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The Colosseum, also called the Flavian Ampitheater, is one of the great works of Roman engineering. In the 1st century AD, when it was built, it was the site of gladiator fights, mock sea battles, and other enactments. It had three stories of tiered seats and could hold 50,000 spectators. Large awnings shielded them from the sun. Underneath the floor were two levels of tunnels and cages, which were used to hold the gladiators and wild animals before the spectacles began.
Legend says that in the first three centuries of this era, Christian martyrs were thrown to wild beasts in the Colosseum, but there is no evidence of this. Most of the time, Christians lived peaceably in the Roman Empire. Organized persecution of Christians was only sporadic, and tended to happen when there was political unrest in the Empire.
Today, the Colosseum is one of the most frequently visited monuments in Rome. The ticket is combined with tickets to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, and in early 2012 costs 12 euros. The ticket can be used for one entrance to each of the three sites, over two consecutive days. If there is a special exhibit at the Colosseum, a 3-euro supplement may be added. There are various concessions for citizens of the European Union, including free entrance for EU citizens under age 18 and over age 65. Full details of prices, as well as links to the official ticket sale site, and opening times, can be seen here:
In the summer and at other busy times, there are often very long lines to buy tickets at the Colosseum. Buying a ticket from the official site allows you to avoid the ticket line. The lines at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are usually much shorter, so you can also save time by buying your ticket at one of those sites, since all three are included in a single ticket. Finally, if you plan to visit other museums or archaeological sites in Rome, and if you'll be using public transportation, the Roma Pass may save you money, and will also allow you to bypass ticket lines:
However, compare the cost of the pass to the cost of the museums you hope to visit, considering also how much you'll use the three-day transport pass that's included, before you decide to buy the pass.
The Colosseum offers guided tours in Italian, English, and Spanish. When conditions permit, there are tours of the underground area. These tours are generally of high quality, and allow you to visit parts of the structure that ordinary ticket holders can't enter. Private tour guides also conduct tours that can visit these limited-access areas. In winter, the underground area is subject to flooding and usually can't be visited. There are excellent explanatory signs in Italian and English inside the Colosseum, so a tour is not really a necessity for understanding the amphitheater. Parts of the underground area can be seen from above without actually taking a tour. Many group tours combine the Colosseum in a single tour with the Roman Forum, but the Palatine Hill shouldn't be overlooked.
For choosing a tour guide, make sure to: