Last week on July 19th, marked 1,948 years since the great fire of Rome in AD 64. The fire started near Circus Maximus and raged for 6 days. By the end of it, only 4 out of Rome’s 14 districts were left standing, 7 were razed to the ground and 3 were severely destroyed. Nero was the Emperor at the time and though folklore has it that ‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned’, this can’t possibly be true as the fiddle was not yet invented at that time! However, some historians say that he sang a song about the razing of Troy which may or may not be true. In any case, Nero took advantage of the destruction and built a sumptious house and garden, the Domus Aurea, with an enormous man-made lake adjacent to the Forum on Esquiline Hill. He committed suicide 4 years later in AD 68 at the age of 31, and the new Emperor Vespasian starting building the present Colosseum 2 years after Nero’s death on the site of the lake. It was officially named the Flavian Amphitheatre, but since there was a colossal statue of Nero just in front of it called the Colossus Neronis, it became known as the Colosseum.
The amphiteatre is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rome. Said to be capable of seating up to 75,000 people during the gladiatorial contests, it feels like there must be the same number viewing it on any given day judging by the crowds in and around. Apparently, over five million people visit it every year which would make an average of around 12,000 per day!
For those of you intending to visit Rome, a 12 Eur ticket to the Colosseum also gives you access to the Fori Romani just opposite and is valid for 2 days. The best value for 12 Eur in my opinion as you can not only also visit the Forum as well as the museum on Palatine hill but you get to see other temporary exhibitions within the Forum. We saw an amazing exhibition on ancient Roman glass which was held in what was once the Roman Curia. Now did you know that glass was the first artificial substance ever to be made by man?