When visiting Rome, old and new art and architecture are constantly juxtaposed with one another. This is a city where the Modern Art Museum features art from the last two centuries and the age of buildings is measured is millenia. No where is the contrast between old and older more apparent than during a visit to the Colosseum. Completed in the year 80 AD, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever constructed by the ancient Roman Empire and is an engineering marvel. #1 Son described it as the biggest, oldest man made building he has ever seen.
The exterior of Rome's Colosseum
Yet, despite its age, the Colosseum is surrounded by modern roads, cars, and of course, tourists! #1 Son’s school group used the Roma Pass which for 30 euros covered city transportation for three days and free admission for two museums or sites including the Colosseum. After the first two uses, Roma Pass gives the holder a reduced admission price at other museums and sites, exhibitions, and events. Waits for access to the Colosseum can extend as long as two hours in the hot Italian sun but on a chilly February day the site was relatively empty.
The last of Rome's unusual February 2012 snow storm melting at the Colosseum
Looking through the photos #1 Son brought back from his class’s visit to the Colosseum we are amazed that a structure this large was built without the types of heavy machinery available today. The ampthitheatre was built to hold 50,000 spectators. It is over 600 feet long and over 150 feet high. The outer wall, much of which is no longer in tact due to earthquakes, is believed to have used over 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone and was held together by 300 tons of iron clamps since mortar had not yet been developed.
The Colosseum has seating for 50,000 spectators
The Colosseum was home to Rome’s violent gladiator contests, mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on mythology. It was in active use for hundreds of years.
View overlooking the Colosseum arena floor
The main arena area measures 272 ft by 157 ft. It originally had a wood floor that covered a maze-like underground zone known as the hypogeum, which was made up of a two-level network of tunnels and cages where gladiators and animals were held before the contests. A series of tunnels connected this underground world to the outside so performers and animals could enter the site without being seen by the waiting crowds.
The Colosseum hypogeum contained cages for gladiators and animals
Over the years the Colosseum has been badly damaged by earthquakes, looters, acid rain and car exhaust. The site is under constant restoration as the city battles to preserve this important piece of history for the centuries to come.
Restoration is ongoing at Rome's Colosseum
Clearly the Colosseum is a “Must Do” on any trip to Rome. Of couse, it is so big it is hard to miss. If you visit with your teen or tween let us know what they think.
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