Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rome, day 2 - the Colosseum

Bright start to the day, and we planned to go to the Colosseum - one of the places I've always wanted to visit, and which turned out to be my very favourite place in Rome (though it was close-run with the Pantheon).

After breakfast of very strong coffee, bread and cheese, we cut through the back streets by our hotel to Via Giovanni Lanza (very pretty, lined with citrus trees)

and then walked from Via Cavour down to the Forum. It felt very strange to be in an everyday high street and then suddenly see ancient ruins everywhere.

We were then fleeced by a smiling gladiator to take photos (and we learned that lesson for the rest of the week – a cheerful smile and a ‘Non, grazie!’).

And then we joined the queue for the Colosseum (very short, because we went early on a Tuesday morning. We discovered later that weekend afternoons are just heaving, so we made the right decision).

The Colosseum was begun by Vespasian in 72 AD, built on the site of the drained lake from Nero's Domus Aureus. Allegedly 70,000 Hebrew slaves were used as the labourers and 50,000 carts of Travertine stone had to be hauled from the Tivoli quarries, 27km away. There were 240 masts at the top and they were used to support a canvas awning (the velarium) which protected spectators from sun and rain.

Vespasian's son Titus inaugurated it in 80 AD with a 100-day celebration of games, during which (according to the Roman historian Dio Cassius) 9,000 beasts were killed. The building was finished by Titus’s brother and successor Domitian.

The name of the building comes from the 35m-high bronze statue of Nero that once stood at the Domus Aureus (closed for renovation during our stay in Rome, but there was a very good exhibition about Nero on the next floor up in the Colosseum) and Hadrian had to move the statue in a cart pulled by 24 elephants so that he could build a temple to Venus.

The Colosseum itself is huge. 52m high, 188m x 156m, with an arena of 3357 square metres and it could hold up to 73,000 spectators. The Emperor and the vestal virgins had the best seats, flanked by the senators; the next tier was for the equites (knights or non-senatorial nobles); the tier above that was for the ordinary citizens, with the wealthiest getting better seats than the poorest. There were also specific sectors for specific groups; and some groups (notably grave-diggers, actors and former gladiators) weren’t allowed in the Colosseum at all. Everyone had a designated seat.

There were some lovely pieces in the exhibition, including graffiti of a gladiator with a net, and a leaping wolf.

There are excellent views from the top – this is the Temple of Venus and Rome, which Hadrian started building in AD 121.

The Arch of Constantine is just outside the Colosseum (view below is from the top of the Colosseum) and was built to commemorate Constantine’s victory at the Battle of Milivian Bridge in 312. It lies across the Via Triumphalis, i.e. the road taken by the procession of a triumphant Emperor (from the Campus Martius through Circus Maximus and up to the Palatine Hill).

I think one of the nicest views of the Colosseum is the one from the arch:


Liz Fielding said...

Isn't the Forum amazing! (We dodged the Gladiator, but the kids will love those photos.)

Can't wait to hear what you thought of the Pantheon.

Caroline said...

Great photo's Kate. Thanks for sharing - and I can't wait for the rest! ;o) Caroline x

scarlet wilson said...

Gorgeous Kate, your photos are fab

Nick Harris said...

Wow, amazing. Great photos.

Nan Hartwell said...

Wow! Lovely photos.

Morton S Gray said...

Bringing back memories Kate. I started to write a story about one of those 'photo soldiers'. I must dig it out and finish it. Mx

Morton S Gray said...
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Kate Hardy said...

Glad you're all enjoying the pics as much as we enjoyed taking them :)