Walking in Their (Gladiatorial) Footsteps

Posted on April 17th, 2011 by

Just in case you really needed one more reason to go to Rome, now you can…


“…follow in the footprints of the gladiators, the Christians and the lions as they made their way into the Colosseum. For the first time in years, the private backstage areas of this blood-drenched theatre is open to the public.

The Colosseum officially opened in 80AD with a 100-day orgy of combat and bloodshed. Happy Romans queued to catch the death throes of beasts and gladiators. The numbers for gladiator deaths are hard to come by but up to 9000 animals were slain over the opening festival, with as many as 5000 despatched on one day alone.

From the arena floor we filed downstairs to the gladiators’ entrance. The Colosseum’s “stage door” is in the basement. A long passageway between enormous blocks of travertine stone was connected to the ancient barracks across the road, where most gladiators were billeted. Lions with a taste for Christians also came in this way and were kept here in cages before being hoisted to the arena floor above with an ingenious system of lifts.

The arena floor may have had all the physical drama, but these back-stage passageways were where the mind struggled. This was the waiting room. You stood here in the wings as beasts trumpeted and roared, as your gladiatorial opponents sharpened their swords. Through the archway 70000 people were cheering for your entrance, but here you were alone.

There is one last splendid addition to what you can now visit at the Colosseum: the third tier. The guide led us up through the grandstands, then opened another red velvet rope so we could ascend a final flight of stairs to the best view of ancient Rome – the Forum, the Arch of Septimus Severus, the Palatine Hill beneath its umbrella pines, seen from the rooftop of the Colosseum. Beyond, the domes of Christian Rome rose like balloons over a choppy sea of red tiled roofs.”


HT Sasa


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