The Coliseum: The Jewel of the Flavian Dynasty

The great empire of Rome gave the world many technological and architectural wonders, including aqueducts and roads, and it is simply impossible to take a trip to Italy without visiting some of the iconic structures left behind by our progenitors. You may not be an Italian, but Rome was at the center of the Western world for long enough to have influenced a great many cultures and to have left its mark on the world. One of the most famous sites, the Coliseum, set the scene for gladiatorial battles which have influenced organized sports and the arenas that house them even to this day.

A bit of history

You might be familiar with the general history of the Coliseum, as an arena for battle and public sport, but the building has been repurposed over the span of eras due to its sturdiness. Construction began in 72 AD and was finished by 80 AD by the Flavian dynasty, which also originally lent its name to the stadium.

The Roman ColosseumThe name ‘Coliseum’ as we know it, came from a nearby statue of Emperor Nero, known as Colosso di Nerone, though the structure was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre. The amphitheater was able to hold anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 spectators in its prime, and served as the site for historic gladiatorial battles. To inaugurate the arena, a marathon of games for 100 days and nights was held, in which an estimated 5000 animals were slaughtered. Though the Coliseum isn’t the largest amphitheater in ancient Rome, it certainly played host to one of the largest parties.

After the fall of Rome, like much of the surrounding city, the Coliseum was repurposed in some unexpected ways. The vast building served as the site for Roman Catholic ceremonies for some time, but was also used as a fortress by the Frangipani and Annibaldi families.

Due to the quality of the materials used, the Coliseum has also been quarried for the exquisite travertine covering its walls and columns. The travertine has been used in countless buildings and for sculptures because of its beauty. Pilfering materials from ruins was, of course, in no way particular to the Coliseum though, which has created a need to protect historical sites around the world. The Coliseum did survive though, and in 2011, a restoration plan was proposed by Diego Della Valle. The project is due to be finished by 2016 and promises to be worth the wait.

Tours of the Colosseum

Ancient Rome and Colosseum Half-Day Tour Colosseum and Ancient Rome Tour by Night Colosseum Underground Small-Group Tour

Start your tour near Oppian Hill to enjoy panoramic views of the Colosseum, and then stroll down to it. As you walk around the Colosseum’s first and second tiers, you will hear tales of gladiators, mock sea-battles and executions.

See Ancient Rome and the Colosseum by night on this exciting evening tour! Hear little-known facts about Rome’s top sights and gain rare access to the Colosseum after dark, walking around its arena floor and underground chambers.

Follow a local guide and immerse yourself into the fascinating atmosphere of Ancient Rome, touring the mighty Colosseum, including the subterranean underground chambers usually restricted to visitors.
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Touring the Coliseum

If you’re planning on taking a trip to see the immense Coliseum for yourself, be sure to check out the Museum to Eros and to take the time to see the building in its entirety.

Roman ColosseumThere are four main areas to view and all have their own little piece of history and charm to be discovered. The exterior is of course the part that most people recognize, with beautiful arches and columns that are endemic to Roman architecture.

The seating area has three tiers, each meant for a different part of society with a raised area for VIPs who would have been watching the game.

The arena is of course, down below, and would have been where the beasts would have been pitted against gladiators who, despite popular belief and movie depictions, were much like our own sports icons today. They even had their own sponsorship deals and were celebrities in their own right. In fact, the emperor had to pay their families in the event of their deaths, so it was crucial that the games be as safe as possible for the participants. They would have been housed in the last area, the hypogeum, which was a vast backstage and underground area where performers and fighters could wait and warm up before their big entrance.

The Coliseum has paid tours, though there are discounts for members of the EU, and EU residents under 18 are free! Touring the hypogeum can be extra and it’s best to book a walk ahead of time. It is a must-see historical site though, if only for its immensity and amazing architecture design.