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"The Gory of Rome" Top 5 Page for this destination Italy Things to Do Tip by iandsmith

Italy Things to Do: 1,468 reviews and 2,255 photos

  Did people really die here?
by iandsmith

Was there a more horrific place in the ancient world? Today, we talk about the killing fields and holocausts. Then, the Romans revelled in slaughter, they paid to see it, they cheered as the blood ran, they built a stadium without parallel to house it. It was called the Flavian Amphitheatre; today we know it as the Colosseum.
Begun by Vespasian in 72 A.D. it was inaugurated by Emperor Titus in the year 80 with 100 days of festivities, during which time 2,000 gladiators and 9,000 wild beasts were slain.
Entire areas of the Roman Empire and other countries were denuded of their wildlife to sate the spectators’ bloodlust. The Middle East became a different world as a result.
It’s hard to imagine over 700,000 people dying in a single spot. It is without parallel.
There were 80 passageways to enter on each of the three levels, and of those on the first level, only four were not numbered and they corresponded to the structure’s major and minor axes. The first two of these were the main entrances and through the latter two, usually accompanied by a fanfare of trumpets and Vestal Virgins placing flowers, came the emperor and his cronies. The emperor's entrance came directly from his home.
The senators had their names on their seats. The peasantry walked up 148 steps to get to their area.
The majority of the structure is made of travertine stone and it is reliably estimated 200 wagons would have been used daily to shift the stone over a four year period, the base blocks weighing 5 tons and held together by pins of iron, usually set in lead filled holes drilled into the centre of the blocks.
The whole thing was built on a small lake that had to be drained. It is estimated that it would have taken 400,000 cart loads to shift the dirt and drain the water before they even started construction.
Most amazing of all was the velarium, a moveable canopy to shelter the spectators from the sun. Erecting this enormous shade was put in the hands of members of the Imperial Fleet of Misenum, 100 in all, and they were aided by an estimated 1,000 other personnel to get the 160 winches turning in unison that raised the ring and then they had to add the material that covered the ring. It is writ that when the wind through the canopy was added to the roar of the spectators and the screams of the wild beasts, an indescribable din was created.

Directions: Via Appia, if you miss it, you're blind

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  • Updated Feb 9, 2010
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