History of the Roman Colosseum
The history of Rome, Italy comes alive in the Roman Colosseum
When you stand in the Colosseum you will feel the excitement that comes with knowing you are standing in a structure that was built almost 2,000 years ago.
The Colosseum was begun by Vespasian around 70 AD on the site of Nero’s residence (the previous emperor). The structure was inaugurated by Vespasian’s son Titus ten years later, although it was likely finished later by Titus’s son. The ceremonies and games held in
celebration of the opening went on for a hundred days.
The Roman Colosseum has been known by a number of different names; The Amphiteatrum Flavium, Amphitheatrum Caesareum, Colosseum, Coliseum or Il Colosseo. It is about the size of an American athletic stadium with seating for about 50,000 and is 160 feet high.
The floor of the arena was wooden and covered with sand. Beneath this floor was a series of rooms and passageways for wild animals and storage rooms for items needed to stage the events.
There are 80 entrances through which spectators entered the stadium. The passageways were built so it would only take 15 minutes to fill and 5 minutes to evacuate.
Wooden masts supported a linen awning that was hung from the fourth story. The awning was built to protect spectators from the sun and to catch the wind and provide a breeze for the audience. Archers stood on a catwalk above the stadium and shot animals that got loose.
Roman Colosseum Facts
Seats for the upper class were made of marble; the lower classes had benches made of wood. The seating was divided by classes. The Imperial court were in the lower tier, next to them were the Vestals. Next came the aristocratic families and behind them the commoners. Women were seated in the very top tier, though very few women attended events. The lowest classes had standing room only.
Public events included mock naval battles, wild animal hunts and of course, gladiator fights. Mock naval battles were held by removing the wooden floor and flooding the lower floor.
During the middle ages, stones from the Colosseum were removed for new buildings. Rumor has it that much of the stone that was removed was used in the building of St. Peter’s
It is generally believed that the western portion collapsed in an earthquake in the middle of the 14th century.
The Roman ruling class was under legal obligation to organize games. The Colosseum was used for four and a half centuries and over that time withstood lightening strikes and earthquakes. Events were very expensive to run so the Colosseum went into disuse with the end of the empire, somewhere around the 8th or 9th centuries.
As you walk down the Fiori Imperiali watch the Colosseum come into view. But, if you are visiting in the summer bring a very modern product: sunscreen. There is little shade and it can be very hot.
History Channel YouTube on Roman Colosseum
Map & Directions
Important Address Information: The address is Piazza del Colosseo. The Colosseum closes at 3:00 p.m. in the off season (from November through March) otherwise it is open from 9 until one hour before sunset Monday through Saturday and 9 until 2 on Sundays. There is a metro stop nearby and several buses have routes that will take you there.