Exploring 10 Ancient Monuments and Their Incredible Stories

By Jack Ripley | May 12, 2024

Before the Internet, There Was the Roman Colosseum

Humanity as a whole has undergone multiple phases with the rise and fall of empires all over the globe from Ancient Egypt in 3000 BCE to the Mayan civilization, which died out sometime in the late 17th century. These fallen empires may be long gone, but their legacies remain in the form of ancient monuments. Some of them are well-known tourist destinations, such as Stonehenge, Chichén Itzá, or the Great Wall of China. Meanwhile, others are off the beaten path, known only to locals or historians.

Regardless of their origins, ancient monuments provide valuable insight into how their creators lived at the time. Whether they were erected for military defense, religious ceremonies, or sheltering royals, even the oldest civilizations had a knack for building breathtaking structures out of materials as simple as stone and wood.

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Robin-Angelo Photography via Getty Images

Along with their healthy appetites for algebra, astronomy, and philosophy, Ancient Romans loved their spectator sports. Gladiator games in small, carnival-like arenas were already common by 60 BCE, but it wasn't until 70 AD that the emperor Vespasian called for the construction of one large arena as a gesture of goodwill to the public. Unfortunately, Vespasian passed before construction was completed just 10 years later.

After the inaugural games, the Colosseum officially became the center of Roman culture, a position that lasted well into the 6th century. According to experts, the venue could fit up to 50,000 guests, and some of the public spectacles held there included plays, executions, mock naval ship battles, and the infamous gladiatorial games. Almost 2,000 years later, only two-thirds of the Colosseum remains. While it's no longer practical to use the space as an entertainment venue, millions of tourists visit the site in any given year, making it one of Italy's top attractions.

A Respite for Pilgrims in the Ellora Caves of India

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The Ellora Caves are a network of over 100 hand-carved caves located in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Featuring statues of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions, the earliest carvings are estimated to be from the years 550-600 AD. Historians believe that the presence of multiple faiths is evidence of the religious harmony and tolerance that existed in the area. Due to its proximity to existing trade routes, it's theorized that the caves may have served as a rest stop for pilgrims traveling to other religious sites in the region. Today, the caves are one of Maharashtra's main tourist attractions.