Colosseum, Coliseum or Flavian Amphitheatre are all names denoting this spectacular object of great archaeological significance, right in the ancient heart of the eternal city, Rome. Intended for pompous spectacles, it was built in the 1st century, its construction heavily relying on the loot gained from the Jewish Temple during the Siege of Jerusalem.
Stone and concrete constitute this imposing structure, their essence corresponding to the cold firmness with which emperors sent thousands of people and animals to death in immensely popular performances, which a modern spectator would probably perceive not far from ludicrous. Such performances involved fights between people and wild beasts, extremely elaborate sets with movable scenography and a lot of special effects. One thing is certain, their grandeur did reflect the power and wealth of the Roman Empire.
Colosseum, the structure's most common name, most likely originates from the colossal statue of emperor Nero, which stood near the amphitheatre. Formerly the greatest arena of the Roman world, with its four floors and the capacity of holding up to 70,000 spectators, the Colosseum still remains the largest amphitheatre in the world to date.The infamous rule of Nero left Rome partially in ruins and its citizens in low spirits. In an attempt to raise their morale, Nero's successor Vespasian commissioned the construction of Colosseum, a large amphitheatre destined to house free gladiator games and thus offer the masses free entertainment which would often go to extremes. Citizens of Rome could enter the Colosseum free of charge, while seating was distributed according to social status - the nearer to the stage, the higher the status.
The staged, deadly combats took place one after another, often paused only to cover the blood with sand, and resume the game. Whatever the performance, gladiators against each other or wild beasts, it would end in bloodshed followed by screams from the audience. So enormous was the popularity of these brutal games that by the time they were outlawed by the Christian rule in the 6th century, some exotic animal species had already become extinct. The blood of gladiators, who were synonymous with endurance and courage, had a very particular value in ancient Rome, many believed it cured impotence or led to a fertile married life. Curiously enough, despite their popularity and importance, gladiators would always remain social outcasts in the Roman empire.Shows at the Colosseum were always a great spectacle - the opening ceremony, for instance, involved putting on a 'sea battle' with real water in the arena, while quite a complex mechanism facilitated such great surprise effects as a sudden cloud of white dust falling onto the stage.
Little is known about Christian martyrdom at the Colosseum. Thousands of innocent Christians fell victim for their beliefs during Roman persecution. However, the arena in the Colosseum has never been explicitly mentioned as the execution place.Remember that the Colosseum, listed as one of the New 7 World Wonders, is only one of the remarkable relics in Rome.
Walking the streets of the eternal city, amid its sun-washed facades and their dimly glowing golden and orange hues, is quite a particular walk down history lane. The whole of Rome is a museum and home to fantastic squares, fountains and noteworthy basilicas.
The best time to visit Rome is late spring or early autumn, when the weather is nice and the temperatures are still moderate. Tuscany and Campania are near the capital and can easily be reached with a car.