You caught me. I have a tourist confession to make!
I am obsessed with the Colosseum.
It was love at first sight–the first thing I saw when we drove into Rome on the shuttle. Ben, Aimee, and I were all that was left of our original crew (the rest had dispersed), and so we all shared in this little Colosseum crew together. Go ahead and judge! If ever get the chance to go, you’ll understand. Or be like us, and go every day. No, I am not joking… you’ll see in our pictures. Just REMEMBER that if you are visiting as a tourist and wishing to go inside, GO EARLY! We beat the line by arriving 20 minutes before opening time–that’s how we got to spend so much time walking around and taking pictures before it got too crowded.
From eavesdropping on tours and listening to my own audioguide, I learned the story of the Colosseum. Originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum was built and modified under three Roman emperors around the 70’s-90’s AD. Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the primary purpose of the Colosseum was to host events such as gladiator battles, animal hunts, and other dramatic events. At the time, being a gladiator meant a life like a soldier’s with much time spent training. They only had to fight a few times a year, and could ask for mercy if they were near defeat. If the audience cheered loud enough, the emperor would grant mercy. When a gladiator was defeated/killed, they would poke him with a scalding iron poker to ensure that he was actually dead. This discouraged the practice of playing dead!
Other fights would consist of gladiators “hunting” animals, like lions and panthers, that were brought back from exotic places. Sometimes gladiators would be given weapons to assist them, sometimes not. There were even events that were animal-to-animal. Events were held all day long, one after the other, on holidays. At one point, the Roman calendar held 170 holidays within one year! Clearly, the Colosseum was a frequently used and popular place.
All competitors would be housed in the dungeons on the day of the games. Special grooves and pulleys were used to install trapdoors that would deliver gladiators and animals to their fate in a surprising and entertaining way for the audience, which was arranged by class. The poor people sat in the nosebleeds, according to their tickets, which were distributed on shards of pottery with Roman numerals corresponding to the section carved on the Colosseum arches.
Overall, this advanced system worked for a number of years before it was shut down by Christian emperors who did not believe in this bloody form of entertainment. After its reign as the center of Roman entertainment, the Colosseum was systematically dismantled over time for raw materials to use on other monuments built later on.
Here is my personal experience with the Colosseum:
Needless to say, you can probably understand my confession. If not, you better go check it out for yourself!