Pause for a moment to consider the spectacle of gladiators battling it out in the arena or ancient crowds watching prisoners meet their fate against prowling wild animals at Rome's most popular attraction, the Colosseum. This ancient monument has captured the imaginations of countless artists, scribes and filmmakers for centuries and continues to draw huge daily crowds.
The Flavian Amphitheatre, or Colosseum, was built by Emperor Vespasian and completed by his son, Titus, in 80AD. The exterior walls feature four overlapping architectural orders including three levels of arches with the top level divided into panels and windows and including Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns. The top order supported a huge velarium or tarpaulin made of sails that unfurled to protect the spectators from the elements. In its day, the stadium held 73,000 spectators for blood sports such as fighting and games between gladiators (munera) and re-enactments of hunts for wild animals (ventiaones). There was a hierarchy of seating in the cavea ranging from front-row marble podium seats for the senators to the baying masses on the tiered wooden pews.
Inside the arena was a wooden floor covered in sand. The basement below contained a series of subterranean tunnels where the wild animals were housed before being launched into the arena via trapdoors operated by slaves. Eighty entrance arches allowed the spectators to be seated quickly and each attendee received a letter indicating the route to their seat. Although damaged by manmade and natural disasters, the Colosseum is an architectural feat that continues to entrance visitors, especially when lit at night.
The two-day combined ticket for the Colosseum and Palatine Forum is €12 and allows you to jump the queues. The pass also allows access to onsite exhibitions, and make sure to reserve a Colosseum, Underground and Third Order guided tour to climb up to the third order and head to the basement level. The closest metro station is Colosseo, then it's nine minutes' walk to the Colosseum. Turn right onto Via del Colosseo, left onto Via del Tempio della Pace and left again to Via dei Fori Imperiali before another left onto Piazzo del Colosseo.