The movie, “Gladiator” gave me a good idea of what the Colosseum must have looked and felt like at the height of its glory nearly 2000 years ago, with 50,000 screaming spectators watching “barbarians” fight to the death against other barbarians or exotic wild animals. But it is no less amazing to walk among the ruins today and imagine the scenes in my own head.
It was very crowded on the April day we were there, but our Roma pass got us quickly through security and saved us at least an hour of standing in a BIG, LONG ticket-buying line. Once inside, we followed the free Rick Steves audio guide, which we had downloaded to our ipods from his website. The guide led us through the Colosseum in an organized and efficient manner, giving us interesting information about the ruins as we went.
I could just imagine the noise, activity and smells (not good) that must have been present there during the days of gladiator contests. It’s easy to picture the animals and gladiators pacing the underground corridors, waiting to be killed (or succeed and find fame) in a public spectacle above on the arena floor. Today a part of the floor has been restored so you can see where the level of the arena once stood. Some of the marble seats reserved for emperors and other VIPs have also been restored, giving you an idea of where the best seats in the house were located.
Only about one third of the original structure remains. Some of it was destroyed by earthquakes, but most of the structure was taken away stone by stone during the Middle Ages by “enterprising” Roman citizens to use for other buildings, including St. Peter’s Basilica.
Our self-guided tour lasted about an hour, and before leaving, we took pictures of some of the great views from the upper level of the Colosseum. From there you can see the Arch of Constantine, Palatine Hill, and the Temple of Venus and Rome. Next stop – Palatine Hill.