Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rome's Colosseum and The Roman Forum

Where do I even begin? The Colosseum is one of Rome's most famous buildings and enduring monuments to ancient Roman culture. It is un-freaking-believable.

A few years ago, I went on a road trip to Vancouver, B.C. It took 5 days to get there. And that was rushing through it - Canada is a massive country, to say the least. I drove back home through the U.S. and detoured just so I could see Mount Rushmore.

I was picturing something magnificent. Huge. Incredible. And after watching way too many movies, I imagined one of the mouths to open wide to reveal a secret cave. I finally drove up, parked the car, and hurried out so I could lay my eyes on the wonder that is Mount Rushmore. I felt a rush of disappointment. I thought it would be bigger. More spectacular.

The Colosseum? Nothing like that. Not even a little bit. It's bigger in real life. It's more incredible than you could ever picture it to be. Even after seeing hundreds of photographs.

On our second day in Rome, Sebastian and I took a tour of the Colosseum and The Roman Forum. Our tour guide was a funny Italian archaeologist who joked about his height, his pony tail, and assured us he wasn't gay. Even though there would be nothing wrong with it if he was. (Most Americans think he is because he carries around a messenger bag, but as he said "It's what Italians do.":) 

Have a look at our photos if you'd like! 

An incredible view from inside. Imagine the wood floor across the entire area, covered in sand, as it would have been originally. From this view, you can also see the underground area, where a variety of animals, such as lions or tigers, would pop-up onto the main arena from a trap door. (Archers would be ready and waiting just in case they decided to attack the Emperor.) For the Romans, it was all about the show. 

It's also unknown how many people actually died while fighting here. By the time the gladiators made it here, they were already incredibly famous and loved. In which case, people wouldn't want to see them die. Although, I'm sure some did anyway. Some of the Emperors were on a serious power trip.

Imagine this as it once was. Much like your modern day stadium. Packed with 50,000 people cheering for their favourite gladiator to win. (And for more bloodshed...)

Looking out on the Arch of Constantine. (From here...)

This section of the Colosseum was rebuilt after the collapse. You can tell because they used brick to re-build it, instead of concrete.

Before the Colosseum existed, a power-hungry Emperor named Nero burned down Rome so he could steal the land for his own and then build his massive empire. Where you now see the Colosseum, used to be a giant swimming pool that was used for Nero's enjoyment. The swimming pool was then removed and the Colosseum was built for the people of Rome. The pool's removal also explains part of the reason why the Colosseum collapsed; the foundation underneath wasn't as solid. 

You can also see small holes on the outside of the Colosseum in this photo. The cause of these holes are actually from the metal clamps that held the marble in place. What you're looking at is actually the "skeleton" of the Colosseum. 

All I could keep thinking about while touring around this massive amphitheatre was... if I thought it was this amazing right now, imagine how mind blowing it would have been in its prime. Before the soft ground caused the one side to collapse. Before the metal clamps were stolen and it was stripped of its marble exterior. (Thanks, Middle Ages. Pffft.)

Now, onto the Roman Forum...

Just standing outside doors that are over 1700 years old. No big deal.

And now you know how I got that awkward sunburn that I told you about.

The Emperor's private arena. 

So much excitement!!! I whole-heartedly recommend booking a tour if you ever go to Rome and check out The Colosseum (and/or the Vatican). My head was filled with so much information during that three hour walking tour... and I know it's impossible to regurgitate it all back to you. Seeing where the chariots rode, where executions took place, how the Romans lived, and imagining what their daily lives were like... along with imagining what the insane Emperors were really like, was surreal. 
It was a day filled with nostalgia and amazement.

...And as soon as we got home, we watched "The Gladiator" to re-live it all over again. (Do yourselves a favour and watch it! It had been years since I did and I forgot just how good it is. Russell Crowe is phenomenal.) 

Can't wait to show you more! 


  1. Wow. You look like you had so much. Great pictures! I'm studying abroad in Rome next summer. These photos have made me more excited! :D

  2. WOW! I'm jealous. Looks amazing. Your photos are gorgeous.

  3. Amazing. Seriously. Since I've never been to Rome, your words brought back my constant "WOW" feeling from Athens, and, just, WOW. I can't wait to go someday! I didn't know about the swimming pool- very cool fact! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Love this post! I took a my family to Rome back in May and it definitely was one of the coolest cities we visited on our 2 week vacation. Seeing the Colosseum in person was like jaw-droppingly awesome. So much bigger in real life, isn't it?! It puts the Duomo in Florence to shame...but that's just my opinion. Looking forward to reading more about your travels in Europe! I live in Germany with my hubby and we absolutely love it here!

    Hello, by the way! I'm your newest follower! :)

  5. That is so cool! Love all of the information that you were able to remember and share with us.

  6. Amazing!! I can't wait to take Chris to Italy!!