The Colosseum, or Coliseum, is the oldest and most famous monument in Rome. The emperor Vespasian ordered its construction in 70 AD, and it was finished in 80 AD under the reign of Titus, Vespasian's son. Originally called Amphitheatrum Flavium (Flavian Amphiteatre), from Vespasian and Titus' family name, Flavius, the Colosseum could seat an audience of 70,000. It was elliptical, 189 meters long and 156 meters wide, made of 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone, and housed four floors.
Entry was open to the public, but seating was according to a Roman's social status. The seats were tiered, similar to modern stadiums. The topmost tier was for the common folk, while the lowest tier was reserved for the senatorial class. The lower the tier, the higher the social status was. At the center, where all the spectacles took place, was the arena.
The arena was where morbid, bloody shows were held. There were real combats between wild animals imported from Africa and the Middle East. Animal hunts, called "venatio", were also staged. It was rumored that during the opening, a celebration that lasted 100 days, around 9,000 animals were killed. The shows that were the most popular among the crowd were the combats between gladiators. These shows were called munera. Gladiators were mostly male, although there were a few females. They were usually convicts, slaves and war detainees. They arrived at the Colosseum through an underground passage connected to the Ludus Magnus, which was both their training center and quarters. They fought to the death. The winners were awarded money and golden palm leaves, while the losers were finished off and taken out of the arena.
The gladiatorial fights went on until 435, while the animal hunts lasted until 523. Towards the late 6th century, a small church was built in the Colosseum, and the arena was turned into a cemetery. In spite of the presence of the church, however, the Colosseum was not seen as a religious site. It was only in the 16th and 17th centuries that it was associated with Christianity. Pope Benedict XIV claimed in 1749 that Christians had been martyred in it, but nothing in the pages of history supports his claim.
Today, the Colosseum is a very popular tourist attraction. It is open everyday, except on Christmas and New Year's. Tourists can get guided tours.
Roma Pass can be used here.
Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma, Italy
Everyday from 08.30 - 19.00
Colosseum/ Palatine Hill /Roman Forum: single ticket. Full price 12€, reduced fee 7€ (for EU citizens between 18 - 25 years old and for teachers), free entrance ( under 17 years old). Roma Pass can be used.
Metro Line B - Station Colosseo, buses