Visiting the Colosseum in Rome

History. Architecture. Beauty. Intrigue. All of these words perfectly describe the Roman Colosseum. The Colosseum opened to the public around 1,930 years ago. The Roman Colosseum was originally constructed for the purpose of hosting contests between gladiators and putting forth many other forms of public entertainment. The architectural wonder of Italy eventually became home to events as diverse as executions, mock sea battles, dramas about Roman mythology and animal hunts. Over the years, the Colosseum has been used as a church, utilized as a fortress, and even a quarry. Once having a massive capacity of over 50,000 people, this feat of Roman architecture is a constant reminder of the monumental achievements of a fallen empire.

The Colosseum is an elliptical free-standing structure. It is 189 meters long, 156 meters wide, and 48 meters tall. The structure covers over six acres and is made of tough travertine stone. Most of the destruction  has been initiated by the massive earthquakes that have rocked the area over the nearly two millennia the structure has been standing. The three stories of the surviving wall are still extremely beautiful, with arches containing statues classic mythological figures. At the time that it was operational, spectators were shown which section and row to sit in with numbered pottery shards, the predecessor of the modern ticket.

The gladiatorial shows are the most famous of the events held in the Colosseum, but there were many incredible events that took place in the colossal structure. A venatio, or animal hunt, was conducted with many different types of animals, including tigers, the now-extinct cow ancestor, the aurochs, bears, leopards, and many other exotics. The flooding of the floor must have been an incredible sight. Swimming horse and bulls swam around warships in the arena. Another spectacle took place when natural scenes were created to simulate environments, complete with animals.

Today, the Colosseum draws in millions of visitors every year. Although time and pollution have affected the interior, it was recently restored to the tune of 19.3 million US dollars, which included a partial reflooring of the arena. What we see today is no more than a shell of the original structure. The outer three-fifths of the wall are missing, but the fact that the building remains at all is extraordinary. Many contemporary performers have held concerts in front of the Colosseum, including Ray Charles and Elton John. European Union citizens have a partially subsidized entry fee, and EU children and senior citizens enter for free. The tour experience now include a museum on the outer wall’s upper floor. The ticket prices also includes a entrance to the ruins of the nearby Roman Palatino, the place for which palaces are named. In a tour of Rome, it would be a shame not to visit such wonderful national treasures. The once in a lifetime experience of visiting the Colosseum is not an opportunity to miss.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: Renégat