It’s an iconic sight and no visitor to Rome should skip it. We call it the Colosseum, but its formal title is the Flavian Amphitheatre, taking its name from the three emperors during whose reign it was constructed.
Completed in 80 A.D., a good chunk of the building still stands despite the ravages of time and earthquakes. It’s an even more impressive structure when you consider this was done without the aid of any modern construction tools. This work was all done by hand. Amazing what you can accomplish using slave labour. Not much fun for the slaves though. I doubt records were kept of the number of workers who died on the construction site, but I suspect it was a fair number.
I imagine that this place was quite the attraction when it was first built. If you were visiting Rome it was probably pretty close to the top of your “must see” attractions. Though back then the guys outside dressed in Roman military togs trying to extract coin from you were the real thing, not actors.
Depending on the use the place could hold up to 80,000 people. Even these days that’s a pretty fair sized stadium, bigger than anything we have in Ottawa. At the time it was the largest in the world. Supposedly it still is the largest amphitheatre, though I don’t know how that is defined – there are football stadiums that hold more people. Maybe they aren’t as large but can hold more.
The Colosseum may have been full of tourists when we were there, but the place is so big it didn’t seem like it. Nowadays more has been opened to the public, but in 2009 as I remember it we were restricted to the area around the bowl.
I remember reading somewhere at the time that the Colosseum was the second most visited tourist attraction in the world, second only to the pyramids in Egypt. Political instability in Egypt the past five years has probably pushed the Colosseum into top spot.
So what is this appeal of this building? Firstly, it’s big and still standing, at least most of it. That’s an impressive tribute to Roman engineering. Secondly, there’s a lot of history attached. I don’t know about you, but I like to learn things when I am on vacation. Thirdly, it’s in Rome, which is already one of the biggest tourist destinations. What more reasons do you need?
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I studied Latin in high school. Visiting Italy, specifically Rome, seemed to make sense to me. It was amazing how much came back to me after 40 years of not using the language – I was usually able to puzzle out the inscriptions on the arches and statues, once I figured out the weird shapes of some of the letters. Turns out that education was good for something after all.
The pictures don’t do the place justice, and to paint a proper word portrait I would have to make this book length. Which I am not willing to do. You’ll just have to make the trip to Rome yourself to see what I mean.