Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum - History, Facts and Information

The content of this article provides interesting facts and information providing a helpful Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum. If you want details of location, telephone numbers, opening times and transport please click Visiting the Roman Colosseum

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum
This Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum is a personal view on what to look at when you are visiting the ruins of the Roman Colosseum. This short tourist guide only takes a couple of minutes to read but it will give you an insight into this famous monument in Rome and will provide answers to the questions that people ask when they visit the Roman Colosseum. Print this page and take it with you on your tour. For other places of interest to visit in Rome please click Ancient Rome Buildings.

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum - Useful Background information
The Roman Colosseum which was commissioned by the Flavian family, the Emperors Vespasian and Titus. The Colosseum was originally called the 'Flavian Amphitheatre'. The name Colosseum was derived from a colossal statue of the Emperor Nero which stood on this area. Building started in started in c70AD and was finished by c80AD! Just 10 years to build. The Roman Colosseum is still standing 2000 years after it was built. The structure has survived earthquakes, fire and plundering.

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum- Death inside the Colosseum
Remember that nearly 1 million people died in this bloody arena and that as many as 5000 animals were slaughtered in one day. Gladiators were forced to fight to the death. Criminals and Christians faced torture and horrendous executions. The wild and exotic animals at the Colosseumwere brought from all over the Roman Empire. During just one festival in 240 AD a staggering: 2,000 gladiators, 70 lions, 40 wild horses, 30 elephants, 30 leopards, 20 wild asses, 19 giraffes, 10 antelopes, 10 hyenas, 10 tigers, 1 hippopotamus and 1 rhinoceros were slaughtered. Some wild animals were killed to the point of extinction... 

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum - The Outside Walls of the Colosseum
The outside walls of the Roman Colosseum tell the story of the most famous amphitheatre in the world. Its good to try to imagine what the Colosseum would have looked like when it was built 2000 years ago. There are plenty of tourists books on sale which provide an overlay to the existing ruins.

  • The Walls - When the Colosseum was first built they would have been covered with marble

  • The Arches and Entrances

    • The Colosseum amphitheatre was therefore ringed by eighty massive entrance gates at ground level which formed the entrances and exits for the spectators

    • The gates were tall enough to accommodate the largest animals such as elephants and giraffes

    • The Columns of the arches - Look closely and you will see each tier has a different style

      • The first level with plain sturdy Doric "order" or style arches

      • Second level with Ionic arches - look for the spiral scroll-like ornament at the top of the column

      • Third level Corinthian style - the slenderest and richest columns with an ornate bell-shaped capital decorated with acanthus leaves

      • All around the ruins of the Colosseum are the remains of many ruined columns - with your knowledge of the classical styles you will be able to figure out where they originally came from

    • The Roman Numerals - Look out for the numbers above the entrances for example the number XXXVIII would mean Gate 38 which enabled Romans to find their seats in the Colosseum quickly

      • The Colosseum was free to the ancient Romans but they had to get their tickets in advance!

  • The Holes in the Walls - these were due to people in the Middle Ages plundering the iron clamps, which held the stone together without mortar, and used to make Medieval weapons

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum- Inside the Colosseum - Who sat where?
Who would have sat where in the Colosseum? Where would the Roman Emperor have sat? Where did the Vestal Virgins sit? The seating areas would have been covered with marble.

  • Get your bearings

  • Get and idea of the seating arrangements

  • The areas of seating reflected the social status of the Romans

  • Look for the simple cross which commemorates the Christians that died in the arena

  • The Roman Emperors sat where the cross is now placed. The Emperors had a canopied Imperial Box on a dais

  • On the opposite side would have been where the Vestal Virgins would have sat

  • On the same level the most important Romans (politicians, senators, priests, magistrates) and visiting dignitaries would have sat - they used elegant portable fold-up stools to sit on

  • The 2nd level is where the high ranking equites (knights or officers) sat

  • The 3rd tier is where the 'Plebs' would have been seated - sectioned by the poor plebs and the wealthy Plebs

  • The Upper tier was for poor women

  • Slaves were strictly forbidden from watching the games

  • Water fountains and latrines were available - refer to the Colosseum Water and Sewage System

  • An automated system sprinkled perfume over the spectators to mask the stench of the hot spectators, the combatants and the animals

  • Romans could buy food at the Colosseum but alcohol was banned

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum- Under the Colosseum - The Hypogeum
The arena area of the Colosseum has been excavated to reveal the Hypogeum, which was built by the Emperor Domitian. The hypogeum  refers to the vast network of rooms, cells, tunnels and passages under the 6 acre area of the Roman Colosseum. Elevators and pulleys raised and lowered scenery and props, as well as lifting animals and gladiators to the surface of the arena through a system of trap doors. The Colosseum was a vast complex and Tunnels under the Colosseumled to other buildings such as the Gladiator Schools, the Imperial Palace and the buildings where armor, weapons, scenery and equipment were kept. The addition of the Hypogeum would have prevented any water battlestaking place in the arena.

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum- The Top the Colosseum - The Velarium
Over the top of the building there would have been a retractable, panelled, awning at the Roman Colosseum, called the Velarium. Its purpose was to provide shade for the spectators who watched the gladiatorial games in the blistering sun and heat of Ancient Rome.

Tourist Guide to the Roman Colosseum
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