Rome's Colosseum

The Colosseum and Forum

On our first full day in Rome, we visited the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palantine Hill. Armed with our Roma Pass, we bypassed the long line to purchase tickets.

Constructed in 80 AD, the Colosseum is a massive structure that held 50,000 people watching gladiators, animal hunts, and reenactments of battles.  An amphitheater, the Colosseum is named for the colossal, 100-foot, bronze statue of Nero (of fiddling fame) that formerly stood here.  The statue, metal clamps holding the stones together, and most of the stones were later carted away to construct palaces and churches, including St. Peter’s.  Only a third of the Colosseum remains, but it’s still impressive.

Rome's Colosseum
Rome’s Colosseum

Rome financed the Colosseum with plunder and slaves from the fall of Judea. Romans pioneered the use of concrete and the arch, best seen above.

The photo below shows the interior of the Colosseum. On the left, part of the arena (the flat area with the railing) has been reconstructed.  The arena is named for the sand used.  Arena is the Spanish word for sand.  Like many modern buildings, there were two levels of underground rooms below the arena, to stage gladiators, animals, and props for the battles. At the bottom-right of the photo below, note that part of the brick facing has fallen away, exposing the concrete interior.

Colosseum interior, showing underground staging rooms and rebuilt arena on left
Colosseum interior, showing underground staging rooms and rebuilt arena on left

This photo shows the length of the Colosseum floor, the rebuilt arena and rebuilt seating on the bottom-right.  The white blocks for seating look like marble, which was burned to make concrete for other buildings.

Colosseum interior, showing arena and rebuilt seating
Colosseum interior, showing arena and rebuilt seating

This drawing shows the Colosseum with a retractable canvas sun shade and with a cross-section view.

Drawings of Colosseum, with canvas shade and cross section
Drawings of Colosseum, with canvas shade and cross section

We ate a picnic lunch near the Arch of Constantine.  In 312 AD, Emperor Constantine had a vision of the cross in the sky, the night before the battle of Milvian, where Constantine’s army defeated another Roman army led by Emperor Maxentius.  Constantine subsequently converted to Christianity, and he erected this arch to commemorate his victory.

Arch of Constantine
Arch of Constantine – victory over Maxentius

After lunch we visited the Forum.

In a Roman city, the forum is the city square, surrounded by important temples and halls of justice.  Here’s Arch of Titus, commemorating his victory over Judea in 70 AD.  Napoleon was not the first emperor to build a victory arch.

Titus' Arch - victory over Judea
Arch of Titus – victory over Judea

The Forum is mostly ruins.  I was able to relate to the Roman Senate, where senators debated and passed laws.

Roman senate
Roman senate

Rome has water spigots with running water that you can drink.  The Forum had several drinking fountains.

After the Forum we walked through Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome.  We saw the site of the Circus Maximus, where chariot races like those depicted in Ben Hur, took place. Today the Circus Maximus is an oval hollow in the ground.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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