To introduce the Colosseum, we should start saying that was originally known with another name, as the Flavian Amphitheater, and that it still is the largest amphitheater in the world, able to contain a huge number of spectators. Submitted in 1980 in the UNESCO World Heritage List, in 2007 it was also listed among the New Seven Wonders of the World.
1- Building the Colosseum
It took just over five years to build it up: from 75 to 80 A.D and only for the outer wall, more than 100 thousand cubic meters of travertine were used. It was originally used for gladiatorial shows and other public events. No longer in use after the sixth century, the huge structure was reused in various ways, also like a material quarry. The Colosseum is an elliptically shaped building, 189 meters and 156 meters wide, an area of 24,000 square meters with a height of more than 48 meters. It has about 80 entrances and could accommodate over 50 thousand spectators.
2- What’s in a name?
The origin is uncertain, many people like the idea that the name “Colosseum” is descended from the “Colosso“ of Nero, a huge statue that once stood next to the amphitheater. Others think, simply, that the name emphasizes the colossal amount itself. But there is also a legend that tells that it was once a pagan temple, where the devil was worshiped. At the end of each ceremony, the priests asked the followers, “Colis Eum?” (“Do you worship him?”).
3- Underground Colosseum Tour
The third curiosity about the Colosseum is that there is a structure still kept 6 meters under the arena, the theater scenes, in fact, were just down there. It seems that from the arena spectacular sets and even special effects could come out! Under the layer of sand and planking, there were two underground floors with rooms and cages of lions, the weapons used in the fighting, and so on. The gladiator arena could go through special hoists. The Underground Colosseum is now visitable, but you need a special reservation to tour it. Contact us to learn how to book the Underground Colosseum tour.
4- Colosseum: a botanic garden and a swimming pool
Strange but true, among the curiosities of the Coliseum there are these two peculiar functions of the monuments. More than 350 different species of plants have taken root among the ruins, some of exotic origin and whose growth would be supported by the microclimate of the amphitheater. In addition, on the inside, for a certain period, also “naumachiae” were held, representations of naval battles in the water but they didn’t have the same success of the games with gladiators. The water flowed through a series of internal wells and pipes beneath the stands. It took about 7 hours to fill the whole arena with water.
5- The terrible reputation of the Colosseum
At the time of the gladiators, the Colosseum gained a sinister reputation, it was in fact considered one of the seven gates of Hell, as tens of thousands of people were killed there. The legend said that in the amphitheater were held magical rites, using the same blood of those killed in the arena. In the Middle Ages, then, gangs of bandits used it to bury their victims. During the XVI century, the Colosseum was targeted by wizards who seemed to use the herbs that grew among the ruins, believing they had magical powers.
Nowadays the Colosseum is visited by hundreds of tourists from all over the world every day. It was recently renovated and it still stands as a stunning and impressive symbol of the eternal city.