Colosseum at night

Italy – The colosseum in Rome

Rome’s greatest amphitheatre is famous the world over. Built in the form of an ellipse between AD 72 and AD 80 in the grounds of Nero’s palace as a practical place where the most popular spectacles of Roman times such as combats between gladiators and beasts could be held, it also became a building of great beauty.

Unfortunately earthquakes and centuries of stripping the structure for stones to build chapels or palaces has stripped most of the lower levels to a skeleton, but seeing this naked and brilliant structure creates a sense of wonder at what was achieved more than 2 000 years ago, and that purely for the sake of entertainment!

The lowest, underground level with numerous passages held cages which were winched upwards whereby up to 100 animals could be released in the arena after walking along a corridor. Radial ramps, ramparts, passageways and stairways and the 80 arched entrances holds testimony to the efficiency of the design whereby 55 000 spectators could gain easy access in less than 15 minutes after the starting trumpet was blown.

On the top and fourth level a huge awning, supported on poles, was hoisted into position to shade spectators from the sun. The emperor and other wealthy citizens were seated in the Podium on the first level, from where the “thumbs up ” or the  “thumbs down ” sign could be shown, indicating whether a combatant should live or die.

My wife and I only had a few hours to wander around inside this architectural masterpiece from times gone by. But if I could, I would have liked to just quietly sit somewhere when most of the visitors have left, contemplating the atmosphere of gladiators battling against one another or prisoners fighting for their lives against roaring beasts.

– Manie WOLVAARDT

 

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