Wednesday, October 4, 2017


PLEBS may have been the lowliest of the low, but they had a stupendous view of ancient Rome.

For the first time in decades, visitors can have a plebeian's eye view of the Colosseum, the oval amphitheatre where gladiators fought wild animals - and each other.

From November 1, tourists will be able to climb to the fifth and highest level of the arena, which was reserved for Rome's plebeian classes.

Groups of up to 25 people will be led up to the highest reaches of the amphitheatre by guides.

The "plebs" sat on wooden benches, unlike the senators and imperial officials on lower levels, who parked their behinds on marble benches.

"The noise and the smell would have been hellish," Rossella Rea, the director of the Colosseum, told The Telegraph of London from the top level of the Colosseum, which rises more than 120 feet (30 meters) above the ground.

"The wild animals were kept in underground tunnels. They were not fed for days. So when they were hoisted up from the darkness to the arena in cages, they would have been terrified. The carnage was terrible."

While the first level of the Colosseum was reserved for the emperor and his senators, the second was occupied by imperial functionaries.

The third was given over to the middle-class, while the fourth ... which will also be opened to the public next month ... was the realm of traders, merchants and shopkeepers.

Ordinary people had to clamber up steep flights of stone steps and walk along dimly-lit tunnels to reach the fifth and final level.

"It was tiring to get all the way up there," said Professor Rea. "A lot of the plebeians brought food from home ... pieces of chicken, cereals, that kind of thing.

"You have to remember that the games lasted all day so they and their families needed some sustenance."

The poor were at least compensated with expansive views not only of the 50,000 other people crammed into the Colosseum, but of the nearby Forum and the Palatine Hill, where emperors built their palaces.

Spectators received tickets which indicated their seat numbers and which entrance to use, much as in modern stadiums.

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