Most of the time when we visited some place, we had gone to them with our tour guide but it is always great to know more about a place from a local expert. If you don’t like guided tours, make sure to hire a guide when you are in Italy otherwise you will miss out on lots of interesting stuffs.
We went to the Colosseum and the ruins of the Roman Forum with the same guide who took us to the Vatican and she had an amazing amount of interesting information.
The Colosseum is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire, built of concrete and stone. It is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering. I am sure you will remember it from The Gladiator movie.
The elliptical building is immense, measuring 188m by 156m and reaching a height of more than 48 meter (159 ft). The Colosseum could accommodate some 55,000 spectators who could enter the building through 76 entrances.
Above the ground are four storeys. Each of the four storeys had windows, arches and columns. Once people entered, they walked up ramps to their seats. Seats varied according to how rich people were. Women and the poor stood or sat on wooden benches on the 4th floor. The Emperor and the gladiators who were to compete there had their own special entrances. Below the ground were rooms with mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena.
The Colosseum was covered with an enormous awning known as the velarium. This protected the spectators from the sun. It was attached to large poles on top of the Colosseum and anchored to the ground by large ropes. A team of some 1,000 men was used to install the awning.
When it was first built, the arena could be filled with water and mock naval battles enacted. However, this was not good for the floor or the foundations, and the water was drained away. Gladiatorial contests replaced the mock battles. These were fierce combats to the death involving men and wild animals.
Emperors used the Colosseum to entertain the public with free games. Those games were a symbol of prestige and power and they were a way for an emperor to increase his popularity.
Games were held for a whole day or even several days in a row. They usually started with comical acts and displays of exotic animals and ended with fights to the death between animals and gladiators or between gladiators. These fighters were usually slaves, prisoners of war or condemned criminals. Sometimes free Romans and even Emperors took part in the action.
The Colosseum is one of Rome’s most recognizable icons and definitely worth a visit for anyone making the trip to Rome.
After visiting the Colosseum, we went to the Arch of Constantine which is located right next to the Colosseum. The arch is 21 m high, 25.9 m wide and 7.4 m deep. It has three archways, the central one being 11.5 m high and 6.5 m wide, the lateral archways 7.4 m by 3.4 m each. It was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. Dedicated in 315, it is the latest of the existing triumphal arches in Rome, and the only one to make extensive use of spolia, re-using several major reliefs from 2nd century imperial monuments, which give a striking and famous stylistic contrast to the sculpture newly-created for the arch.
From there we moved up Via Sacre (the sacred way) where it is still possible to see the marks made by chariots. This road used to be the route taken for religious and triumphal processions towards the capitol and ruins of Roman forum.
The Roman Forum is situated in the area between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Three thousand years ago, this valley between Campidoglio and the Quirinal, which was to become the future social and political centre of one of the greatest empires of ancient times, was submerged in marshland.
It was really good to walk through the ruins of the Roman Forum, the plaza where Romans met to exchange goods, deliver public speeches, and much more. As you enter the Forum, think about how it must have looked in its prime where masses would flock to see the meetings of the orators, attend criminal trials and discuss internal politics or the latest military campaigns, or quite simply to comment on the games or running races, and visualize yourself in this once-bustling city centre.
Within the Roman forum is the grave of Julius Caesar, which is within a wall of stone marked by a simple plaque.
In the area you will find ruins like basilica of Constantine and Maxentius, Rostra, Temple of Saturn, Temple of Castor and Pollux, House of the Vestal Virgins, temple of Vespasian, and temple of Julius Caesar etc. The list goes on and on actually and it seems like they are still working on excavations on different locations.
Then we went to the Arch of Titus and we moved up to the Palatine hill. This hill is where legend has it that Romulus and Remus were brought up by a wolf and it later became the location of palaces to the Flavian emperors. At the edge of the Faranese Gardens you get a great view of the Forum.