Walk the path of ancient Romans and witness one of the world’s greatest architectural wonders. The Colosseum attracts over 5 million people every year, making it one of Italy’s most popular destinations. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, this oval shaped outdoor auditorium once served as a stage for gladiators and public spectacles. With accommodation for 60,000 seated and 10,000 standing, all of whom could enter and leave in a matter of minutes, courtesy of 80 entrances, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built. It stands 157 feet high (48 meters), which is only 8 meters shorter than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and covers a total area of 6 acres (24,000 m2). The massive arena also features a vast underground structure called the “hypogeum”, a place where historians believe gladiators, prisoners and animals were held.
The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Once the epicenter of Rome’s social happenings, the Forum today houses beautiful ruins that represent different eras of life in the city. It stands as one of the most important archaeological sites in the world and gives visitors an opportunity to peek into the Ancient World. Inhabited since 1000 BC, the Palatine Hill is the oldest part of the city. Once the home of emperors, the hill is a peaceful green area with wild flowers and ideal picnic spots. It also boasts the best views of the city.
A visit to the Colosseum and its sister sites is spellbinding and magical; however, it can also be exhausting. In order to maximize your time and enjoy the ancient capital to its fullest, a little planning is well worth your time. From insider tips on how to explore the ancient sites to a detailed guide on how to find the best tour options and ticket prices, browse the sections below and discover your perfect Colosseum experience.
Interesting Colosseum Facts
- The Colosseum only took 10 years to build, starting in 70 AD and was completed in 80 AD, using over 60,000 Jewish slaves.
- The Colosseum is an elliptical building measuring 189 meters long and 156 meters wide with a base area of 24,000 m² with a height of more than 48 meter.
- It’s the world’s largest amphitheater and has over 80 entrances and can accommodate about 50,000 spectators.
- There were 36 trap doors in Arena allowing for elaborate special effects.
- It is thought that over 500,000 people lost their lives and over a million wild animals were killed over the years that the Colosseum hosted people vs. beast games.
- All Ancient Romans had free entry to the Colosseum for events, and were also fed throughout the spectacles.
- Festivals as well as games could last up to 100 days in the Colosseum.
- The Ancient Romans would sometimes flood the Colosseum and have miniature ship naval battles inside as a way of entertainment.
- The marble façade and a few other parts of the Colosseum were used for the construction of St Peter’s Basilica.
- Many natural disasters devastated the structure of the Colosseum, but it was the earthquakes of 847 AD and 1231 AD that caused most of the damage you see today.
- The original name of the Colosseum was Flavian Amphitheater, named after the Flavian Dynasty of Emperors.
- Rome´s most popular monument was built for three reasons: as a gift to the Roman citizens from the Flavian Dynasty to increase their popularity, to stage various forms of entertainment, and to showcase Roman engineering techniques to the world.
- The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as animal hunts, mock sea battles, re-enactments of famous battles, executions and dramas.
- During the inaugural games of the Colosseum in 80 CE held by Titus, some 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered.
- In 107 CE, Emperor Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators within 123 days.
- It is estimated that the games played in the Colosseum for hundreds of years have taken the lives of about 500,000 people and over a million wild animals.
- The last gladiatorial fights occurred in 435 CE and the last animal hunts stopped in 523 CE. It was primarily due to the cost of procuring animals and gladiators and maintaining the expensive facility.
- More than 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone were used for the outer wall of Colosseum which was set without mortar held together by 300 tons of iron clamps.
- The Colosseum was built near the giant statue of Colossus which was part of the Nero’s Park. The current name was derived from the statue of Colossus.
- Based on historical evidences, it shows that 200 bullock carts were used to transport marbles to the construction site.
- The total amount of marbles used for the construction of the Colosseum was estimated at 100,000 cubic meters.
- Receiving millions of visitors every year, the Colosseum is the most famous tourist attraction of Rome.
- Despite its brutal pagan origins, the Colosseum has been used as a worship space by Christians over the centuries. A large cross was removed in the 1870's during a frenzy of secular archaeology funded by the new Italian state. That cross was replaced by Mussolini in 1926 in a cynical effort to placate Catholics.
- Gladiators were marginalized persons in Roman society, without the rights of citizenship, and essentially (or literally) slaves.The gladiators were both admired and reviled by the Romans.
- Although the Romans' gladiatorial spectacles petered out in about 432 AD, it was not because of any Christian edict. It was primarily due to the cost of procuring animals and gladiators and maintaining the expensive facility, which by this time was deteriorating.
- The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). The hypogeum consisted of two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals.