The Colosseum of Italy
In the year 80 A.D., people coming from every corner of the Roman Empire, Sarmatians, Arabs and Egyptians gathered for the inauguration of the Colosseum, the most important amphitheater in the Roman world. While they contemplated exotic beasts devouring men and brave gladiators fighting each other, the arena was drenched in blood. This spectacle that lasted one hundred days was so striking that historians have acknowledged its magnificence and originality.
The Original Name of the Colosseum
In the beginning, this venue was known as the Flavian Amphitheatre because it was built in the times of the Flavian dynasty, and was promoted by Vespasian. It was until the Middle Ages that the name of Colosseum became popular due to its location near a bronze sculpture of Nero which was so big that it was deemed as colossal. Another reason why it got its name was that it had been built on the Domus Aurea palace area, which had also belonged to Nero. Interestingly, Romans never knew it as the Colosseum.
Gladiator Fights at The Roman Colosseum
In later years, magistrates organized similar events in order to promote their electoral campaigns while the imperial family did it to celebrate the most important festivities of the State. By then, the combat series lasted only between three and six days although the atmosphere always remained frantic. Besides, enthusiasm built among the people days before the events since they were publicized by painting advertisements on façades, on the walls of public buildings and on graves. The population was so eager to assist that the night before the combats spectators crowded the Colosseum’s surrounding areas.
From very early in the morning, the day of the show, all 50,000 seats in the Colosseum were occupied. The event’s program started with an exhibit of animals that had been transported from faraway lands. Among them, there were crocodiles, giraffes and rhinoceros. But the climax occurred when a horn announced the gladiator combats. Then, the audience would holler filling the amphitheater with deafening noise. They cheered enthusiastically whenever their favorite fighters overpowered their opponents, and they pleaded for mercy when they wanted the vanquished to be forgiven –it was until the times of Augustus that they forbid to kill the defeated.
The uncontrolled violence that prevailed behind the walls of the Colosseum did not lose its popularity while the combats continued to be held –the last one was registered in the year 523 A.D. But another shocking fact about its history is that no other building surpassed its capacity until the twentieth century.
Wild Animals at The Colosseum
Apart from animal exhibits, another event they hosted that historians have registered were the damnatio ad bestias; dramatic events in which animals would fight to death.
They could feature elephants against bulls or bears, or tigers against lions. These battles enthused the audience. It’s said that the wildest show they held was when they locked 100 lions, 100 African leopards and 300 bears at the same time in the arena. Naturally, nowadays this kind of violence would be unthinkable and inadmissible, but in that time, the crowds cheered from the stands.
Colosseum Underground and Dungeons
Beneath the Colosseum people would enter another world. A wooden structure gave shape to hallways and rooms with cages where they kept the beasts they used in the shows, as well as cells and rooms where gladiators waited for battle.
Other remarkable structures were the ramps and lifts that gave direct access to the arena so that participants could make a grand entrance. Nowadays, the underground can be visited as well as seen from the stands and, together with the imposing architecture of the Colosseum, we’re sure it will be one of your favorite things to see.
What to See At The Roman Colosseum
Its past and its impressive architecture have helped it remain one of the main attractions of the Italian capital and that’s why DINKtravelers recommends planning a trip there. Even though it is worth visiting any time of the year, we advise you to go between May and November when there are night tours of the site. You’ll have access to the arena, the underground tunnels, the galleries and the grandstands. Afterwards, you’ll be led to the overlook where you’ll enjoy a great view of The Arch of Constantine and the Palatine.
During your visit, stand on the grandstands and let your imagination fly. Shiver at the idea of thousands of spectators around you crying out for a bloody spectacle while a combat like no other takes place at your feet.