On Friday we were going to go to Vatican City but in the end, due to a bus/metro strike, we went to the Colosseum.

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It had only just opened when we arrived and surprisingly there was almost no queue. First impressions once you stand at the side of the walls of the Colosseum is that it is huge, second impressions as you walk around inside under the giant arcades is that it is huge, and third impressions as you gaze out over the structure and around the amphitheatre that had a 55,000 seat capacity, is that it is huge! It is indeed the largest surviving Roman structure, built between AD72 – 96. If the Pantheon engineers didn’t win the medal then it would only be due to the Colosseum engineers winning it ahead of them.

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The work begun on the Colosseum under Emperor Vespasian in AD72 and it was inaugurated by his son Titus in AD80. Finally between AD81-96 Domitian added the finishing touches.

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The following photo shows the under stage set up where animals, stage-props, gladiators could be hoisted up through hidden  trap doors.

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Saturday we went back to the Colosseum to go on a free tour around the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. I almost couldn’t be bothered but it was certainly worth the money! In fact it gave me a new appreciation for Roman history and also made me want to go back to university to do a B.A. Here are a few things I learned although I may error in relaying the information to you so don’t take my word for it.1Roman was a republic from 509 BC-27 BC. Julius Caesar’s died on 15 March 44 BC. He was assassinated within one month of being given the title of ‘dictator perpetuus’ by the Roman Senate although some sources seem to think he was a dictator for about a year. Sounds like the Senate became afraid of his ambitions to become a King of Rome so they put an end to his career plan. He was never actually a Roman Emperor as the empire didn’t begin until after his death in 27 BC. Julius Caesar was the guy who announced to the Senate one of his battle victories with the words: “Veni, vidi, vici”—”I came, I saw, I conquered.”

The first emperor was Caesar’s adopted son Augustus, known to his family as Octavian but he evidently changed his name to Gaius Julius Caesar after the real Caesar, his Dad, was murdered. To make things even more confusing the name ‘Augustus’ was used by all Roman emperors. But only Augustus (the first emperor) is known by the name today.2

Augustus Caesar ruled between 27 BC and AD14. After him came Tiberius who reigned between AD 14 – 17. His Latin name is Tiberius Claudius Nero but his ruling name was Tiberius Caesar Augustus. Evidently all the Roman Emperors used the name “Caesar” as part of their title. After him was Caligula, Claudius and Nero and that concluded the Julian-Claudian Dynasty of Roman Emperors. After them the Flavian Dynasty reigned between 69AD – 96AD with Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian.

I just gave you this mini history lesson because today we met some of the building these characters had constructed during their watch. On Palatine Hill we saw what I think were Emperor Domitian’s private stadium where he and a few friends could watch fighting, boxing, wrestling, and other more athletic events without having to mingle with the general public.

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He also built his accommodation, a massive palace. The photo below shows where his guests would enter via what would have been a magnificent garden and other photos give you an idea of how big the place was. There were quarters for meeting with guests and also used for Senate meetings when he didn’t want to have to go down to the Forum. There were his private quarters, the servants and other worker quarters etc.

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One question Daniel had the day before was whether or not the flat bricks were modern day or were they from 2000 years ago. We found out they were the real McCoy which is quite amazing as they look pretty well kept. On the outside of the brick would have been layers of marble such as the small example shown below in the photo.

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After the palace fell into disuse much of the marble got recycled and removed to build St Peter’s in Vatican City. Also I found out that later in the empire history when Constantine became emperor, the first Christian Roman emperor, he set up shop in the Eastern Roman Empire in a small town called Byzantium which he renamed Constantinople (now in Turkey). He did this for various reasons but one was that the armies could be more easily mobilised from there than from Rome and also because Rome was practically built around the worship of pagan gods so the new city was safer for Christians. Rome at its peak has around 1 million citizens, some say as many of 4 million. Later Constantine set up in Constantinople the population of Rome dwindled down to perhaps less than 100,000 people and also much of the Roman treasures, monuments, even buildings were evidently carried off to build the new city.

On the way into the area known as the Roman Forum you find the Arch of Titus. Although it has been restored evidently the underside is the original 1st-century thing. Interestingly this arch is what the famous 1806 Arc de Triomphe in Paris was based on.

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According to Wiki3it was built in c.82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’ victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Interestingly one of the sculptured pictures shows Titus on a chariot pulled by four horses. Evidently only the most honoured generals were permitted to have four horses pulling their chariots to show their superiority to everyone else who were restricted to two horses.

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It is sobering to learn that it was the sacking and looting of Jerusalem, that provided funding to build the Colosseum along with the money raised by selling Jews as slaves which were probably then hired to build it. (I borrowed the following photo from wiki as it is clearer than mine.)


Here are some other photos of the Roman Forum area:


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Daniel and Amy sitting on 2000 year old marble … as you do …

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(Visited 11/5/2012 – 12/5/2012)

1 My memory wasn’t so good so some of the following information I have gleamed from http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-empire/list-of-roman-emperors.htm

2 According to http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/worldhistory/augustus/

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_of_Titus