The most iconic ancient site in Rome is the Colosseum. Located in the heart of the city, this massive structure officially known as the Flavian Ampitheatre attracts lines of visitors who come to see its imposing walls of arches and the remnants of its interior arena.
Built in less than a decade in the 1st century AD – during the reign of Emperor Vespasianand that of his son and successor Titus – this spacious elliptical arena measuring over 205 yards long and 170 wide could seat over 50,000 spectators and was host to a number of public – and brutal -events such as animal hunts, executions, and gladiator games. Later used as a Medieval hospital, a venue for bull fights sanctioned by the church, and the home – for a time in the 18th century – to patron saint of the homeless Benedict Labre,the Colosseum has also suffered from neglect, damage caused by earthquakes, and the quarrying of its stone to build churches and other structures.
Today only about one-third of the original structure remains, yet what remains is quite impressive.
Tours of the Colosseum allow access to a few levels of what is deemed the largest amphitheater in the world.
Enter through the arcaded vomitorium and wander down the aisles past the ancient red bricks
(some with visible iron support braces),
look down on what was once a wooden floor covered by sand,
where the maze of the hypogeum, a substage area of cellars, trap doors
and lifts used to transport animals (as shown in the various model) can be seen.
Climb to the upper levels where arches and openings provide views of the surrounding area, including the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine, the Temple of Venus and Roma, and Palatine Hill.