When Rome, or even Italy is mentioned, one of the first things that come to mind is the impressive Colosseum. Because of its importance, in 1980 the UNESCO declared the Roman Colosseum as a World Heritage Site. In addition, in 2007 it was elected as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Brief history of the Roman Colosseum.
Before the Colosseum existence there was an ancient amphitheater located in the same place but a big fire destroyed it. After this event, in 71 AD the Roman Emperor Vespasian ordered to start the construction of a new amphitheater, The Colosseum. However, it was Titus who inaugurated it in 80 AD, celebrating with a 100 day long inauguration. Finally, his successor Emperor Domitian, was who after adding the last level finished the Colosseum in 82 A.D.
The Amphitheater was used for almost 500 years for different shows such as venationes (animal fights) or noxii (executions of prisoners by animals). Also there were representations of great battles and theatre plays based on the Roman mythology. However, the main attractions were the gladiator fights.
In the High Middle Ages the Colosseum started to lose its importance and people didn’t use it for entertainment anymore. The last gladiator to fight in the Colosseum was in the year 435, and the last animal to be killed was in the year 523. Over time, the construction began to deteriorate and the Colosseum lost its appeal. Even more when it was no longer the center of the city.
During the 11th Century, the Pope was one of the most important and highest authorities in Rome. As a result, the Church acquired several public monuments and buildings including the big Roman Colosseum. However, through the centuries, these buildings were passed on to the noble families of the city and put to different uses. Eventually, in the 19th century, the Colosseum was restored and recovered part of its historical importance.
The Colosseum, 10 facts about this World Wonder:
1. The true name of the Colosseum.
The actual name of the Colosseum is Flavio Amphitheater. It was named after the famous family of emperors who built the amphitheater: the Flavian dynasty. However, almost everyone knows the amphitheater as the Colosseum. The reason is a 35-meters-high statue built by Emperor Nero as a “reflection of himself” placed really close to the amphitheater and called the Colossus of Nero.
2. Structure of the Roman Colosseum.
The colosseum is the largest amphitheater (round theater) in the world. However, it is not a perfect circle, actually its shape is an ellipse. Its measurements are 189 meters long, 156 meters wide and a height of more than 48 meters. It also had a retractable roof using pulleys, known as the Velarium, which provided shade to the public. This ancient building can be compared to a modern stadium, and its construction took less than 10 years!
In addition to the most interesting facts about the Colosseum, I encourage you to read the article: “The best 15 things to do in Rome Italy”.
3. Colosseum Capacity.
The amphitheater could accommodate 50,000 people, separated in different areas according to their social status and wealth. The emperor along with his entourages had their own entrance that led them directly to the main box. The Colosseum had 84 doors which allowed accommodate all the spectators in just 20 minutes.
If you plan visiting Rome, the post “How to use public transport in Rome. Learn how to get around in Rome by bus and metro.” will be very useful for you.
4. The Roman Colosseum and large numbers.
More than 400,000 people died in the Colosseum and more than 1 million animals were killed during different events. The animals most commonly used for shows were elephants, tigers, lions and hippos. In fact, the North African elephant was used so much that it eventually became extinct.
5. Not just gladiators.
Although fights between gladiators or representation of important Roman battles were the most famous shows, also in the Colosseum, spectators could enjoyed representation of amazing naval confrontations. The floor used to flood with water which allowed them to navigate with barges and botes. However, they were not very popular shows so they did not last long.
I recommend visiting the Colosseum with a guided tour who tell you all the amazing stories and also grant you access to the building without doing any line.
6. The colosseum: leave no man behind.
The entrance to the Colosseum was free, the shows were organized and paid for by the emperor expecting to receive the public support and popularity. In addition, during the shows bread and fruits were often given away. Consequently, after centuries fruit trees began to grow indoors due to seeds thrown on the ground.
7. The colosseum, a victim of nature.
Several earthquakes affected the structure of the Colosseum, however the most devastating were in the years 847, 1231 and 1349. First, the earthquake of the year 847 destroyed much of the south side. After that, the earthquake that took place in the year 1231 ended up destroying most of the southwest part.
If you are planning to visit Rome, the article “How to get around Rome by public transport. Learn how to use the Rome metro and bus.“ would be very helpful.
8. The Colosseum’s different purposes.
After the Colosseum stopped being used as an amphitheater, the building started to deteriorate. So, it was up to the following owners to decide the fate and use of the Colosseum. As a result, the huge building became the castle of the Frangipani family, later it was a refuge for those most in need, and eventually became a set of workshops, warehouses and shops. Even, it was transformed into a holy place during the 16th and 17th centuries, as a church and chapels were built on the Colosseum’s arena.
9. The Colosseum and other Roman buildings.
When the Colosseum ceased to be used as an entertainment venue, many other uses were given to it. Amongst these uses, we find that of stone quarry and marble. It is a known fact that some of the marble of its walls and floors were used to build St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and the stairs of Plaza España.
10. Il Colosseo, location for great artists.
Great artists such as Ray Charles (2002), Paul McCartney (2003), Billy Joel (2006) and Elton John (2017) used the Roman Colosseum as a location for their concerts.
If you liked this interesting facts about the Roman Colosseum or if you would like to share others, you could leave it in the comments section. I will be happy to read them.