Step onto this reconstruction of the wooden stage and imagine yourself as a strapping gladiator in one of the gory fights or an exotic animal prowling through a meticulously recreated desert scene during the hunt shows. In Latin, arena means “sand-strewn place of combat”. There was sand alright – to soak up the blood.
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Thanks to your engaging guide, you’ll watch ancient Rome rise from the ruins. Italy with Us’ guides are verbal Old Masters, painting with words (and scholars’ renderings) the missing columns and frescoed walls. You’ll envision the first-century BC ornate Basilica Julia, which housed the civil courts and shops. With some imagination, you just might be able to hear the latest gossip that would spread like wildfire in this bustling gathering spot.
Marvel at the nearby Senate House, relatively intact since it was converted into church and thus protected from looting during the Middle Ages. That’s when the forum (and Colosseum) became a sort of quarry, supplying precious materials for St. Peter’s Basilica and other churches. Don’t miss the triple triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus and the Arch of Titus. Long before press releases and Twitter, the Roman Empire bragged about its conquests in such marble arches.
The war spoils undoubtedly arrived at the next destination: Palantine Hill, ancient Rome’s most exclusive address and the home of the emperors. From what remains of their luxurious, hilltop palaces, your guide will fill in the blanks – for example, extrapolating that the marble ruin of gigantic pinkie toe was part of a 12-metres-tall statue! Wander also in the 16th century Farnese Gardens, which offers postcard views of the Roman Forum.
A final, must-see in the forum is the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine with its towering concrete barrel vaults. The mind-boggling, fourth-century AD construction features honeycomb-like, octagonal ceiling coffers used to reduce the structure’s weight, an example of Roman architectural and engineering ingenuity.
Nowhere is that better displayed than at the Colosseum. Note the hallmark arches and similar barrel vaults that have kept this stadium standing for 2000 years. You’ll enter through one of the exits, the arched Porta Libitinaria. This was the exit door for the losers – aka corpses. Alive and kicking, head in and get the extraordinary opportunity to stand on the arena’s stage, just like a gladiator.
Next, descend below the stage to the dungeon, or backstage area, seen only by reservation. Dark, dank corridors are lined with pens that once held the lions, leopards, you name it, brought here from every corner of the Roman Empire. Check out a replica of one of some 60 lifts that hoisted the beasts and gladiators onto the stage through trap doors.
End your visit on a high note from the Colosseum’s third level . Long closed to the public, this was the nosebleed section, deemed fit only for women. Yet two millennia later, you will have a VIP seat for taking in the entire Colosseum. An imperial view at its best.
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The elaborate shows’ backstage area was actually located under the oval arena floor. In the maze of corridors, exotic animals were caged and gladiators and slaves worked in hellish conditions. Visitors will be spared the stench of animals and other Roman-era horrors but can marvel at the well-preserved aspects. There’s evidence of 60 elevators that transported men and beasts to the stage and a nearly exact replica.
The Arch of Constantine, erected in 315 AD, is located between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. The arch was constructed to commemorate the Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
The Palatine Hill was considered to be one of the most desirable neighborhoods of Ancient Rome, and was the political, religious and commercial center of the city. It is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome standing 40 meters above the Roman Forum.
The Arch of Septimius Severus was constructed in 203 AD, situated at the north west of the Roman Forum, and was constructed to commemorate the victories of Emperor Septimius Severus over the Parthians. The Arch of Titus was built in 82 AD under Emperor Domitian.
The Roman Forum is home to the ruins of ancient government buildings in the city centre of Rome. Developed form the 7th century BC, the Forum became the social, political and commercial hub of the Roman Empire.
The Temple of Cesar, an ancient structure in the Roman Forum, inaugurated on 18th August, 29 BC, was erected on the same spot where Julius Caesar was cremated.