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Any tourist in Rome would be unworthy of the honorable name without a visit to the Colosseum.  In fact, anyone in the right part of the city would have a hard time ignoring it, as it’s really big.  The Colosseum was first completed in 80 A.D.  The spot where it was built was originally covered with dense habitations, but after they were destroyed in the great fire of 64 A.D., the emperor Nero turned the area into a personal lake for a palace he had built nearby.  The emperor Vespasian had the lake drained, and construction on the Colosseum began in 72 A.D., being completed eight years later, when his son Titus was emperor.


The Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, reflecting the family name of Vespasian and Titus.  The name “Colosseum” seems to have been related to a gigantic statue of himself which Nero had built nearby (undoubtedly likened by some to the Colossus of Rhodes in the Greek isles), and which Vespasian left standing.  The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial competitions, as well as executions of people and wild animals.  There are reports that 9,000 animals were killed during its inaugural games in 80 A.D.  The arena held about 50,000 people, who were organized in tiers by social class.  The best seats were reserved for the emperor and the vestal virgins, who had private entrances.  For the public at large, there were 76 numbered entrances, making it easy to empty the stadium of spectators reasonably quickly.  Many of the concepts introduced in the design of the Colosseum (and even sometimes the name “Colosseum”) have been borrowed for modern sports venues.

A few structural facts:

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Additional concerns for the structure come from the constant vibrations originating from the Colosseo Metro stop, just across the street.  Oblivious to these concerns at the time, we arrived at this stop following a short trip from the Spagna stop.

Colosseo Metro Station

Connie and Philip and Colosseum

Across from the Colosseum
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We had to cross a street to get to the Colosseum, but once across we were safe from vehicular traffic, as most of the area immediately surrounding the Colosseum has been pedestrianized.  This area is also safe for sellers of overpriced souvenirs and refreshments, and (apparently) for pickpockets, so one must remain alert.  In addition, one has the opportunity to pose for photographs with genuine Roman centurions, who somehow know how to operate digital cameras.  They also accept modern currency.

Helpful Centurions

The Colosseum

Connie and Bob and Colosseum

The Colosseum
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At the time of our visit, admission to the Colosseum was sold as part of a combination ticket which also included admission to the Forum to the west (more on this later) and the Palatine Hill above it.  It is also possible to buy this same ticket at the entrance to the Forum, just up Via di San Gregorio, and the Forum line is much shorter.  Or, if you own a Roma Pass and are using one of your free admissions for this purpose (highly advised for maximum cost-effectiveness), you can bypass the ticket line entirely, as there is a special Colosseum entrance just for Roma Pass holders.

Bob Near Entrance

Inside Entry Passage

In the Entry Passage
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View Into Arena

As one would expect, the Colosseum is a very crowded place on a summer afternoon.  There are places where the throng is more compacted than at others, but solitude is never an option.  We did see a bride and groom who were somehow posing for pictures, though.

Inside the Colosseum

Inside Wall to East

Inside Colosseum with Bride and Groom
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Walking Around with Connie
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Connie, Hypogeum and Interior
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South Interior

View from South Interior
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Tourists can pretty much go where they please, with portions of three levels open.  The hypogeum was not open to tourists during our visit, but apparently this has changed – check the Colosseum website for details.

View from Upstairs

Hypogeum from Above

Connie and Bob

Square Archways

View from East Endzone

Nella Photographing Philip and Connie
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Philip and Connie

Southside Seating

At the time of our visit, there was an exhibit about Vespasian (under whom construction of the Colosseum was begun) with statues and busts and assorted ruin fragments on display.  There is a small bookshop on the south side of the arena.


Bob and Fragmentary Decoration

At the west end of the arena, there is a point where one can look outward from the Colosseum, to the west.  There is a nice view of the Arch of Constantine, which is enclosed in the pedestrianized area around the Colosseum.  This arch is 69 feet tall, and was built in 315 A.D. to commemorate the victory of Constantine I over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312.

Arch of Constantine

Arch Detail

Arch of Constantine
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On exiting the Colosseum, we headed over to the Arch for a closer look.

Arch of Constantine - South Side

Arch of Constantine - South Detail

Arch of Constantine, Forum and Vendor
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After having our fill of the Arch, we continued up Via di San Gregorio to the entrance for the Forum, our next destination.

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