updated September 2022
It took five years, six trips to Rome, to get me inside the Colosseum. What made me change my mind? The opportunity to take the Walks of Italy, Colosseum VIP Night Tour. The tour included the recently opened underground areas where the animals were kept and the arena. Best of all, there are no crowds or lines at night! Obviously, I was not going to pass up a chance to experience the atmosphere of the Colosseum at night with access to areas that you can only see with a guide.
I think the reason I had not previously gone inside was that I felt I’d already seen it: on television, in movies and guide books, and on websites. Well, I was wrong. This was an experience not to be missed!
The Colosseum is impressive even if only from the outside. Our guide, Jeanette, brought the history of the Colosseum to life with all the juicy details she gave us. Seeing it at night and gaining access to these previously inaccessible areas made it all the more special.
What Did I Learn About The Colosseum
What did I learn about the Colosseum? It was not always called the Colosseum but was previously known as the Flavian Amphitheater. It took 100,000 slaves approximately ten years to build. Not only that, it was constructed over a pond, requiring advanced engineering skills. Those ancient Roman engineers were very sophisticated.
The Colosseum is the model for arenas as we know them today. There were seating tiers (just like today), and running water. They didn’t have elevators but used a system of pulleys and ropes to accomplish the same tasks.
Though admission was free, you still had to have a ticket to get in. The wealthy of Rome occupied the premium seats closest to the arena floor, while the general public occupied the nosebleed sections above. It seems to me that not much has changed.
The Colosseum was an active arena for 500 years before it closed and became a sort of quarry for the city of Rome. Many of the buildings you see around the historic center used the marble from the Colosseum.
Lions And Tigers And Bears And …Gladiators!
I’ve often wondered if ancient Romans were really so different than the friendly people I met on my travels there. Were they really so bloodthirsty and cruel? As it turns out, it wasn’t all about blood and guts.
Remember this is B.C. times. No airplanes to whisk us across continents for a safari in Africa. No televisions for us to watch elephants, lions, and zebras run across the screen on the Discovery Channel. Witnessing the games at the Colosseum was the one chance for thousands of citizens to see exotic animals never seen by anyone in the civilized world before. Somehow this makes me feel a little better about it all–at least it wasn’t 100% about blood and violence.
Gladiators Were The Rock Stars Of Their Day
What about the gladiators? Jeanette explained that being a gladiator was actually not that bad. They were kind of the rock stars of their time. People had their favorites and dying on a stage in front of 50,000 cheering and screaming fans must have been preferable to hanging out in the hypogeum with the animals, slaves, and accompanying smells. The chances of dying down there were just as great as going to battle with another gladiator or an animal. And there was no glory in it!
Being a gladiator wasn’t just about brute physical strength. Remember, gladiators had never seen these animals before. Can you picture an ostrich running full speed at you– or a lion who’s been starved for several days being unleashed? Not only did a gladiator have to be strong and quick on his feet to overpower the animal, but he had to outsmart the animal as well.
The victor was led out of the Colosseum for a “victory shower.” Outside, waiting for the victors to appear were the wives of the wealthy and powerful citizens of Rome. Just like rock stars, gladiators got the girls after the gig.
I honestly felt I experienced something really special on this tour and left with a better understanding of the people and times of ancient Rome.
The VIP tour of the Colosseum was with Walks of Italy. All comments and opinions are my own.
©PennySadler – All rights reserved.
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