We had a tour booked for 9:25 at the Colosseum so we arrived at 8:30 (just to be on the safe side). The security guard told us to come back at 9:35 which was when they would open the security gates. We had an hour to wander around so did the loop around the outside of the Colosseum and then Constantine’s Arch which is close by. It is amazing to think that we are standing here, in the place where so much history has taken place, and will soon be going inside the largest amphitheatre ever built!!! WOW!!
The original structure was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. After the Great Fire of 64 AD, Nero built an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes. At the time of his death in 72 AD, the lake was drained and used as the base for the Amphitheatre. The funding came from the Jews that were defeated at Masada in Israel about this time. (See, you need to pay attention to previous blogs!!) Ok, enough of the boring stuff – let’s get to the actual tour!!
9:30 finally rolled around and we were back at the security gate waiting with all the other excited folks to be let inside. A young girl from Stuttgart, Germany and a couple from Calgary, Alberta were just a few of us that couldn’t wait for the gates to open. Our guide was a young Italian woman whose English was great – she just needed to think about a word every now and then. That didn’t matter because we were all gobsmacked as we went from floor to floor of this magnificent structure. We entered on the arena floor which has been partially reconstructed over a network of subterranean passageways once used to transport wild animals and gladiators to the arena. The underground structure has been very well preserved due to the fact that around the 5th century, after the excitement of gladiator and wild beast battles had deteriorated, the church decided that it should be filled in with soil. The church eventually took over this structure and it is still used to this day for Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
From the first floor we descended to the lower level. It is estimated that there were about 80 openings in the floor from the lower level to the arena level and a lift operated with pulleys and winches would transport the entertainers, the wild animals and of course the gladiators to the grand stage. I think that the movie Gladiator starring Russell Crowe shows this quite accurately. Another interesting note is that the arena floor was covered with sand in order to soak up the blood from all the killings. The Latin word for sand is haranae – pronounced arena. Hmmmm….
So from the basement we went all the way to the fifth floor – the very top. Though we were not exclusive, the only people that could get up there was with a tour so we still felt pretty important. The views were amazing and again, to think that 2000 years ago, the general public (well, actually just the women, children and the very poor) sat up here watching some good, old fashioned slaughtering – be it animals or humans. Check out Wikipedia to see the number of animals and people killed in a single day at the Colosseum. You won’t believe it!! Anyways, that effectively ended our tour but we were still able to walk around on the first and second floor for as long as we wanted. We did the loop on both of those floors, took a few more pictures and after a few more “I can’t believe this”, we headed to the Roman Forum.
The Roman Forum, just west of the Colosseum, has been in existence since the 7th century BC. The Forum’s beginnings are connected with the alliance between Romulus, the first king of Rome controlling the Palatine Hill, and his rival, Titus Tatius, who occupied the Capitoline Hill. The Forum was established in the valley between the two hills and became the hub of government, trade and other public affairs. The Forum evolved over time and became a mish mash of architectures, including basilicas, temples, crypts, podiums, streets, archways and plazas. Many of the ruins that we see today give us a very good look at what life would have been like during this time period.
After the Forum we were overwhelmed by all that we had seen. What better way to relax and absorb than to find a cute little outdoor cafe and have a drink before heading back to our BNB. We picked up the makings for a pasta dinner at home and returned with visions of gladiators (well, really Russell Crowe) dancing in our heads. Tomorrow is a slower day to catch up on a few things that we still need to see and then perhaps some night life. (As long as night life happens before 9 PM, we should be ready to party!!)
Party On Dudes!! Party On….
The image below is the lower level that would have been below the arena floor.
The following two pictures are from below. This is where the animals and Gladiators would have been kept. Notice the keystone in the first picture below.
The picture below is a reconstruction of one of the lifts Col was talking about that was used to bring animals or people from the lower depths to the Arena floor.
Notice the white on the right hand of the stairs. That is the original section while the rest has been reconstructed. This was on the fourth floor leading up to 5th and highest level.
Below is what the seats would have looked like. They were made of marble so over the ages they have been taken, ground up and used as the base for concrete.
From below you see the concourse that went around the Colosseum. The reason you can see it is because as stated earlier all the seats were removed to provide new building material.
The Arch of Constantine just outside the Colosseum
The Roman Forum
Temple of Romulus.
Done for the day….