The Colosseum is one of the most famous Roman amphitheaters from the Roman Empire and one of the most iconic attractions in Italy. While the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater of ancient times, there are other similar ancient Roman amphitheaters still standing, like the Amphitheater of El Jem in Tunisia.
Of course, the Roman Colosseum is one of the top attractions in Rome and is among the city’s most iconic structures today. So, for those intending to see it for real in person, here are a number of interesting things to know about the Colosseum in Rome before visiting.
10 The Roman Colosseum Is The Largest Amphitheater Of Antiquity
The Colosseum and Ludus Magnus ancient gladiatorial school
The Colosseum is famous for a reason. It is the largest amphitheater to be constructed during Antiquity. The massive arena was built to entertain and appease the mob of Rome.
Tens of thousands of spectators (50,000 to 80,000) would throng its stone steps and watch some of the most violent games ever shown.
9 You Can Visit The Upper Terraces Of The Colosseum
A Gladiator Fight at the Colosseum 3D Rendering
Ancient Rome was a highly stratified society, and the seating at the Colosseum reflected that. The premium lower seats were for the equities and other elites, while the upper seats were for the slaves and women.
Today, the upper level of the Colosseum is open to the public with special tours.
With Special Tour
8 You Can Visit The Hypogeum Of The Colosseum
Hypogeum of the Colosseum
The Hypogeum of the Colosseum is two leveled and contained corridors, rooms, and access points to the arena.
The Hypogeum also had tunnels so that the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins could enter the amphitheater without passing through the crowds. There are special tours to access the Colosseum’s Hypogeum.
With Special Tour
7 The Colosseum Had A Retractable Roof
Colosseum lit up at night
The Colosseum of Rome once had a retractable roof or awning called the velarium. It was extended to protect the spectators from the rain and the sun.
The velarium was made of a canvas-covered, net-like structure and had a large hole in the center. It is believed it would have covered around two-thirds of the area. Special sailors were used to work the velarium.
A Canvas Retractable Awning
6 The Colosseum Was Used For Naval Battles
The Colosseum in Rome from a unique angle
The Romans loved to re-enact famous battles (with real people dying), and this included famous naval battles.
In the early days, the arena of the Colosseum could be flooded so that mock naval battles could be held. But the Colosseum was never well suited to naval re-enactments, and it lost the ability to hold naval battles after the Hypogeum was built.
Hosted In The Early Years
5 Construction Was Funded By The Jewish Temple
Colosseum, Piazza del Colosseo, Rome
Judea famously rebelled against the rule of Rome, and the revolt was brutally put down in AD 70 following the Siege of Jerusalem. This marked the end of the Second Temple and its destruction.
The Romans looted the temple, and some of the booty was used to construct the Colosseum. It is possible the Romans used Jewish slaves to work as laborers to build the Colosseum.
From The Sack Of Jerusalem in 70 AD
4 The Colosseum Got Its Name From A Nero Statue
The Colosseum in Rome at dusk
A colossus is a larger-than-life statue. The name Colosseum may have come from the bronze Colossus of Emperor Nero that stood outside the amphitheater. Nero was deposed and committed suicide, and afterward, the Colossus of Nero was remodeled to look like Helios – the sun god.
The statue remained standing into the Middle Ages but was eventually destroyed. Today, only the base of it survives.
From The Colossus of Nero
3 The Colosseum Is Also Called The Flavian Amphitheater
Aerial view of Rome and the Colosseum, Italy
The Colosseum has more than one name, as sometimes it is called the Flavian Amphitheater. That name comes from the Flavian dynasty that built it. It was built during the reigns of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian (the three Flavian emperors).
This name should not be confused with the Flavian Amphitheatre of Pozzuoli – the third-largest Roman amphitheater in Italy.
From The Flavian Dynasty
2 The Colosseum’s Site Is Thanks To The Great Fire Of Rome
Colosseum of Rome at night with the moon
The Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD devastated much of Rome (it was during the reign of Nero and used as an excuse to persecute the Christians). Before the fire, the area was densely inhabited, but after the fire, the land was seized by the government and used for monumental public works.
The Colosseum is next to the ancient Roman Forum – the ancient beating heart of Rome that everyone should visit.
Cleared After The Great Fire Of Rome
1 Gladiatorial Games Were Banned From 399 AD
Portrait of a victorious gladiator
The Colosseum was the scene of very bloody gladiatorial games for hundreds of years (much worse than shown in the movie Gladiator). But as the empire converted to Christianity, the Roman lust for blood waned, and the games were eventually banned in 399 AD under the reign of Honorius.
They were last mentioned in the chronicles of surviving recorded history in around 435 AD.
80 or 81 AD (inauguration) to around 399 AD