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Facts about the Colosseum

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When you think of the Colosseum, what comes to mind? The gladiator fights? The tourists? Maybe just a few words come to mind like “amazing” and “awesome.” You might be surprised at some of the interesting facts about this ancient Roman amphitheatre. For example[n , did you know that it was originally called Flavian Amphitheatre or that it has been used for more than just entertainment purposes? Keep reading to find out ten facts about the Colosseum in Rome!

facts about the Colosseum
Colosseum Facts

The Colosseum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome and one of the most famous landmarks in Italy and in Europe.

How old is Colosseum?

The Colosseum was built in 80 AD by Emperor Titus. Which makes it almost 2000 years old (1941 exactly).

After it was open Vespasian’s son, Titus Flavius, organized 100 days of games for the opening of the Colosseum. It was a place of entertainment for the Roman people, mainly gladiator fights, executions, fights with wild animals, and sea battles. It is estimated that 500,000 people and over a million animals died during all these “performances”!! 

facts about the colosseum

Colosseum – the largest ancient amphitheatre in the world

The four-storey building is 188 m long, 156 m wide and 48.5 m high. The Roman arena could accommodate about 50,000 spectators (although some sources say even 80,000!)

It took over 1.1 million tons of concrete, stone, and bricks to build it. According to various estimates if the Colosseum would be built today would cost up to 500 million dollars

Colosseum was built on the site of a lake in front of the Domus Aurea. It took around 8 years to construct the amphitheatre.

Entrance to the Colosseum

Colosseum with as many as 80 numbered entrances – thanks to this, viewers occupying the bottom and middle rows could leave them within 5-6 minutes. This solution enabled patricians belonging to the privileged, higher social class to leave the building without interfering with the commoners. The spectator distribution system was so well thought out that many stadiums built today are modelled on solutions invented by the Colosseum builders 

Did gladiators fight to the death?

Everyone knows that during games Gladiator fights were on of the biggest event. but did gladiators killed each other? No that’s the urban legend. It took to much time and money to train the gladiator and feed them, so they would just fight until the opponent was too injured to continue.

Gladiators fought for an average of about five years before they retired and would be given a lot of money, land or other benefits so they could retire comfortably

Were Christians martyred in the Colosseum?

Yes, but not all of them. Christians were thrown to wild animals as an added entertainment during the games and would sometimes be killed by other ways such as being burned or crucified.

Colosseum and ship battles

Colosseum was used as well to mock ship battles. There was a man-made lake in the middle of the Colosseum and two ships would be placed on either side. The Roman people loved it so much that they started to build their own miniature lakes outside of their homes

Colosseum name

Colosseum original name was  “Flavian Amphitheatre” but with time change to “Colosseum” from the gigantic statue of Nero standing just next to it called “The Colossus of Nero”.

Colosseum shows

The Colosseum was also used for other activities such as animal hunts, re-enactments of famous battles and dramas where the actors would wear elaborate costumes, wild beast shows in which animals were attacked by dogs or hunters on horseback to entertain the crowd with their death throes, and the crowning of each new emperor.

Several floors of rooms with machines and props were hidden under the arena. 

The scenery of the Colosseum changed with the change of the nature of the fights. During Lion fights, African scenery was on. During bears fights, forest scenery. 

There were numerous underpasses below the arena so that changes to the scenery could take place very quickly.

The people of Rome loved watching fights between animals because they believed it would give them protection from their enemies or bring them good luck

Tourist attraction

The Colosseum was not always a tourist attraction like it is today. In fact, for most of its existence, the coliseum has been used as an amphitheatre in Rome to host gladiator battles and other forms of entertainment. The first time that it became a tourist site was when Benito Mussolini and his Fascists took control of Italy in 1922. This was an opportunity for Mussolini to legitimize the Italian government and make it appealing to foreign visitors.

Before World War II, there was an idea to transform the Colosseum into a huge, luxurious hotel. However, the war prevented these plans. The Colosseum was also a great concert hall – among others, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Elton John, and Andrea Bocelli.

Odd and Fun facts about the Colosseum

Due to the unusual microclimate that prevails in the Colosseum, over 350 types of various plants grow in the amphitheater, including palm trees and bushes of ivy, laurel and other varieties.

The Colosseum is taking part in the international campaign against the death penalty. Colosseum’s façade is lit up in red for two minutes on the night before each execution of a condemned prisoner.

The Colosseum is also one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, receiving over six million visitors per year.

Colosseum – the most important dates:

• 80 AD – opening of the Colosseum

• 445 – the symbol of Rome was severely damaged by an earthquake.

• 528 – the last games were held here.

• End of the 6th century – Arena was turned into a graveyard

• 1200 – around this year, the Frangipani family takes over the Colosseum, adds fortifications and uses it as a castle

•  1349 – Big earthquake which destroyed outer part of the Colosseum south wall 

• 1774– The Colosseum was declared the place of martyrdom of Christians. It ceased to be exploited as a quarry

• 1980 – the building was included in the UNESCO list

• July 7, 2007 – the Colosseum was announced one of the seven new wonders of the world 

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Ania James

photographer, traveller, mother of twin girls, wife, worldschooler, rulebreaker

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