Monday, May 23, 2011

Colosseum And Roman Forum

Like other European cities, Rome is an interesting mix of the old and new but in Rome's case, it's more like a mix of the ancient and the new. You've got new modern office and apartment buildings, "newish" middle-ages buildings in the historic core, and ancient ones like the Colosseum and Roman Forum. This was the view of the Colosseum and some of the surrounding neighborhood from the hop-on hop-off tourist bus on the way to the Colosseum:

The area near the Colosseum gives you the opportunity to see and feel how things probably were a couple of thousand years ago. The Roman Forum, which sits next to the Colosseum, was the center of Roman government and life for almost 1,000 years. There are remains of temples, public and government buildings, as well as a handful of other monuments. It's super cool to be able to walk between buildings and other structures that have been around for thousands of years.

In some cases, the things you're looking at are just a few stones left from earlier buildings but in other cases they've rebuilt things back to how they were in their prime. I felt humbled while there imagining back to when Julius Caesar walked along these very same streets two thousand years ago and how he probably enjoyed eating his signature salads in one of the local cafes during his lunch breaks from running the empire...

Right next door to the Roman Forum is probably the most famous stadium ever built. The Colosseum is big, surprisingly big, when viewed from the outside. It's amazing to me that this place was built 2,000 years ago and is still standing today. Some of the it has collapsed due to earthquakes and has been carted off over the years to build other things so only some of the original exterior wall, which can be seen on the left below, remains. In other words, even though it looks really big now, it probably looked twice as big back when it was built. It must have been an impressive sight.

Inside the stadium feels even bigger than it does on the outside. Originally built to hold somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 people (estimates vary), I could imagine what it looked like back then. Seating ran from the platform up to the top outer edge of the building. I read that it once had a large fabric cover that could be moved into place to block out the weather. During its history, it has been used for all types of public events such as gladiator battles, exotic animal "hunting" displays, and even for the martyring of Christians during their repression.

The "floor" of the Colosseum was a large wooden platform with passage ways running below it. Using trap doors, animals could be released at random places during shows that the gladiators would have to kill. In some cases, the animals were released to attack people who were "part of the show". I imagine that it was quite a spectacle to see unless you were one of the people in the show.

Like I wrote before, what I find most interesting when seeing sites like these is how long they've been around and how many generations of people have passed in that time. It makes me reflect on how little time we get to enjoy this world and that we need to take advantage of every minute of it. I'm reminded again and again how lucky I am to have this opportunity.

*Travel Tip*: The entry lines at the Colosseum are crazy long. You can avoid them if you go next door to the ticket office at the Palatine Hill, which is much less popular with tourists. The same ticket works for the Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, and the Colosseum. On the day I visited, there were about six people in front of me in the line at Palatine Hill and about 1,000 in line at the Colosseum. Enter the complex through the Palatine Hill and do a quick pass there (probably like an hour or so unless you're spending the whole day at the complex). You can then go directly into the Roman Forum, which is between Palatine and the Colosseum. The Forum takes about another hour or two to see. When you go in the Colosseum (I recommend seeing it last), you get to bypass the ticket window there and enter with your combo pass saving probably an hour or more in line.


  1. "...imagining back to when Julius Caesar walked along these very same streets two thousand years ago and how he probably enjoyed eating his signature salads..."

    After spending a long day performing his signature child birth delivery procedure. :-)

  2. reesan...I'm considering the caesar hair cut after that comment!


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