Theater of epic fights between gladiators, between men and fierce beasts and even the site of naval battles, the Colosseum is one of the most visited monuments in Italy, thanks to its millenary history and its unique architecture.
Known since the Middle Ages as the Colosseum for the presence of a colossal statue in its immediate vicinity, the Flavian Amphitheater is considered the symbol of the city of Rome. This is because of its structural greatness, which earned it the title of the largest amphitheater in the world, but also symbolic, mirroring the splendor of the Roman Empire. Built in travertine and tuff not far from the Roman Forum – the ancient political center of the city – around the first century AD at the behest of the emperors of the Flavian dynasty and intended to host shows of great popular appeal, over the centuries the building has changed several times its face and its function.
But how and where did the Gladiators live? Where were kept the fierce beasts used for the beloved fights and how did the amphitheater manage to change its face and scenery so quickly? The answer lies in the area below what was once the battlefield.
Under a masonry and wooden floor, covered with sand to absorb the blood of the killings, in fact, the oval arena had traps and elevators that communicated with the underground and were used during the show to lift the cages containing ferocious beasts. The gladiators, on the other hand, lived in very harsh conditions and trained in the so-called “Gladiator Schools” located near the amphitheater and accessed the Colosseum from two monumental entrances.
As evidenced by the different floors of the building, marked from the outside by stone arches and pillars, and by different tiers of steps inside, the structure of the amphitheater was divided into social classes: the higher the status, the closer to the arena they sat. The Emperor, senators and members of the local aristocracy attended the performances from a privileged position, the ancient grandstands. At the end of the fighting, if one of the fighters had not already perished in battle, it was the Emperor himself who decided with a simple thumb sign, the fate of the gladiator or the losing slave.
With the abolition of gladiator games and the end of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum suffered a gradual decline, until it was used in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a quarry. Precisely to these depredations of stone and precious materials, in addition to the effect of time, we owe the current appearance. Its glorious history and its magnificent silhouette that stands out on the Roman landscape do not stop seducing millions of tourists every year.