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Rome's Colosseum

Colosseum, Rome
Rome Colosseum Fast Facts

• Completed around 80 AD for gladiatorial battles and public entertainment, the Colosseum held more than 50,000 spectators.

• Today, the Colosseum remains a major Rome attraction with almost 4 million visitors annually.

• Purchase tickets on-site, by phone (+39 (0)6 399 677 00) or automatic entry by Roma Travel Pass.

Metro stop: Colosseo.

Open daily 9AM - 6:30PM

This "glorious ruin", begun in 72AD by the Emperor Vespasian, is today one of the most recognized icons of Rome, the Eternal City.

It also happens to be the city's No. 1 tourist attraction.

Why? Holding a special place in the popular imagination, the Colosseum (or Coliseum) harkens back to the Rome of power and splendor. Its history also perfectly parallels the rise and inevitable fall of the Eternal City.

Built to accommodate more than 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum acted as a neighborhood theater sports arena, and political rallying point. Occasionally, it was also purposefully flooded with water to stage full-fledged reenactments of historic naval battles.

The Colosseum is probably best known, however, as the famous scene of lethal contests — with fights to the finish among Rome's gladiatorial elite mostly made up of slaves, criminals and war prisoners.

As a both a superstructure and entertainment venue, the Colosseum was known throughout the Roman Empire and was a must-see stop on any visit to the capital city.

It remains so to this day.

The Fall and Rise of the Colosseum

thumbs down
Detail from "Thumbs Down" by 19th
century painter Jean-Léon Gérôme
depicting Roman gladiators
in battle at the Colosseum.

In ruins after Rome's fall, the Colosseum was looted for its marble and even its plumbing by the early Dark Ages, or used as recycled materials for other building projects, among them The Vatican.

Yet another blow was dealt by a devastating earthquake in 851 which resulted in extensive damages.

The following centuries continue to see more local pillaging and natural disasters that continued to wreak havoc upon the old structure that managed to survived total collapse when civic and religious authorities decided to put a halt to the destruction in the 1800s. It was also around that time that restoration began in earnest.

And, in varying degrees, preservation efforts continue into the 21st century.

The Colosseum goes Hollywood

Popular culture also gives a glmpse of all that was glorious and inglorious about the Colosseum, with Hollywood films such as the lighthearted romantic comedy "Roman Holiday" filmed in 1953 (starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and co-starring the real Colosseum as a dramatic backdrop.) Later, the arena also played a central role in "Demetrius and the Gladiators" filmed in 1954.

Reenactments even more brutal were also filmed for the 2000 hit movie 'The Gladiator" starring Russell Crowe. The film incidently earned accolades from historians for its faithful depiction of the Colosseum as it probably appeared in its heyday in 2 AD.

the colosseum goes hollywood
The Colosseum co-starred with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday" in 1953, and (at right)
was completely restored to its former glory through the magic of CGI in the 2000 hit film, 'The Gladiator."

Visiting the Colosseum

Today millions of visitors a year continue to pour into the Colosseum to view one of the finest examples of Roman architecture and to imagine ancient Rome as it was at its zenith. Upon arrival, (Rome Metro stop: Colosseo) ensure maximum enjoyment of your visit by purchasing an audio guide or arrange for a personal tour by a helpful on-site guide.

Travel hint: Especially during the summer, best visiting times are during the early morning hours or at least before noon — to avoid the long lines at one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions. The Colosseum is open daily from 9AM to 6:30PM daily.

More about the Colosseum around the Web:

Colosseum - Wikipedia

Colosseum Virtual Tour

Italy Guides - Roman Colosseum


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