Rome Colosseum opens gladiators' dungeons to public

Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:32pm EDT
 
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By Cristiano Corvino and Gabriele Pileri

ROME (Reuters) - Underground dungeons at Rome's Colosseum, considered to be one of the great feats of Roman architecture and where gladiators once locked in mortal combat, will open to the public for the first time next week.

An upper area of the ancient monument that had been closed since the 1970s will also be accessible to visitors and offer them a view over Rome's ancient forum, Italian culture ministry officials said on Thursday.

The opening of the underground chambers, where lions and tigers were caged and gladiators waited to hear their fate, and the upper third tier of the 80 A.D. Roman amphitheatre follows recent restoration work.

"It is the first time people will have the chance to go down into the places where games and shows were organized," Rossella Rea, director of the Colosseum, said.

Officials said the idea was also to give visitors more space at one of Italy's most visited monuments which in Roman times was the scene for mock sea battles, pitting warriors against wild animals and re-enactment of famous battles.

Rea said that more than 18,000 people come to see the amphitheatre every day and conditions had become cramped for visitors. The newly opened areas will be accessible to guided tours of a maximum of 25 people at a time.

From the Porta Libitina -- the "Gate of Death" through which the bodies of the dead were carried outside the amphitheatre -- visitors will enter the "bowels" of the Colosseum.

There gladiators once prepared for battle, and animals were caged before being transported by lifts up to the central fighting arena.   Continued...

 
<p>A view of the exteriors of Rome's ancient Colosseum October 14, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>