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Colosseum

1h | 11 | 12


dressing style
Casual (with comfortable shoes!)
families
yes
highlights
Colosseum interior including ambulacrums, arena, cavea, Belvedere Valadier terrace, panoramic view
hidden gems
Colosseum original pavement, Nero's colossus location traces, velarium stones
tags
Colosseum,Nero's colossus,Zenodoro,Decrianus,velarium,Travertine,Castra Misenatium,clipei,Giuseppe Valadier,imperial tribune,Belvedere Valadier terrace,commemorative plaque,pope Pius IX,Commodus,Arch of Constantine,Hadrian,Meta Sudans
stairs
yes
archeological site
yes
low visibility:
no
steep floor:
yes
Live the indescribable emotion of traversing on yo
osseum self-guided tour, you can take all your time to linger on every single ancient stone. Examine the basement where a colossal statue of emperor Nero stood in ancient times and discover the remains of the original pavement where Romans walked two thousand years ago. You’ll be able to locate the authentic travertine stones, which probably served to the handling of the giant velarium, to find out why the exterior surface of the Colosseum is scattered with holes and to distinguish the entrance of honor, which lead to the imperial tribune. Once entered this immortal giant, you’ll be amazed by the grandiose dimensions of the cavea surrounding you, which could host around 73.000 spectators Moreover, with this free Colosseum walking itinerary you’ll enjoy the extraordinary panorama looking over the valley of the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill from the Belvedere Valadier terrace. Deeply understand the history and value of the most iconic monument of Rome, on your own.

1

Reconstruction of the Colossal statue of emperor Nero
1

Colossus of Nero

0 | 10 |

Piazza del Colosseo, 00184 Roma RM

mon 00:00 : 24:00
tue 00:00 : 24:00
wed 00:00 : 24:00
thu 00:00 : 24:00
fri 00:00 : 24:00
sat 00:00 : 24:00
sun 00:00 : 24:00
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs no
archeological site yes
steep floor no
low visibility no

Description

Between the amphitheater and Via dei Fori Imperiali, on the right side of the ancient street that connects the Roman Forum to the Colosseum area, we c
an now see a basement planted with cypresses: it shows the place where a colossal statue of emperor Nero stood in ancient times. Nowadays partially reconstructed, the basement was a solid structure of 17,60 x 14,75 meters sustaining the colossus. As reported by Plinius the Elder (Naturalis Historia, XXXIV), the gilded bronze statue was commissioned by Nero to a sculptor of Greek origins, named Zenodoro, after the great fire of Rome in 64 AD. The model for this sculpture was the Colossus of Rhodes, simulacrum of the sun-god Helios executed by Chares of Lindos around 280 BC. But the dimensions of the colossus of Nero were larger: it was 119-foot-high (ca. 35 meters) versus the 70 cubits of the Colossus of Rhodes (32 meters). The statue by Zenodoro was the biggest bronze statue we know it was ever made in Antiquity and it almost reached with its basement the height of the Colosseum. The statue was originally located at the center of the atrium inside the Domus Aurea, the imperial residence commissioned by Nero that at that time was extending on a wide territory. Thereafter, Hadrian was the emperor who moved the colossal statue in order to build the Temple of Venus and Rome. The author of this compelling transport was the architect Decrianus, who probably employed a pulling pride of 24 elephants. The colossal statue was setup in front of the Flavian Amphitheater, which was then called after it starting from the 8th century: Colosseum. The iconic monument is in fact more properly called “Flavian amphitheater” and the nickname “Colosseum” has to be connected to the colossal dimensions of Nero’s statue more than to the colossal dimensions of the amphitheater itself. Probably in this period, the statue features were changed in order to transform it in the sun-god Helios. Notwithstanding this movement, Nero’s colossus didn’t abandon so much its proper setting, since the area chosen to erect the Colosseum corresponded to that central section of the valley which was dried out because it was once filled with the water of an artificial lake annexed to the Domus Aurea residence territory on the east side of the Roman Forum. The building of the Colosseum was aimed, in fact, at returning to the public enjoyment the wide territory deliberately occupied by Nero in order to build the Domus Aurea and thus feel accommodated in such a deserving realm which could be “suitable for a man”. Later, Commodus converted the statue to a representation of Hercules but, after his death, the colossus recovered the aspect of Helios. The definitive appearance of the statue could be retrieved from some coins: It represented the standing emperor Nero with the head wreathed with beams, in order to symbolize the personification of the Sun, leaning upon a ship’s wheel, maybe added at a later time. The remains of the colossus were demolished on the occasion of the opening of Via dell’Impero in 1936. The statue was located along the border between the 3rd and the 4th region, but it belonged to the latter, as the Meta Sudans.

About the place

Nero’s colossus was a colossal statue commissioned by emperor Nero after the great fire of Rome in 64 AD and originally located at the center of the
atrium inside the Domus Aurea. Hadrian moved the colossal statue in front of the Flavian Amphitheater. The monument was called with the nickname “Colosseum”, probably due to the presence of this colossus.
Reconstruction of the Colossal statue of emperor Nero
Historical photo of Nero's colossus base
Nero's colossus base as it looks like nowadays
Depiction of the Colossus of Nero on a Roman coin

2

View of the Colosseum exterior surface
2

Colosseum exterior

0 | 10 |

Piazza del Colosseo, 00184 Roma RM

mon 00:00 : 24:00
tue 00:00 : 24:00
wed 00:00 : 24:00
thu 00:00 : 24:00
fri 00:00 : 24:00
sat 00:00 : 24:00
sun 00:00 : 24:00
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs no
archeological site yes
steep floor no
low visibility no

Description

Notwithstanding only two-fifths of the exterior circumference has been survived, the exterior aspect of the Colosseum appears still elegant and severe
. Measuring 48.5 meters high, the monument exterior is characterized by three architectural orders composed of 80 overlapping arches, articulated with pilasters ornated by engaged columns. The orders are Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian at the first, second and the third level respectively and the arches measure 4.20 meters wide and 7.05 meters high at the first level and 6.45 meters at the other ones. The arches were originally embellished with statues, that had a monumental and functioning purpose at the same time. The amphitheater also shows a fourth order, a sort of attic which has not columns but Corinthian pilasters crowned with shelves and it is not open with arches but with windows, previously alternated with “clipei”, gilded bronze shields in ancient times. A series of shelves, three for each section, are added above the windows level, corresponding to as much square holes (totally 240) on the terminal cornice. The holes served to accommodate the supporting elements for the wide “velarium”. The remained exterior wall of the Colosseum on the northern side facing the Oppian hill is around two-fifths of the original extension. At the two extremities massive walls buttress the remains, partly built by Giuseppe Valadier, by order of the popes Pius VII, Leo XII and Gregory XVI, as testified by the inscriptions. The copious irregular holes scattered on the whole exterior surface of the Colosseum were performed in the Middle Ages in order to recover the iron from the architectural pivots.

About the place

The exterior surface of the Colosseum is nowadays missing of the statues decorating the three architectural orders each composed of 80 arches as well
as the gilded bronze shields decorating the fourth order. The 240 square holes on the terminal cornice served to support the velarium, whereas the other irregular holes were caused in the Middle Ages.
View of the Colosseum exterior, in particular the northern surface
Detail of the Colosseum exterior surface

3

The Colosseum entrance arch on the northern side of the amphitheater
3

Colosseum northern arch

0 | 5 |

Piazza del Colosseo, 00184 Roma RM

mon 00:00 : 24:00
tue 00:00 : 24:00
wed 00:00 : 24:00
thu 00:00 : 24:00
fri 00:00 : 24:00
sat 00:00 : 24:00
sun 00:00 : 24:00
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs no
archeological site yes
steep floor no
low visibility no

Description

The northern arch is the only main entrance that is still conserved. Above the fornix, we can see remains that it is possible to trace back to a littl
e portico, which once emphasized the importance of this passageway. On the vault of the corridor opened by this arch, remarkable traces of decorative stuccos with figurative designs are visible. This one probably was the entrance of honor which lead to the imperial tribune, located at the center of the northern side of the amphitheater.

About the place

The northern arch was probably the entrance of honor leading to the imperial tribune.
Entrance of honor on the Colosseum northern side

4

The travertine stones outside the Colosseum
4

Velarium stones

0 | 10 |

Piazza del Colosseo, 00184 Roma RM

mon 00:00 : 24:00
tue 00:00 : 24:00
wed 00:00 : 24:00
thu 00:00 : 24:00
fri 00:00 : 24:00
sat 00:00 : 24:00
sun 00:00 : 24:00
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs no
archeological site yes
steep floor no
low visibility no

Description

At a remarkable distance from the amphitheater, where the original pavement has been survived, some big travertine stones are anchored to the ground i
n a concentric location respect to the edifice outer perimeter. These stones were probably destined to the velarium handling. The velarium was a wide mobile awning made of fabric in connected slices, which protected the Colosseum, usually unconvered, in case of rain or during the heat wave, in order to provide some shelter to the spectators. The velarium was fixed by two squads of sailors coming from the fleets of Ravenna and Cape Misenum and permanently resident in a specific barrack near the amphitheater, called “Castra Misenatium”, to participate also in the naval battles. The big holes on the upper side of the travertine stones maybe served to fix the winches, necessary to keep stretched the thick cables used for the complex handling of the awning.

About the place

The travertine stones still visible on the original pavement probably served to handle the velarium, the mobile awning which protected the Colosseum f
rom bad weather and sun’s rays.
The travertine stones for the velarium handling anchored next to the Colosseum

5

Visitors outside the Colosseum entrance arches
5

Entrance arches

0 | 5 |

Piazza del Colosseo, 00184 Roma RM

mon 00:00 : 24:00
tue 00:00 : 24:00
wed 00:00 : 24:00
thu 00:00 : 24:00
fri 00:00 : 24:00
sat 00:00 : 24:00 00:00 : 24:00
sun 00:00 : 24:00
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs no
archeological site yes
steep floor no
low visibility no

Description

The eighty arches on the ground level once gave access to the staircases, which lead to the several sections of the cavea. This complex system allowed
a fast circulation of the crowds. Above each of the remained arches is still visible the progressive number which corresponded to the ticket (tessera) number owned by every spectator, except the four main entrances corresponding to the main axis that weren’t numbered. Every of these four main entrances were probably reserved to particular categories such as the magistrates, the vestals, the religious colleges, guests of honors, etc.

About the place

The 80 entrance arches gave access to the staircase and still show the number corresponding to the “ticket” owned by every spectator.
View of the crowded Colosseum western entrance arch dedicated to group tours

6

View of the Colosseum entrance ambulacrums
6

Entrance ambulacrums

12 | 5 |

Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Roma RM

mon 08:30 : 16:30
tue 08:30 : 16:30
wed 08:30 : 16:30
thu 08:30 : 16:30
fri 08:30 : 16:30
sat 08:30 : 16:30
sun 08:30 : 16:30
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs no
archeological site yes
steep floor no
low visibility no

Description

Once entered the Colosseum, you can go through the five concentric ambulacrums, covered with barrel vaults and leaning on solid pilasters made of trav
ertine, constituting the first level of the cavea.

About the place

The ambulacrums belonged to a complex entrance system which allowed a fast and easy circulation of the crowds.
Perspectival view of the entrance ambulacrum at the Colosseum
Section view of the entrance arcades at the Colosseum
Hubert Robert's painting dating to the end f the 18th century depicting the Colosseum interior ambulacrums
Painting by Francisco Bushell Laussat dating to the end of the mid-19th century and representing the Colosseum interior ambulacrums

7

The partially re-built arena at the Colosseum
7

Arena

0 | 15 |

Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Roma RM

mon 08:30 : 16:30
tue 08:30 : 16:30
wed 08:30 : 16:30
thu 08:30 : 16:30
fri 08:30 : 16:30
sat 08:30 : 16:30
sun 08:30 : 16:30
disabled no
sacred place no
stairs no
archeological site yes
steep floor no
low visibility no

Description

The interior of the Colosseum at present looks like partially collapsed and the arena floor is now missing, so we’re only able to imagine how it cou
ld originally appear in ancient times. The arena floor originally measured 86 for 54 meters and featured two monumental entrance at the extremities on the main axis. A little portion of the arena has been recently re-built on the eastern side of the monument, at its first level, whereas the lower services spaces are visible upon the rest of the ground level, due to the missing floor. A reconstruction of a trap door connected to the underground goods-hoist system is also visible at the level of the re-built arena, from which animals or machineries were introduced on stage on the occasion of the shows. On the occasion of the shows, between the arena and the cavea a heavy and sturdy protection net supported by antennas inserted between two lower shelves. According to ancient sources, the net was equipped with elephant tusks and rotating rolls in order to prevent the beasts from finding hold to go beyond it. However, in the corridor running between the cavea and the nest, an archers squad was maybe located in case of need.

About the place

The arena was once the central stage of the Colosseum where the shows were performed and it consisted of a wooden plan which could be removed or easil
y changed and which was handily covered with sand, hence the Latin denomination “arena”.
View of the re-built portion of the Colosseum arena on the eastern side of the monument
View of one of the two entrance arches located on the Colosseum main axis seen from the re-built arena floor.
View of the marble remains of the privileged seats closer to the arena reserved to people of upper standing from the re-built arena floor
View of the Colosseum underground spaces underneath the collapsed arena floor
View of the trap door belonging to the reconstructed goods-hoist at the level of the Colosseum re-built arena floor

8

The interior of the Colosseum cavea
8

Cavea

0 | 15 |

Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Roma RM

mon 08:30 : 16:30
tue 08:30 : 16:30
wed 08:30 : 16:30
thu 08:30 : 16:30
fri 08:30 : 16:30
sat 08:30 : 16:30
sun 08:30 : 16:30
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs yes
archeological site yes
steep floor yes
low visibility no

Description

The cavea was split in five overlapping sectors: after a few steps set close to the net, three seats sectors (maeniana) followed, whereas a forth sect
or, characterized with wooden bleachers, was at the top of the amphitheater, covered by a colonnade portico (maenianum summum in ligneis). The capacity of the amphitheater is still much debated, yet it is generally accepted the estimate proposed by Hülsen at the end of the 19th century. The German scholar considered the number of 87.000 loci mentioned in the Regionary Catalogues has to be referred to the measures of the whole bleachers, which included 45-50 steps in addition to the wooden steps of the maenianum summum in ligneis, resulting in about 68.750 foot (corresponding to 20.280 meters). If each person occupied a minimum space of about one feet and half (44 centimeters), the number of the seating people would have corresponded to about 40.000-45.000 units, in addition to the 5000 ca. independent spectators who assisted the shows from the upper portico. According to another estimate, the overall length of the bleacher was about 30.000 meters, actually 88.000 foot which better corresponded to the 87.000 loci cited in the Regionary Catalogues and could imply a capacity of 68.000 spectators, that added to the standing spaces would have resulted in about 73.000 people. The maximum density could have been sometimes even higher, approaching to the astonishing numbers told by ancient sources. The entrance to the amphitheater was usually free, but each category of people could only access to their reserved seats. On this regards, some laws were even promulgated since the Republican era. In particular, people of upper standing who attended the performances at the Flavian amphitheater sat behind a balustrade protecting the high podium adorned with niches which divided the arena floor from the marble cavea. The emperor’s seat was in the center of one side of the podium named “suggestum”, whereas senatorial class occupied its remaining seats closer to the arena. The rest of the cavea was made of bricks and constituted by horizontal “maeniana” (balconies) and vertical “cunei” (round sectors) organized through “vomitoria”, stairways and passageways. The fourteenth steps following the senatorial seats and thus corresponding to the first maenianum was reserved to the equestrian class, and so on the other seats were destined to the lower social echelons. For example, the cavea also hosted civil and military tribunes with special places for families and servants or young men accompanied by their tutors. The wooden bleachers in the higher section, that constituted the worst viewpoints upon the shows, were reserved to women and it was divided from the lower seats through a wall whose roof was destined to plebeians. Augustus, in fact, wanted to separate women from men for moral reasons, in order to end the promiscuity in the entertainment venues, which were among the recommended places to have some pleasant affairs, according to what Ovid wrote in his Ars Amatoria. The inscriptions engraved on the steps remains constitute a precious document of the people or category names to which they were reserved, such as: “for Roman knights” (equitibus romanis); “for the primary teachers” (pedagogis puerorum); “for public guests” (hospitibus publicis); “for the city plebeians (in Imperial era)” (clientibus); “belonging to the inhabitants of Cadice” (Gaditanorum). These seats were not individually reserved, but they were destined to the each of the overall categories, as shown by a renowned inscription (CIL VI, 32363) dating to 80 AD, the same year in which the Colosseum was inaugurated. The inscription reports a decree granting the sacerdotal guild of Arvales, composed of twelve people, together with their families, heralds, etc. a reasonable number of seats seizing a space about 129-foot-long, corresponding to more than 38 meters, scattered in various areas of the amphitheater, according to their social standing. The white marble breaches reserved to the senatorial class were the only ones destined to single people names. The inscriptions, engraved in a marble block inserted in the step belonging to the first lines adjacent to the arena, reported the names of the single people seating there, appearing to be substituted several times in history, which then testify for the high turnover in having a specific reserved seat. Since every senator, who could belong to the ascending category of clarissimi, spectabiles and illustres, was assigned to his personal seat, following his death or promotion to a superior category which implied a seat change, his name was erased and substituted with another one. In the 5th century, basing on the documentation we know that the steps of the lower levels near the arena were completely renovated and inscribed with the names of 195 senators belonging to the emperor Odoacer period, between 476 and 483 AD. This seems to have been the last significant intervention in the amphitheater. So the name we can read today are those ones belonging to the last spectators before the Colosseum was abandoned.

About the place

The cavea hosted around 73.000 spectators and was split in five overlapping sectors reserved to different social classes.
View of the Colosseum interior with the cavea remains dominating the collapsed arena floor
Illustration depicting the elevation and section of the cavea tiers of seats
Illustration depicting the four seats sectors of the cavea
Remain of a vomitorium balustrade from the Colosseum with ornaments and names of the locum
Remain of a vomitorium handrail from the Colosseum with sphinx

9

View of the cavea from the Colosseum second level
9

Colosseum second level

0 | 15 |

Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Roma RM

mon 08:30 : 16:30
tue 08:30 : 16:30
wed 08:30 : 16:30
thu 08:30 : 16:30
fri 08:30 : 16:30
sat 08:30 : 16:30
sun 08:30 : 16:30
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs yes
archeological site yes
steep floor yes
low visibility no

Description

We’ve climbed up to the second level of the Colosseum, where the visit to the eventual exhibition usually set-up here is included in the ticket. We
can walk around the amphitheater perimeter, where we can admire the whole cavea.

About the place

The second level of the Colosseum is walkable for its entire perimeter.
View of the rebuilt arena from the Colosseum second level
View of a cavea passageway on the second level of the Colosseum
Panorama over the Roman Forum from the Colosseum second level

10

View of the Arch of Constantine from the Belvedere Valadier terrace
10

Belvedere Valadier terrace

0 | 15 |

Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Roma RM

mon 08:30 : 16:30
tue 08:30 : 16:30
wed 08:30 : 16:30
thu 08:30 : 16:30
fri 08:30 : 16:30
sat 08:30 : 16:30
sun 08:30 : 16:30
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs yes
archeological site yes
steep floor yes
low visibility no

Description

We’re on the Valadier Terrace, also known as Belvedere Valadier, where you can experience the panorama from a different perspective. You can embrace
with your eyes the scenery presented by the valley of the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. There you can see the Arch of Constantine and over there the basement of Nero’s colossus.

About the place

The Terrazza Valadier, also known as Belvedere Valadier, is a 19th terrace where you can enjoy the view of the valley of the Colosseum.
View over the Valley of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine from the Belvedere Valadier Terrace

11

Pius IX commemorative plaque visible from the Belvedere Valadier terrace
11

Pius IX commemorative plaque

0 | 10 |

Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Roma RM

mon 08:30 : 16:30
tue 08:30 : 16:30
wed 08:30 : 16:30
thu 08:30 : 16:30
fri 08:30 : 16:30
sat 08:30 : 16:30
sun 08:30 : 16:30
disabled yes
sacred place no
stairs yes
archeological site yes
steep floor yes
low visibility no

Description

Here you can see the commemorative plaque with the inscription in Latin dating to 1852 and dedicated by pope Pio IX to keep memory of the Christian ma
rtyrs and commemorate the restoration works performed on the monument.

About the place

The commemorative plaque dedicated by pope Pio IX was placed after the restoration works performed in the 19th century.
Commemorative plaque dedicated by pope Pio IX viewed from the Belvedere Valadier terrace