At one point or another, you’ve likely heard of the Colosseum – the massive amphitheatre in Rome that attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Known for its beauty and rich history, the Colosseum is estimated to have been built somewhere between 72 and 80 AD under Emperor Vespasian, and is a testament to the architecture and engineering of the time.
Whilst there’s still a lot we’ll never know about the Colosseum, here are some of the most interesting facts:
The Colosseum changed names due to its size.
Before it was known worldwide as the Colosseum, the architectural site was called the Flavian Amphitheatre. The people of Rome felt that the original name didn’t do the Colosseum justice, and began referring to the amphitheatre as ‘il Colosseo’ for one main reason – it was colossal.
The Colosseum is still the largest amphitheatre in the world, measuring 189 metres in length, 156 metres in width and 50 metres in height. For reference, the Colosseum is approximately the height of a 12-storey building and can hold a football pitch inside of it. Now, that’s certainly colossal!
There is a network of underground tunnels and rooms underneath the Colosseum.
As grand as the Colosseum was (and still is) above ground, there’s a lot going on under the surface, including approximately thirty trap doors. Excitingly for travellers, the underground areas of the Colosseum were recently opened to the public, meaning we now have the opportunity to get a taste of what life was like underneath the Colosseum all those thousands of years ago.
What we do know for sure is that the underground of the Colosseum was used to temporarily house animals and gladiators, ready for them to be unleashed during a battle or for entertainment.
The Colosseum is one of the world’s Seven Wonders.
It’s no surprise that an amphitheatre of this age and size should be in contention to be recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but even after thousands of years, it was recently given the title. In 2007, the Colosseum was finally given this prestigious title.
It was also recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 80s – and rightfully so!
The first games were held in 80 AD.
Emperor Titus, Emperor Vespasian’s son, held the first games at the Colosseum in 80 AD, running every day for 100 days. This continued for centuries, with the fifth century commonly known for the gladiatorial games and the sixth century known for mass animal hunts.
A lot of life was lost at the Colosseum.
Unfortunately, we can’t be proud of everything that happened at the Colosseum, despite its beauty and fascinating history.
It is estimated that one million animals were killed during the games and battles at the Colosseum, including animals imported from other countries for the games. Sadly, the animals that were killed were magnificent beasts, including bears, rhinos, hippos, elephants, tigers and giraffes.
It is also estimated that approximately half a million human lives were lost as a result of the games and battles, with humans taking on animals and each other as a popular spectacle.
The Colosseum looked after spectators.
Often major events were free for spectators, meaning that Emperors organised and paid for their guest’s entertainment.
Free food would also be served at some events and an awning, also known as a velarium, could be used to shade the seating areas to protect spectators from the sun.
The games and battles at the Colosseum were used to help Emperors gain popularity and support from commoners and the elite.
Soldiers used the Colosseum to train for water battles.
In case of war, Roman soldiers needed practice battling enemies on water.
The Colosseum was intelligently engineered to include an intricate plumbing system underneath. This plumbing system could flood the entire arena, ensuring that Roman soldiers had the opportunity to prepare for real sea battles in the future.