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Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Roma, Italy

GPS: 41.890475263772, 12.492267142105

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Formerly called the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum of Rome is certainly the most famous monument in the Old World. Located near the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill in the historic centre of the Italian capital, this stone giant can be considered the ancestor of modern stadiums. The Colosseum monument represents the largest building ever built by Roman civilization.

Characterized by its symphony of vaults and its elliptical shape, the Colosseum (“colossus” in Latin) retraces 2,000 years of history. Its location is chosen on the site of an ancient lake developed by Nero and its construction comes after a great fire that struck the city of Rome in the year 64 of our era. The Romans drained this place in order to host popular games, reconstructions of military wars, mythological episodes, naval battles (naumachiae), public executions, hunting parties with wild animals (venati) and bloody fighting gladiators (munera). It was the Emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian dynasty, who began the construction of the Colosseum in 70 AD to celebrate the victory of the Roman army during the Siege of Jerusalem. They are chased by his two sons, Titus and Domitian, before the end of the construction site ten years later. The inauguration games for the Flavian amphitheatre are sumptuous and are deployed for 100 consecutive days of festivities or shows during the reign of Titus.

In the bowels of the Colosseum, a network of underground passages called hypogeum is set up to accommodate wild animals, gladiators, chariots and imposing decorations emerging on stage. Reworked several times, the basements allow the actors to be propelled directly into the arena by a system of wooden hatches, rails, platforms and hoists (prefiguring today’s elevators). While its limestone is mainly extracted from the neighbouring quarry of Tivoli, the Colosseum was the first building to benefit from new building materials at that time: concrete and red brick. Altered by earthquakes as evidenced by its many apparent cracks (that of 1349 notably brought down an entire wall on the south side), the enclosure of the Colosseum ceases to be used in the Middle Ages. Its stone is extracted to build more modern monuments. Although in a state of ruin, this juggernaut today testifies to the power and ingenuity of the Roman Empire which dominated the Old World for centuries.

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  • The biggest amphitheatre in the world (188 meters in length, 50 meters high and 156 meters wide for 525 meters in circumference) ; the most beautiful example of an entertainment industry in Roman times and a forerunner of the modern day entertainment industry (whose configuration is close to contemporary stadiums)
  • The talent of engineering, the architectural know-how and the symbol par excellence of Roman culture; the combination of several architectural styles on the facade of the monument (revalued in 2016): Tuscan (close to Doric), Ionic and Corinthian orders
  • The heap of vaults, the pillar complex and the three levels of superimposed arcades; the system of inclined bleachers in order to optimize the spectators’ vision
  • The ingenious system of hatches, pulleys, access ramps, lifting with counterweights behind the scenes of the hypogeum to catapult wild beasts, gladiators or decorations in the arena; the underground labyrinth of galleries and spans of the monument
  • The network of canals to evacuate wastewater at the end of the shows; the remains of an old hydraulic system intended to flood the centre of the arena to promote the full-scale reconstruction of naval battles
  • The tumultuous story associated with the monument; the recent discovery of a palace buried close to the Colosseum (which could be attributed to Nero)
  • The situation of the Colosseum in the historical and archaeological heart of Rome
  • The Roman Forum (former shopping centre of the ancient city of Rome) and Palatine Hill (one of the seven historic hills of the city where the emperors lived) located near the Colosseum
  • Free entry on the first Sunday of each month
  • The Colosseum of Rome owes its name to a giant bronze statue representing the Emperor Nero, of which only the base remains today. Named the Colossus of Nero, it was almost 40 meters high. Appointed emperor when he was only 17 years old, Nero reigned from the year 54 to 68. He cultivates the reputation of a sulphurous person, of a cruel and despotic leader with brutal methods. He is said to have murdered his mother wishing to lead alongside him and several of his wives. Hated by the people of Rome who blamed him for the great fire that ravaged the city in 64, he committed suicide four years later. After his death, the Senate voted the damnatio memoriae, a condemnation to oblivion aiming to remove all traces of his reign.
  • On the terraces of Palatine Hill, overlooking the Roman Forum, an extraordinary dining room belonging to the former palace of Emperor Nero (anterior to the Colosseum monument) was recently uncovered. Dating from the 1st century, this imperial residence was known as Domus aurea (the “Golden House” in Latin) and was mentioned in a single ancient text written by Suetonius, a high Roman official. This round dining room had the particularity of turning on itself by imitating the movement of the world of stars (thanks to an ingenious system of ball bearings). According to the archaeologist Françoise Villedieu, who made this major discovery, the mechanism was based on a complex machinery that was powered by a water wheel operating day and night (it was connected to a huge aqueduct).
  • The Colosseum monument had a system of 80 different entrances to accommodate an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 spectators (the size of the amphitheatre is equivalent to the height of a modern 17-story building). Recent computer simulations have shown that it can be emptied of spectators in just 5 minutes. This stone vessel, built in just ten years, is a gift from the Flavian dynasty to the people of Rome.
  • Theatre of fascinating shows, the scene of the Colosseum was as big as a football field. A total of 160 bronze statues and massive shields adorned the outer arches of the monument.
  • On the top floor, a sort of retractable roof in the form of an awning (called velarium) was inspired by the sails of the ships. It was deployed by members of Castra di Roma antica to protect the audience from the sun. A system of refreshing mist enhanced the comfort of spectators in the event of high temperatures. The site of the Colosseum was linked to a gladiatorial school that has now disappeared. This barracks, called Ludus Magnus, included a training ground, a health centre, accommodation and a kitchen.
  • Together with the neighbouring Theatre of Marcellus, the Colosseum fulfiled several functions: to serve as a popular entertainment site to increase the emperor’s popularity and distract the citizens from politics, to advocate the glory of Rome in order to establish its domination over Europe and the Mediterranean basin and to enhance Roman engineering techniques in the eyes of the whole world. It served as a model for building other similar structures within the empire (including the Amphitheatre of El Jem in Tunisia).
  • The place occupied in the amphitheatre reflected its social class in Roman society (the poorest or most disadvantaged people occupied the upper parts of the monument).
  • Roman concrete is made of intertwined fibres reinforcing the solidity and durability of constructions such as Colosseum (this material turns out to be more robust than modern concrete). These fibres are made with volcanic ash (Pozzolan) and act as a cover rock. The ash comes mainly from the volcanic system of the Phlegraean Fields (near Naples).
  • According to French historian Virginie Girod, the first gladiatorial fights were organised in the 3rd century BC by the Etruscans, a civilization who predated the Romans. This practice became more and more professional and became a great leisure enterprise generating a lot of money. But the advent of Christianity put an end to these fights, just like the shows held in theatres. Only chariot racing continued in the Byzantine Empire.
  • Specialists of ancient Rome believe that several hundred thousand men and animals would have lost their lives in the Colosseum arena. Others go even further by believing that the Roman performances of the Colosseum would have contributed to the disappearance of the hippopotamus on the banks of the Nile as well as the elephant in North Africa.
  • Unknown fact, gladiatorial women fought in the arena of the Colosseum under the Roman Empire (notably under the reigns of Augustus, Domitian and Nero).
  • According to various legends, ghosts representing wild beasts, prisoners, slaves and bloodthirsty gladiators would wander the spans of the Colosseum after dark.
  • In early 2020, archaeological excavations led to the discovery of an underground chamber, a tuff sarcophagus and an altar under the Roman forum. They would be dated from the 6th century BC and could correspond to the burial of Romulus, the legendary founder of the legendary city of Rome.
  • By 2023, the Colosseum will have a new arena where it will be possible to admire the monument from its centre. This reconstruction will include a removable floor and will allow the organisation of cultural events.
  • Reduce your waiting time by buying your entry ticket online or at the coffers of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (combined ticket including the visit of the Colosseum).
  • Palatine Hill, located on one of the seven hills of Rome, offers a masterful view of the Italian capital.
  • Arm yourself with patience in high season. A maximum of 3,000 visitors are allowed to visit the interior of the Colosseum at the same time.
  • The upper levels of the Colosseum (stages IV and V) overlooking the arena 40 meters high are again open to the public after being made inaccessible for 40 years due to lack of maintenance.
  • In the near future, it is the arena and underground coulis of the monument that will be the subject of restoration work.

Where to eat

  • Pane & Vino
    (excellent sandwiches)
  • Zizzi Pizza
    (pizza by the slice)
  • Ai Tre Scalini-Bottiglieria dal 1895
    (animated wine bar)

Where to go out

  • Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran
    (major basilica of Rome)
  • Forum of Augustus
    (impressive ruins)
  • Parco Savello
    (masterful view)

Where to sleep

  • Colosseum B
    (central and warmful)
  • Rome Downtown Accomodation
    (well placed guest room)
  • iRooms Rome Forum...
    (modern and high-tech)

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