The Colosseum, the architecture and technical wonder

The Colosseum is the wonderful monument from the ancient Rome, one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

We can just say wonder, because it is a real marvel of architecture and building techniques of the ancient times.

Everybody knows that ancient Roman people were masters in building, but the Colosseum is their masterpiece. It was even possible to set naval battles scenes inside of it: the famous naumachias.

The built of what is also called Anfiteatro Flavio started in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian and completed in the 80 AD by Titus. It is said the money to build it came from Jerusalem, after the destruction and depredation of the temple, according to an inscription and some coins and historical sources founded.

The name Anfiteatro Flavio comes from the two emperors belonging to the Flavian dynasty.

Emperor Vespasian lived to see the first two arcades orders and Titus completed it with two more levels, covering them by the famous velarium. It was a cloth to protect spectators by the weather, by the sun and the rain.

The removable system of protection used was made of wooden pales, stored in specific grooves taken when necessary, to set the cloth made of segments of cloth sewed with hemp layers.

The pales to keep it used to be put on 240 external protruding shelves, blocked in specific squared holes.

Thanks to the sustaining ropes, the velarium was very stretched.

The Colosseum grounds

This is just one of the architectural features of the Colosseum, standing on a 13 metres thick basis and on a travertine ring, to assure stability and resistance.

The reason why the amphitheatre is named Colosseum seems to be the enormous presence of the bronze 35 metres tall Nero statue, not far from there.

In the same area there was the Domus Aurea, in which Nero demanded the creation of an artificial lake, lately covered by Vespasian to build the biggest amphitheatre of the world.

That’s why he ordered also the support of the basis and the “engineers” of the times decided to lighten the structure by some arches, used as entrances and ventilation shafts, especially in the underlying part, where gladiators, beasts and slaves stayed. 

The beauty of the Colosseum

The undeniable beauty of the Colosseum has been damaged by the years, thanks to the bad habit of Romans to collect building materials by ancient unused places. In the ancient Rome until the Middle Ages it was just normal, until fortunately love for ancient things came back among people.

The structure made of travertine, a very soft stone, strong and enough flexible for a so great building, was covered by precious marbles, iron joints blocking the big bricks and precious statues in the arches on the 2nd and 3rd level, making it so elegant and magnificent as anything had never been before.

When they inaugurated it, Titus wanted to start 100 days of games, gladiators, cruel beasts, animals and people fights.

The amphitheatre was often set of real killings. During a period, lots of Christian believers were killed, and naval shows often took place there.

They used to fill in the arena by water in 7 hours by a system of pipes and canals, as Romans were very good in it. The Colosseum could host about 50 or 70 spectators. The richest ones used to sit near the arena and the peasants had to stand in the highest part (the attic) where the visual was worse.

The amphitheatre had an elliptic shape stretching on a surface 189 by 156 metres, being 48 metres and a half tall; so it means 24 thousand square metres and the spectators could enter it by 80 different entrances. 

The remains of the Colosseum

Nowadays we can just see a third part of the original structure. Not only the time gone by affected this wonderful building but the man and the nature intervention too.

It was used just for 500 years and then abandoned, risking to collapse and resisting just thanks to timely restorations.

Some parts of the Colosseum were used to build Palazzo Barberini and Saint Peter’s Basilica.

There was even a house, built in it by Frangipane’s family, lately demolished.

Between the VI and VII century AD they built a church in it you can still visit, dedicated to the people who lost their lives in the arena, as Christian people did.

During the Middle Ages, for this reason, it hosted black masses and wizards meetings, as well as Pope Benedict XVI exorcised it in 1744, moving it in a church dedicated to Christ and the Christian religion martyrs.

Strong earthquakes and fires damaged the Colosseum, as in 851, when 2 orders of the southern area collapsed, as you can see nowadays.

There were other earthquakes causing collapses, such as in 484, in 1349 causing  the collapse of the external part on the alluvial area and in 1703.

This monument, one of the most famous in the world was damaged by many fires too, including the one of Nero times that destroyed the better part of the city.

Visiting the Colosseum

During the last years, the Colosseum hosted more than 6 million and a half of people, together with the close Fori Imperiali and the Palatino, you can visit using the same ticket, valid for two days.

Open every day all over the year, at different times in summer and winter, closed on Christma’s Day and New Year’s Day, it is very fascinating.

You will feel the emotion of entering the golden age of the Roman empire, where emperors and slaves walked, men and animals fought and, raising terror and euphoria.

Do you want to stay in Rome?

For this location we recommend Hotel Oxford, the ideal starting point to discover Rome!

colosseumAnfiteatro FlavioFori Imperiali Palatino