Travelling with Stabilo #18: Coliseum, Rome
经纬游踪 #18: 罗马斗兽场
Coliseum is one of the most famous landmark in the world. As a major attraction in Rome, it is an essential stop for all travellers. The best way to experience the Coliseum, believe it or not, is by guided tours. That's because a guided tour would be able to take you through to areas that are normally inaccessible for visitors.
We spent only half a day at the Coliseum, and that was enough. While large, it is not as expansive as the Roman Forums. After spending the morning at the Roman Forums next door, we headed to the Coliseum entrance around lunch time. We have pre-booked a comprehensive guided tour online through the Coliseum’s official website. Pre-booking is highly recommended as people who have a printed ticket could skip the main queue and head to the much smaller queue for pre-booked tours. Once we got our stickers to our tour we were directed to gate 4，where we waited for our guide. We booked an English tour, but there are other languages available.
The tour guides appeared after a short while, and led us through some big gates, down some stairs to the underground area of the Coliseum where the tour began. The underground area is a recently opened area of the Coliseum, after extensive efforts in excavation and reconstruction. With the original name Flavian Amphitheatre, Coliseum was the largest outdoor theatre ever built, and in the Roman times provided a range of shows on offer for the Roman Public. These include gladiator fights with exotic beasts, gruesome executions, and theatrical shows that acts out heroic mythical stories. The underground level, or the hypogeum, is then like the backstage of this enormous theatre, where gladiators practiced, beasts held and fed, and artists preparing props for the upcoming shows. There are lots of cages and rooms, separated by the large number of columns and walls, where the animals and criminals were kept before starting the show. To allow for these gladiators, beasts and props to instantly get the stage, the Roman's built one of the earliest forms of elevators using hydraulics. These elevators are manually turned to lift the person or object onto the stage.
After our underground tour, we were taken to the mid-level, where part of the Coliseum platform stage was reconstructed. Only a small part of the original stage is left. Walking onto the stage and looking across to the opposite side of the Coliseum, we could almost get an idea of how it feels to try and kill a lion running at you while a large crowd around you watch on.
The tour guide then took us to the top level of the Coliseum, which is another restricted area. Just like going to a concert now, the closest seat to the stage at the Coliseum were reserved for the senators, and as you go higher, the seats were for the people who are less and less elite. The top tier, being further to the stage, was a standing only area for the women, the poor, and the slaves. Nowadays, this area become a great vintage point to see the Coliseum from up high. We can clearly the entire Coliseum: the many arcs along the wall surrounding the stage, the stone columns and walls of the hypogeum, and original seatings that resembled a stone staircase. All these had been standing here since it was built almost 2000 years ago.
After the tour, we were free to explore the rest of the Coliseum. We were able to enjoy more of the small details of the architecture. Ancient Inscriptions of words and drawings is a common sight here. There is a cross, erected the Pope John Paul II, in memories of all the early martyrs who were executed here because of their new religious beliefs.
By the time we left the Coliseum, the sun was setting, and a golden hue is reflected on the imposing walls of the Coliseum. It is not hard to imagine back to the glory days, where these now empty arcs were decorated with statues of great emperors and generals, and the Coliseum seats will be filled with excited crowds young and old ready for a day’s entertainment. The Roman glory days have since long gone, but the stories and legend lives on, still inspiring us now thousands of years on and thousands of years to come.