Saturday, December 14, 2013


The Colosseum, also called the Flavian Ampitheater, is one of the great works of Roman engineering.

The Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of concrete and stone, it was the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, and is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. It is the largest amphitheatre in the world.

The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in 70 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius).

Rev: "December is a good time to go not too crowded. A very pleasant place to go around and staff very helpful Buy a ticket for the week this covers many other sites and is great value."
The Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.

Although in the 21st century it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions and has close connections with the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit "Way of the Cross" procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.

Rev: "this is a must see. We didn't hire a guide, but there are many about if you want to. There is a public restroom here, a rare thing in Rome, so take advantage of this."
The Colosseum, like all the Historic Centre of Rome, Properties of the Holy See in Italy and the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980. In 2007 the complex was also included among the New7Wonders of the World, following a competition organized by New Open World Corporation (NOWC). The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.

The Colosseum's original Latin name was Amphitheatrum Flavium, often anglicized as Flavian Amphitheater. The building was constructed by emperors of the Flavian dynasty, following the reign of Nero. This name is still used in modern English, but generally the structure is better known as the Colosseum.

Rev: "You must admire it... You stand in front of this and feel how small you are... The view is nice from all the sides."
In antiquity, Romans may have referred to the Colosseum by the unofficial name Amphitheatrum Caesareum (with Caesareum an adjective pertaining to the title Caesar), but this name may have been strictly poetic as it was not exclusive to the Colosseum; Vespasian and Titus, builders of the Colosseum, also constructed an amphitheater of the same name in Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli).

The name Colosseum has long been believed to be derived from a colossal statue of Nero nearby (the statue of Nero was named after the Colossus of Rhodes). This statue was later remodeled by Nero's successors into the likeness of Helios (Sol) or Apollo, the sun god, by adding the appropriate solar crown.

Rev: "I know this is one of the main tourist must see's in Rome but it is really well worth a visit. As usual there are the touts outside, they are trying to offer a guided trio on top of the ticket entrance. You can buy a tape recorded device, but there is quite good information in English located around if you can take the time to read."
Nero's head was also replaced several times with the heads of succeeding emperors. Despite its pagan links, the statue remained standing well into the medieval era and was credited with magical powers. It came to be seen as an iconic symbol of the permanence of Rome. In the 8th century, a famous epigram attributed to the Venerable Bede celebrated the symbolic significance of the statue in a prophecy that is variously quoted: "as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world".

Rev: "This is definitely something you should see! And I suggest getting a good tour guide. You learn so much! Standing in a structure that has so much history is incredible. Having a good tour guide can really enhance that experience."
This is often mistranslated to refer to the Colosseum rather than the Colossus (as in, for instance, Byron's poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage). However, at the time that the Pseudo-Bede wrote, the masculine noun coliseus was applied to the statue rather than to what was still known as the Flavian amphitheatre.

Rev: "Visited on a Saturday early afternoon so I was worried that the queue would be huge. It turned out that it wasn't too bad (maybe about 20mins to get to the ticket booths). Definately pay the extra few euro and get a guided tour from the booth. You get access to the reconstructed arena floor section, the underground section and the top tier sections. The tour lasts around 2 hours and really helps to bring the history of the place to life and clears up some common misconceptions introduced through Hollywood etc. I usually dont bother with tours but this one was totally worth the extra few euro!"
The Colossus did eventually fall, possibly being pulled down to reuse its bronze. By the year 1000 the name "Colosseum" had been coined to refer to the amphitheatre. The statue itself was largely forgotten and only its base survives, situated between the Colosseum and the nearby Temple of Venus and Roma. The name further evolved to Coliseum during the Middle Ages. In Italy, the amphitheatre is still known as il Colosseo, and other Romance languages have come to use similar forms such as le Colisée (French), el Coliseo (Spanish) and o Coliseu (Portuguese).

Rev: "This was a sight that you really need to be there to describe really how big it is. I really loved seeing everything here. The only word of warning is there are a lot of street sellers around outside, but they are not too pushy, I have experienced worse and if you say no, they generally leave you alone. However, a great place and would recommend it as a must see in Rome. It's not too expensive to get in, and the admission price covers entrance to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine, It is a couple of hours at most activity, and we went at night as it looks amazing lit up at night."
Construction of the Colosseum began under the rule of the Emperor Vespasian in around 70–72 AD, funded by the spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the Siege of Jerusalem. The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills, through which a canalised stream ran. By the 2nd century BC the area was densely inhabited. It was devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, following which Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. He built the grandiose Domus Aurea on the site, in front of which he created an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes. The existing Aqua Claudia aqueduct was extended to supply water to the area and the gigantic bronze Colossus of Nero was set up nearby at the entrance to the Domus Aurea.

Rev: "The guides for groups, for a fraction of the Hotel cost you get basically the same tour: the Colosseum and the Forum. Lot's of walking at the Forum. Concise info given. Time a little tight, but then, you will need more than a month if you truly want to see it all !"
The Colosseum underwent several radical changes of use during the medieval period. By the late 6th century a small church had been built into the structure of the amphitheatre, though this apparently did not confer any particular religious significance on the building as a whole. The arena was converted into a cemetery. The numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were converted into housing and workshops, and are recorded as still being rented out as late as the 12th century. Around 1200 the Frangipani family took over the Colosseum and fortified it, apparently using it as a castle.

Rev: "Again, I'm writing a late review, as we visited in Feb '10. However Rome is such an amazing place, with so much history. This is only one of several place to be sure to visit. But it truly is amazing how old these structures are (compared to the US)."
During the 16th and 17th century, Church officials sought a productive role for the Colosseum. Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) planned to turn the building into a wool factory to provide employment for Rome's prostitutes, though this proposal fell through with his premature death. In 1671 Cardinal Altieri authorized its use for bullfights; a public outcry caused the idea to be hastily abandoned.

Rev: "The Colosseum isn't listed as one of the "Seven Wonders of the World" for nothing. This was our first stop in Rome, and it got our day off to an incredible start. The sense of history walking into the ancient amphitheater for the first time is just overwhelming. What was really interesting is that after it was deserted, it was partially destroyed by earthquakes in the ninth and 13th centuries and Roman builders gutted it of just about all its marble for other construction projects. Some of the original marble flooring and remnants of stone works that weren't hauled off are still scattered all over the interior."
Unlike earlier Greek theatres that were built into hillsides, the Colosseum is an entirely free-standing structure. It derives its basic exterior and interior architecture from that of two Roman theatres back to back. It is elliptical in plan and is 189 meters long, and 156 meters wide, with a base area of 6 acres. The height of the outer wall is 48 meters. The perimeter originally measured 545 meters. The central arena is an oval 87 m long and 55 m wide, surrounded by a wall 5 m high, above which rose tiers of seating.

The outer wall is estimated to have required over 100,000 cubic metres of travertine stone which were set without mortar held together by 300 tons of iron clamps.

Rev: "Well worth the money. It's best to buy the combined Palatine Hill and get the tickets from the Palatine Hill. You'll save hours of waiting in line at the Colosseum."
However, it has suffered extensive damage over the centuries, with large segments having collapsed following earthquakes. The north side of the perimeter wall is still standing; the distinctive triangular brick wedges at each end are modern additions, having been constructed in the early 19th century to shore up the wall. The remainder of the present-day exterior of the Colosseum is in fact the original interior wall.

The surviving part of the outer wall's monumental façade comprises three stories of superimposed arcades surmounted by a podium on which stands a tall attic, both of which are pierced by windows interspersed at regular intervals. The arcades are framed by half-columns of the Tuscan, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, while the attic is decorated with Corinthian pilasters. Each of the arches in the second- and third-floor arcades framed statues, probably honoring divinities and other figures from Classical mythology.

Rev: "Book a tour which takes you underground and upstairs, where "normal visitors" don't get. Fantastic place"
According to the Codex-Calendar of 354, the Colosseum could accommodate 87,000 people, although modern estimates put the figure at around 50,000. They were seated in a tiered arrangement that reflected the rigidly stratified nature of Roman society. Special boxes were provided at the north and south ends respectively for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins, providing the best views of the arena. Flanking them at the same level was a broad platform or podium for the senatorial class, who were allowed to bring their own chairs. The names of some 5th century senators can still be seen carved into the stonework, presumably reserving areas for their use.

Rev: "Visiting the Colosseum was the highlight of my trip! Getting the chance to walk the corridors Romans walked hundreds of years ago was amazing. Our tour guide shared a lot of interesting facts about the place that I was not aware of. There's so much history in this one structure, you can't help but learn a lot during your visit. I'm so happy that I had a chance to visit it!"
The arena itself was 83 meters by 48 meters. It comprised a wooden floor covered by sand (the Latin word for sand is harena or arena), covering an elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum (literally meaning "underground"). Little now remains of the original arena floor, but the hypogeum is still clearly visible. It consisted of a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. Eighty vertical shafts provided instant access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath; larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and the like.

It was restructured on numerous occasions; at least twelve different phases of construction can be seen. The Colosseum and its activities supported a substantial industry in the area. In addition to the amphitheatre itself, many other buildings nearby were linked to the games.

Rev: "Great historic place to visit. Particularly easy to see with a Roma Pass. Many stairs, so be prepared to climb but the views are very much worth it."
Immediately to the east is the remains of the Ludus Magnus, a training school for gladiators. This was connected to the Colosseum by an underground passage, to allow easy access for the gladiators. The Ludus Magnus had its own miniature training arena, which was itself a popular attraction for Roman spectators. Other training schools were in the same area, including the Ludus Matutinus (Morning School), where fighters of animals were trained, plus the Dacian and Gallic Schools.

The Colosseum was used to host gladiatorial shows as well as a variety of other events. The shows, called munera, were always given by private individuals rather than the state. They had a strong religious element but were also demonstrations of power and family prestige, and were immensely popular with the population.

Rev: "I toured the outside only - I was told going inside wasn't worth it. I was there in the off season so the crowds weren't crazy and I could just wander around the site on my own in awe!"
Another popular type of show was the animal hunt, or venatio. This utilized a great variety of wild beasts, mainly imported from Africa and the Middle East, and included creatures such as rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, elephants, giraffes, aurochs, wisents, Barbary lions, panthers, leopards, bears, Caspian tigers, crocodiles and ostriches. Battles and hunts were often staged amid elaborate sets with movable trees and buildings. Such events were occasionally on a huge scale; Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia in 107 with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days.

Rev: "The Colosseum is probably the most important place to visit in Rome. The fact that it is still there after almost 2000 years is simply outstanding. I suggest buying an audio-video guide to help you get an idea of what it used to be like back then. Gladiators, naval battles, huge crowds, it's breathtaking. And the size is impressive for such an old building. It used to have room for 60000 people, similar to a modern day football stadium. I highly recommend a visit here!"





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