The Colossal Colosseum
“While the Colosseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Colosseum falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, the world shall fall.” – Venerable Bede
After almost 2,000 years… after all the earthquakes, storms, lightnings, plunderers, wars (including the bombings of WWII), and all the other destructions brought about by forces of nature and humans, the gigantic Colosseum today firmly stands in the center of Rome… it is still the world’s most famous sports arena and the most famous structure in Rome. It’s a physical reminder of Rome’s imperial power, which it was originally designed to demonstrate.
In 72 AD, Emperor Vespasian, whose reign was from 69 to 79 AD, ordered the Colosseum to be built at the site of Emperor Nero’s Golden House with a huge statue of Nero called the Colossus statue, where Colosseum got its name.
It’s a huge scale architectural symbol, sending a strong and loud message to the world that Rome was still powerful… a flagrant rising after its fall under Nero’s devastating rule and the great fire of Rome in 64 AD that severely damaged the city. Vespasian did not live long enough to see its completion for he died of natural causes in 79 AD. It opened in 80 AD, during the reign of his eldest son Titus but he too, did not live long enough to see its completion for after just two years on the throne, he died of an incurable disease. The Colosseum was finally completed during the reign of Titus’ younger brother Domitian, who reigned as emperor from 81-96 AD.
The arch, which became one of the symbols of the Roman’s technical achievement, was all around the Colosseum, with all 80 arches serving as entrance gates.
Entering this enormous amphitheater with a height of 48 meters on a land of 5 acres, I could imagine when it was still used for entertainment, which ran for almost 400 years. Imagine around 50,000 blood-thirsty spectators seated on concrete tiers according to rank, around an oval arena where the thrilling and dangerous chariot races were held… where Roman gladiators fought for their lives… where people were made to fight wild animals!
At the inaugural games, thousands of wild animals were killed, criminals and prisoners-of-war were executed, and gladiatorial combats lasted for more than a hundred days.
An exhibit in the Colosseum shows some faunal remains which were found during the excavation.
There are available tours which will walk you through tunnels and underground dungeons where the wild animals and gladiators were organized and waited for their turns to be lifted up to the fighting arena.
A massive wall of over 16 feet tall was built around the arena to protect the spectators from attacks by wild animals and above that wall is a platform, the first tier where the imperial party – the Emperor and his family, Senators, Vestal Virgins, and other VIPs were seated.
As the seating of the spectators was arranged according to social status, the 2nd tier was for the knights, the third for the plebeians or ordinary citizens and the fourth was for the common women.
This is an illustration inside the amphitheater during a game in ancient times.
It seems like an extreme irony that the Colosseum ultimately became a symbol of the international campaign against death penalty. Indeed, what could be a more blatant symbol to juxtapose such intense issues than the Colosseum? The people behind this are not only rigid adherents to the cause…they’re so creative to have thought of this, including to change the light from white to gold every time there’s a death penalty commutation or abolition anywhere in the world.
The Colosseum is today the most famous structure in Rome and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a whopping revenue of over 48 million US dollars from over 6.5 million people who visited the place in 2015.
There’s always a long queue to get inside so it’s better to get a skip the line guided tour, which will include the Palatine Hill and The Roman Forum, as the three are situated in the same area.
For tickets and admission details, you can visit this website : http://www.the-colosseum.net/around/visit.htm
For skip the line with priority-entrance tickets, you can check this website: https://www.viator.com/search/colosseum