Built of concrete and stone, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built and is considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering. Construction began under the Emperor Vespasian in 72AD, and was completed in 80AD under his successor and heir, Titus. Although in the 21st century it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome, and is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions.
Ever since watching the Ridley Scott epic movie Gladiator I have wanted to visit the Colosseum in Rome. I love the architecture of the place, and I like to think back to a time when it was full to the brim with spectators baying for blood. It is estimated that the Colosseum could hold up to 80,000 spectators, having an average audience of some 65,000. It was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era.
After such a long time queuing for tickets at the Colosseum, I later realised that I could have bought tickets at either Palatine Hill or at the Roman Forum, and both of those locations are less busy. Oh well, it was nearly an hour wasted, but I knew I had the whole morning to check out the Colosseum anyway, and to be fair it doesn’t take too long, as there isn’t much in the way of museum exhibits.
Inside the Colosseum, I tried to imagine what it was like to watch the blood sports from the point of view of a spectator. It is said that over 1 million people and thousands of animals were slaughtered in this arena, but in the Roman Empire this was considered typical entertainment. Unlike the outside or in the ticketing queue (!), I found the interior of the Colosseum to be more relaxed and free of crowds. However, there were still plenty of coach tours so it is difficult to get any moment of peace to yourself. That said, being in the shadow of the Colosseum after all these years is something that I will never forget.
Rome is a fantastic city in which to begin your exploration of Italy, and there are plenty of Roman ruins to check out, as well as this Colosseum: the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Pantheon (not to mention the religious buildings in the Vatican). It was great to finally see the Colosseum up close, and learn a little about the events that took place there during the Roman Empire. It is certainly one of the top attractions in Italy and Europe that cannot be missed if you are travelling around the continent!