The Colosseum is located in an area known today as the Colosseum Valley. This low-lying area is centrally important, as can be seen in Giacomo Lauro's 17th century engraving of Rome,1 due to its close proximity to several hills, including the Palatine hill, the location of the Roman emperor's home since Augustus' reign. During the emperor Nero's reign, the majority of the valley, as well as part of the surrounding hills, was taken up by the Domus Aurea, or "Golden Home".2 This structure was Nero's creation, and monumental in its scale. The Colosseum is located on what had been a large, artificial lake within the complex of the Domus Aurea. Vespasian chose this site for the Colosseum with a specific ideological purpose. What land Nero had taken to construct an extravagant pleasure palace was reclaimed by Vespasian. As the court poet Martial states in his "Liber Spectaculorum" (Book of Spectacles): a place that had once represented imperial excess became a public entertainment space: "reddita Roma sibi est" , "Rome had been restored to herself" (Martial 2.11).3
Locate the Colosseum on this interactive map of Rome.
1 Giacomo Lauro, Splendore dell’antica e moderna Roma, 1612-1640, Special Collections, Wellesley College.
2 Filippo Coarelli, The Colosseum (Los Angeles: J Paul Getty Museum, 2001), 163.
3 Martial, M. Valerii Martialis Liber Spectaculorum, trans. Kathleen M. Coleman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).