arch of Septimius Severus; Capitoline Hill; Circus Maximus; Imperial Forum; Roman Forum; Palatine Hill; Trajan's Markets.
10. Other Trivia:
The Colosseum was built in 10 years flat. Considering its size this is no mean feat; it is remarkable.
The steps are 10 inches high. While climbing up, your knee almost touches your chin. It is quite an effort to reach the upper levels.
The Colosseum served as an entertainment centre for Roman citizens for almost 450 years. One can well imagine the amount of blood of man and beast that has seeped through the arena.
The Colosseum is depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.
The audience went to their seats and exited the arena via the 80-odd vomitoria passages quickly. The term, 'vomitoria' is derived from the Latin word for a rapid discharge. The English language borrowed it and we have the word, 'vomit'.
The arena comprised a wooden floor covered by sand. The Latin word for sand is harena or arena. Hence the English word, 'arena'.
Some of the artists who have used the structure as a backdrop for their art are
Paul McCartney (May 2003), Elton John (Sep. 2005) and Billy Joel (Jul. 2006).
The Colosseum is the backdrop for several scenes in the film 'Roman Holiday' (1953).
Bruce Lee's fight with Chuck Norris in 'The Way of the Dragon' (1972) was staged in the Colosseum.
It is now a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment, a practice which was abolished in Italy in 1948. The colour of the night time illumination of the Colosseum is changed from white to gold whenever the death sentence of a person is commuted or the person is released or the death sentence is repealed anywhere in the world. When capital punishment was abolished in New Mexico (USA) in 2009, the Colosseum was illuminated in gold.
If you would like to play a quiz, here is a link:
"To raise public revenue, Emperor Vespasian--who built the Colosseum--was the first to introduce pay toilets in the city of Rome. When his son and successor Titus protested that the toilets were raising a stink with the poor, Vespasian held a coin up to his nose and said, "money doesn't stink." Today, Romans still refer to public toilets as vespasiano." (http://www.corsinet.com/trivia/u-triv.html).
Hours: Sun-Sat 8:30am-6:30pm
First Written: Dec. 12, 2012
Yes, it's another tip on the Colosseum but our visit included getting to see the dungeons/hypogeum and the third level of the walls which can only be accessed via a formal tour.
The Colosseum is an amphitheatre and was started in 72 C.E. It was completed and opened in 80 C.E. under Emperor Titus. It was used for public spectacles and festivals and gladiator competitions but was probably not used to set the early Christians against the lions as is popularly thought. It is believed that it's name was taken from a statue of Nero erected nearby which in turn was modeled after the Colossus of Rhodes. It was covered in marble and was painted but after the fall of Rome, the stone was pinched over the centuries to be used to build other things in the city.
The Colosseum was generally opened to the public for 3 or 4 times a year, but for weeks each time as the spectacles and festivals would last that long. It's one of the top attractions in Rome so if you just turn up you will have to queue for tickets and it could be some time during the busiest times of the year. If you can, it's well worth booking tickets ahead of time online. You can then zip through a much shorter line.
We booked with Tickitaly.com and booked the tour that includes the dungeons/basement part which has only been open to the public for a couple of years as has the third level. You get to go into the dungeons with the guide who points out where the original floors and walls were, where the winches were to raise the props and cages etc. to the main arena, where the tunnels to the gladiator barracks probably were as well. You can't go right out into the various corridors as they have not been shored up but you get a unique view from where you are.
The tour started outside with some discussion on the construction of the building. We then climbed up two steep sets of stairs to the second level. There is also a museum up there with lots of things to look at as well as a little gift shop. The views are good but even better from the third level, up another steep set of uneven stairs. The hypogeum (basements) are down a proper set of stairs. There is a lift but they seem to be restricted to disabled and elderly people.
We really enjoyed the tour and had a good guide. They use radio devices similar to mobile phones so you can hear the guide without them having to shout. The ticket to the Colosseum even without the tour allows you entry to the roman Forums and Palatine Hill across the road though I think those two are free anyway. The basic cost for an adult is 12 euros, and is good for 2 days. The extra tour for just the Colosseum lasts a little over an hour and there are also 3 hour tours that include the Forums in the high season. We were there in November so the only thing available was the shorter tour and I don't know if we'd have had the energy for the full 3 hours anyway.
No tradition existed in Rome in the Middle Ages which associated the martyrs in any way with the Coliseum. It was only in the 17th c. that this amphitheatre came to be regarded as a scene of early Christian heroism.
It were pious personages like Carlo Tomassi and several popes (Clement X, Benedict XIV) who first closed the exterior arcades and made the Coliseum become a sanctuary.
It is a fact that when the Coliseum stood in grave danger of demolition it was saved by the pious belief which placed it in the category of monuments of the early Martyrs.
But are there real historical grounds for regarding it so?
In the Catholic Church the specialists of the acts of the Saints and Martyrs are the Bollandists, they are Jesuits and have strong links with Belgium where they started and continue their hagiographical work.
According to father H. Delehaye, a famous Bollandist, it is probable that some of the Christians were killed by wild beasts in the Coliseum but there is just as much reason to suppose that they met their death in one of the other places dedicated to the cruel amusements of imperial Rome: the Circus Flaminius, the Stadium of Domitian, etc.
Little attention was paid by the Christians of the first age to the actual place of a martyr's sufferings so that historical evidence is inconclusive.
Open all days from 08.30 h.
Closing times in 2012:
16/02 - 15/03 = 17.00 h (last entry 1 hour before closure)
16/03 - 26/03 = 17.30 h
27/03 - 31/08 = 19.15 h(
01/09 - 30/09 = 19.00 h
01/10 - 30/10 = 18.30 h
31/10/11 - 15/02/12 = 16.30 h
Attention: closed on 1/01 and 25/12 !
NEW: Diego Della Valle, owner of Tod's shoe company, will invest 25 million euros in the RENOVATION of the Coliseum. The amphitheater looks black from the pollution and the vibrations of the nearby subway make bricks fall down. The renovation would start late this year and will last for 2,5 years. The monument will remain open to the public.
Colosseum means colossal and huge. Originally it was called the Flavian Amphitheatre and it was the biggest . Amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. It has been there for 2000 years, through earthquake, looting, pollution and all the vibrations from the heavy Italian traffic. So the designers must have done a hell of good groundwork!
“In Rome, the emperor sat in a special part of the Coliseum called the Caesarian Section.”
— George Carlin (1937-2008)
Properly known as the Amphitheatrum Flavium (Flavian Amphitheatre), this arena, which could seat 50,000 spectators, did not come to be called the Colosseum because of its size, 1,640 feet in circumference. The reason for the popular name is not because it was big, which it is, but because of the gold-plated colossal sculpture, on longer exiting, that once stood beside it.
Colossus Neronis was 98-foot tall bronze likeness of Emperor Nero (37–68 AD). He had it erected in the vestibule of his imperial villa, known as the Domus Aurea. After Nero’s death, it was refashioned into the sun god, Sol Invictus, and moved next to the Flavian Amphitheatre.
Emperor Vespasian began building the Colosseum in AD 72 on the site of a newly drained lake in the grounds of Nero’s Domus Aurea. The greatest amphitheatre the Romans built it is the most recognized landmark of the Eternal City.
The web site listed, though not the official one, is a valuable resource for factual and visitor’s information.
We started to explore Rome from The Colosseum, or the Flavian Amphitheatre. It is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome and the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering.
You can watch my 2 min 15 sec Video Rome Colosseum out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
Colosseum admission fee:
Full ticket - €15.50
EU reduced ticket - €10.50 (available only for European citizens aged between 18 and 25)
EU complimentary ticket- €4.50 (available only for EU citizens aged above 65 and under 18)
Mid February - mid March: 9 AM - 4.30 PM
Mid March - end March: 9 AM - 5.00 PM
End March - end August: 9 AM - 7.00 PM
End August - end Sept.: 9 AM - 6.30 PM
End Sept. - end October: 9 AM - 6.00 PM
End October - mid March: 9 AM - 4.00 PM
Top of everyones list whilst visiting Italy is the Colosseum and although it was more than impressive with it’s incredible history, and its ability to stand tall century after century, I left feeling dissappointed.
What was once a tremendous building that was used for all kinds of entertainment is slowing turning to a ruin from earthquakes and people who discreetly chip away at the stone and sell it.
Although there is an clear sign of restoration work being done, the background of a busy metropolitan city kinda ruined the historical experiance for me.
Either way, its a piece of architecture that simply cannot be missed, or even avoided due to its large size!
I would allow a full morning or afternoon to see it fully.
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