The Colosseum in Rome, Italy, is one of those iconic locations that anyone who visits the city must take the time to explore. Because of its popularity, be prepared for long lines and you will likely have tour guides offer to let you jump to the front of the line if you are willing to pay for a tour, which isn’t actually a bad idea. Another good idea is to buy the bundled ticket that includes the Roman Forum as well, which is equally fascinating. There have been many movies that have attempted to recreate what it must have been like to have gone to one of the performances at the Colosseum with all of the animals, gladiators, and other performers. Visions of those elaborate shows, called munera, must have been truly amazing and in many ways was a predecessor to the modern Walt Disney World theme parks.
One of the amazing features of the Colosseum is the two-story structure called the hypogeum that was underneath a wooden floor that was covered by sand. It is a series of tunnels and cages that housed all of the animals and gladiators that would be brought up to the floor of the arena so that the crowd didn’t get a glimpse of them until the performance began. Obviously, these performances were often bloody battles between the gladiators as well as animal hunts that featured exotic creatures such as rhinos, giraffes, elephants, and of course lions. It must have been truly exciting and almost magical for the people of first century AD that attended these elaborate performances.
Even with the paintings depicting the many different performances that also included battle reenactments, dramas based on the mythology of the time, and even mock sea battles, it is still hard to truly comprehend the sophistication of these shows. With audiences as large as 80,000 and averaging around 65,000 people, there was more than just the thousands of animals, gladiators, and performers needed to amaze the crowds. Hundreds of talented artists created props and sceneries with intricate details to add to the overall ambiance of the massive exhibitions.
Today, the Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is a unique landmark in the heart of Rome that is often the subject of paintings by local artists. In this world with all of our skyscrapers and other modern buildings, it is often taken for granted how much creativity and ingenuity it must have taken to build such an arena during the period in which it was created. There are many fascinating things to see in a city that is so rich with history and art, but the Colosseum is definitely one sight that must be seen. It can be viewed in as few as a couple of hours, but you will probably want to spend more time if you want to truly understand and comprehend its historical significance.