This iconic structure is synonymous to Imperial Rome & is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The construction of the Colosseum or Colosseo in Italian, began in AD72 under Emperor Vespasian & was completed in AD80 under his successor & heir Titus. Here we see the shored up remnant of the outer wall & the mostly intact inner wall of the Colosseum.
This magnificent building which rises to 47m is also known as Flavian Amphitheatre after the three emperors Vespasian, Titus & Domitian from the Flavius lineage who made modifications to the amphitheatre during their reigns. This outer wall is estimated to have required 100,000 cubic metres of travertine stone which were set without mortar & held together by 300 tons of iron clamps. It has suffered extensive damage over the centuries & large segments have collapsed following earthquakes safe for this north side perimeter wall still standing.
Standing on a reconstructed section of what formerly was the wooden floored arena covered with 15cm of sand. The sand was constantly renewed as it was covered with the blood & entrails of slaughtered animals, criminals (forced to fight) & gladiators. It was a brutal & bloody contest to the death no less!
On the left where the scaffolded area was, stood the Special South Box for the Vestal Virgins (priestesses of the goddess Vesta) & part of the exposed Hypogeum or underground chambers which was all covered up by the wooden stage during its heydays.
Where the group of people are standing would be where the Special South Box for the emperor was located. This amphitheatre was a place of public entertainment & besides gladiator fights, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles & dramas based on Classical mythology was staged.
The tiered arrangement in the Colosseum reflected the rigidly stratified nature of Roman society. Special boxes 4m above the arena were provided at the North & South ends respectively for the Emperor & Vestal Virgins with the best views of the arena. Flanking them at the same level was a podium for the senatorial class who were allowed to bring their own chairs & cushions (seen here covered in white marble). – the 2nd tier above the senators was for the non-senatorial noble class or knights. Maenianum primum
Upon closer look you actually find the names of some of the 5th century senators engraved into the marble seating areas presumably reserved for their use only.
The materials used for construction include Travertine, Tuff & brick-faced concrete, wood & mortar & it is the largest amphitheatre ever built. It is elliptical, entirely free standing & derived its basic exterior & interior architecture from that of 2 Roman theatres placed back to back.
Entering via (Gate of Life), the Eastern Grand entrance where the gladiators paraded before the emperor & spectators before the fights & exited after a successful combat. This was connected to a tunnel from the Ludus Magnus gladiatorial school located 60m to the east. Directly opposite is Porta Sanavivaria (Gate of Death), the Western Grand entrance where dead gladiators & animals were carried away via a tunnel which led to the Porta Libitensis , a room where the gladiators were stripped off of their weapons & armour to be given to the dead gladiator’s lanista (Trainer). Spoilarium
The consisted of a 2 level subterranean network of tunnels & cages beneath the arena where gladiators & animals were held before the contests begun. Hypogeum
It is fascinating to see how these beams were stacked together using huge pieces of travertine without the use of mortar or cement.
Substantial quantities of machinery existed in the Hypogeum where elevators & pulleys raised & lowered scenery & props as well as lifting caged animals to the surface for release.
This is a close up of a stone piece where a wooden pole was wedged, & used in working the ropes of the pulley connected to the elevators.
There were 36 trap doors in the arena which allowed elaborate special effects where scenery, gladiators & exotic animals could appear without prior notice & delight the crowds.
80 vertical shafts provided instant access to the arena for caged animals & scenery pieces concealed underneath. Roman engineers created a device called the which was a strong hinged platform for hoisting the larger animals like elephants & hippopotamus to the top. hegmata
32 animal pens are found in this subterranean network which is connected to a number of points outside the Colosseum. Animals & performers were brought through the tunnels from nearby stables & the gladiators’ barracks in the east known at the (Great Gladiatorial Training School) built by Emperor Domitian. Ludus Magnus
The Colosseum is 83m long & 48m wide with the seating capacity of an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 spectators thus it was imperative that the venue could be filled & evacuated quickly. Spectators were given tickets in the form of numbered pottery shards which directed them to the appropriate section & row. They accessed their seats via which were passageways that opened into a tier of seats from below or behind. vomitoria
The architects adopted solutions similar to modern stadiums incorporating 80 arch entrances on the ground level; 76 were used by the general public & they were numbered providing easy access to the allocated seats. The walls leading from the numbered gates to the seats were plastered & painted white & red.
The comprises of 2 different tiers; the 3rd tier the Maenianum secundum (lower part) for wealthy Roman citizens & the 4th tier, Immum (upper part) for poorer citizens. Summum
Within the which is this curved passage situated below & behind a tier of seats in the Colosseum. This pathway was designed to provide rapid egress of the large crowds after performances & it was employed in ancient Roman architectures like amphitheatres & stadiums as they do today in modern stadiums & large theatres. vomitorium
Windows like this one allowed in sunlight & provided ventilation in the vomitoria.
Rewarded with a magnificent view of Constantine Arch & Palatine Hill from the Belvedere of the Colosseum after much climbing.
View of the Temple of Venus & Roma which sits on Palatine Hill 40m above the Circus Maximus at the Roman Forum.
The 5th tier, the , at the very top of the building which was added during Domitian’s rule was a gallery for the common poor, slaves & women. It would have been either standing room only or had very steep wooden benches. This corridor separates the outer & inner walls of the Colosseum. Maenianum secundum in legneis
240 mast corbels were positioned at the top of the attic & they supported a retractable awning known as the . This sheltered the spectators from the sun & rain. It was a canvas covered, net-like structure made of ropes with a hole in the centre & covered two thirds oof the arena, sloping downwards to the centre to catch the wind & provide a breeze for the audience. Sailors were enlisted from the Roman naval HQ at Misenum & housed nearby at Castra Misenatium to work the velarium. velarium
At the roof-top of the Colosseum, you can see the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument in the distance.
Remnants of the outer wall of the Colosseum which was painstakingly restored in the latest public-private partnership between Diego Della Valle head of the shoe company Tod’s & local sponsors in a €25 million restoration project started in 2011.
This was where I was that I captured the panoramic shot of the Colosseum – at the 5th Tier of seats at the Attic.
This spectacular view of the Colosseum from the attic was only opened to the public at the beginning of 1st Nov 2017 after 3 intensive years of restoration. Work included cleaning & restoring the arcaded facade & replacing the metal enclosures that block the ground level arches. The floors of the semi-circular stage was completed to be used at cultural events of the highest level. Work continues as there are plans to create a service centre & restore the galleries & underground spaces inside the Colosseum.
View of the Forum & Palatine Hill
An interesting trivia about the Colosseum is that it has become a symbol of the International campaign against capital punishment, which was abolished in Italy in 1948. Several anti-death penalty demonstrations took place in front of the Colosseum in 2000 & since that time the local authorities of Rome would change the colour of the night time illumination from white to gold whenever a person condemned to death was released.
Birdseye view of the Colosseum which sits on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline & Palatine Hills through which the Aqua Claudia aqueduct ran.
The Colosseum is not just any other mammoth architecture but is one that is steeped in so much history & culture; that has withstood the ravages of time & disasters like the Great Fire of Rome in AD64 & the Great Earthquake of 1349.
To marvel at the detailed ingenuity & skill in creating such an immense structure is truly awe-inspiring. The Colosseum continues to be the centre of life in Rome today as it was at its very beginning, as millions of people from all over the world still visit annually.