Counted among the Seven Wonders of the World, the Colosseum Amphitheatre is the most popular tourist attraction in Rome.
It is estimated that more than 4 million tourists visit the Roman Colosseum every year.
Imagine the number of Colosseum tickets the Romans are selling!
The Colosseum was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, named after the Emperors of the Flavian Dynasty.
Its construction started in the 72 AD and went on for 9 years, ending in 81 AD, leaving behind the magnificent structure.
The construction commenced under Emperor Vespasian and was completed by his son, Titus.
The half-broken elliptical structure which stands today is the result of various natural disasters.
Earthquakes of 847 AD and 1231 AD caused most of the damage to the Colosseum.
Check out some of the best Roman Colosseum facts –
1. Colosseum is also popular amongst botanists
It’s not just a popular Roman tourist destination but is also a very fascinating site for botanists.
The Colosseum houses various species of flora around and in its ruins.
It is estimated that approximately 1643 types of flora and 337 different species are found in the Colosseum, earning the interest of the botanists.
Maybe the Colosseum is housing various species of flora thanks to the excellent soil that was pampered by the dead bodies of wild animals and gladiators.
2. Colosseum has inspired Hollywood movies
Impressed by its grandeur and history, Hollywood director Ridley Scott went through the chaos of red tape and bureaucracy to film Russel Crowe star-er ‘Gladiator.’
Either the real Roman Colosseum wasn’t good enough for him, or he didn’t get the required permissions, for Scott spent $1 million to build a replica of the Colosseum in Malta.
The movie made a gross profit of $457.6 million worldwide. At least all that production cost was worth it.
3. The men behind the Colosseum aren’t known
The hand behind designing this great monument is not known.
During medieval times, the ancient Roman poet, Virgil, was said to be the mastermind behind the amphitheater.
But now there is proof that Virgil died long before the Colosseum was built.
So, we still don’t know the man who deserves the appreciation for this great and intelligently designed monument in Rome.
4. Colosseum was built for multiple reasons
Though one of the reasons behind the construction of the Colosseum was to provide entertainment, it served two other purposes.
It was built as a gift by Flavian dynasty emperors to the Roman citizens – to gain their trust and become popular among them.
The other purpose was to showcase Roman engineering and power to the world.
5. Christian proclamation didn’t stop Gladiator fights
As nice it is to believe that religion played a role in stopping the inhumane practice of Gladiator fights, it isn’t true.
Around 432 AD, the Romans were no longer able to afford the expenses of procuring animals and gladiators while maintaining an expensive and humongous theatre.
This inability in financially handling the entertainment facility brought an end to the Gladiator spectacles.
6. Part of the Colosseum resides in St. Peter’s Basilica
Maybe it was because of their eternal love for the place and they wanted to preserve it.
Or it could be because they were nature lovers and understood the value of recycling.
Whatever it was, when the Colosseum was partially destroyed by the two major earthquakes, some of the fallen pieces were used to construct the beautiful St. Peter’s Basilica.
7. Colosseum is so big it could seat 50K spectators
The Colosseum stands as an elliptical building and is 189 meters long, 156 meters wide and 48 meters high covering a base area of approximately 24,000 m2.
The amount of marbles used for the construction of this Amphitheater is estimated to be 100,000 cubic meters.
It has over 80 entrances and over 50,000 spectators could watch the spectacle at the same time.
8. It took 300 tons of iron to build the Colosseum
The Colosseum in Rome is made of travertine stone covering its outer wall.
The stone was set into the wall without the use of mortar.
It took 300 tons of iron clamps to make it stand upright, and they are still standing.
9. The Colosseum wasn’t just an amphitheater
It was used for gladiator contests and public exhibitions like animal hunts, mock sea battles, reenactments of famous battles (because the real ones weren’t enough!), executions and dramas.
With time, it was no longer used as an entertainment theatre.
It was converted into a vintage complex that fulfilled the purpose of housing, conducting workshops, religious quarters, quarry, a fortress and sometimes a Christian shrine.
10. Bullock carts were used to bring in marbles
Historical evidence shows that around 200 bullock carts were used to transport the marbles to the construction site.
11. Colosseum’s name has an interesting history
The Colosseum was built near a huge statue of Colossus.
The statue was part of Nero’s Park and, apparently, is the inspiration behind the current name.
12. The Colosseum has a hidden side
Colosseum isn’t just above the ground. There is something that’s known as Colosseum’s Underground.
The area under the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum a.k.a underground.
It consisted of two leveled subterranean networks of tunnels and 32 animal pens.
The 80 vertical shafts provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery.
The Colosseum underground tour can be just as interesting as the main theatre.
Check out: Best tours of Colosseum Underground
13. The Roman emperors cared about their people
To provide complete comfort and the best experience, the builders of the Colosseum made sure to be prepared for every situation.
To protect the audience from the raging sun and heat, they built a Velarium, an awning that could be pulled over the top of the seating area to provide shade.
We can say that they had built the earliest form of the ‘Skydome’ in the Colosseum.
Moreover, the ancient Romans were offered free entry and food during the festivals.
14. Colosseum has a ‘gate of death’
Over 500,000 people lost their lives throughout the life of the Colosseum and more than a million animals were killed during the spectacles.
All these dead bodies were carried out from the west gate of the Colosseum and thus it gave rise to the name ‘Gate of Death’.
15. Romans knew how to catch the spectators’ attention
To make the gladiator and beast fight more interesting and adrenaline filled battles, the Colosseum was fitted with 36 trap doors.
These trap doors were used to add special effects during the fights.
16. The Colosseum is the definition of bizarre
In 80 CE, the then emperor, Titus, held the inaugural games of the Colosseum where around 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered.
Moving on, in 107 CE, Emperor Trajan held various contests to celebrate his victories in Dacia for 123 days.
These contests involved 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators.
17. The last gladiator fights were held in 435 CE
The financial stress led the Roman leaders to stop the gladiator and beast fights in 435 CE.
It took nearly another century to stop animal hunts in 523 CE.
18. The era of Colosseum killed off complete species
For the time the Colosseum bustled with life, it ended many others.
It is reported that the amount of slaughter that took place in the Colosseum cleared off various species of animals from across the globe.
The hippo disappeared from the Nile river and the African elephants that were commonly used as war animals vanished from the face of the Earth.
These fights are said to ‘have completely devastated the wildlife of North Africa and the Mediterranean region’.
19. Today Colosseum is the symbol against capital punishment
At night, the Colosseum is lit with beautiful white lights.
If anywhere in the world, regardless of the crime, a person gets their death sentence overturned or if they are released, the color of the lights at the Colosseum is turned from white to gold.
This color change also takes place when any other country abolishes the death penalty.
Ironically, the monument that saw brutality and death for centuries now stands for something that’s a complete opposite.
Just so you know, Italy abolished the death penalty in 1948.
Visiting the Colosseum can be a very overwhelming experience, especially if you’re aware of its cultural rich history.
Make the best of it and make sure you’re getting the complete experience because every little thing counts as a memory.
She loves to explore new destinations and places at every opportunity available, but she loves to do so with proper planning and according to set schedules. She doesn’t prefer well-known destinations and clichéd touristy activities. Once back, she regales her friends with exciting stories from far off destinations. During her travels, she loves to dress up like the locals. Favorite Cities: Quebec City, Nice, Dodoma, Marrakech