Colosseum is one of the most striking and longest-lasting of Roman monuments. Begun by Emperor Vespasian in A.D. 72 and finished by his son Titus in 80, the stadium was the work of captive Jews, who were brought to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was built on the site of Nero’s man-made lake. His dedication lasted a hundred days, killing several thousand gladiators and 5,000 wild beasts. In 313, Emperor Constantine issued a decree forbidding gladiatorial shows, but they continued. In 404 Emperor Honorius decided to stop them forever, but it wasn’t until 432 that gladiatorial combat was truly abolished, by Valentinian III. The last contests of wild animals on record were held in 523.
It first earned its name during the Middle Ages, from a huge gilt-bronze statue of the Roman emperor Nero, known as the Colossus, which stood near the amphitheater.
The outline of the building is elliptical, 607 feet in length and 512 feet across. It rises four stories, to a height of 159 feet, with a facade made entirely from travertine stone. The structure is made up of three circular tiers, each of which has 80 immense arches, the lower-tier arches, the vomitoria, doubled as doorways for the spectators.
The arena itself is 253 by 153 feet and covers extensive substructures for the needs and machinery of gladiatorial dis- plays. Beneath were tunnels, with underground rooms and three-sided cages hold- ing wild animals. A winch system (an early type of elevator) brought the caged animals up to the arena level, where a trap door would release them directly into the battle zone.
A system of awnings (called velarium) shaded the stands. It is estimated that the Colosseum provided seats for 55,000- 85,000 spectators. The exterior of the building is laced with travertine; the inte- rior is built of brick and covered with marble. A sophisticated entry system allowed separate access to reserved scats and ensured that different social classes were kept apart. The emperor and other notables, segregated from ordinary spectators, watched the games from a marble podium, where they had a perfect view of the arena.
This gigantic structure was so well built that it still stands proudly today, nearly 2,000 years after its construction, despite earthquakes, fires, war, and plundering.
In early medieval times, churches and oratories were erected in the Colosseum. In the 11th century, the building became a fortress, and two rival families, the Frangipani and the Annibaldi fought over ownership until it became the property of the Roman Senate and the people of Rome in 1312. By 1381 the part facing the Celian Hill had collapsed, and the rest was transformed into a hospital.
During the Middle Ages, the Colosseum faced regular ransacking and was used primarily as a quarry for building materials. It furnished materials for the Palazzo di Venezia, the Pons Aemilius (II Ponte Rotto), the Palazzo della Cancelleria, and the Palazzo Farnese. One of the last edifices built with its travertine was the Palazzo Barberini, and this wanton spoliation suggested the caustic remark: “Quod non fecerunt Barbari fecerunt Barberni,” or “What barbarians did not do, the Barberini did.”
During the 8th century, the Venerable Bede wrote his famous proverb on the Colosseum: “QUAMDIU STAT COLISAEUS, STABiT ET ROMA: QUANDO CADET COLISAEUS, CADET ET ROMA; QUANDO CADET ROMA, CADET ET MUNDUS” [If the Colosseum stands, so does Rome. If the Colosseum collapses, so will Rome. And when Rome collapses, the world will too].
Located in the heart of Rome, the capital of Italy, the Colosseum is visited by millions of tourists today. The entrance fee to the Colosseum is approximately 20 Euros for 2021. To experience the Colosseum in the best way, you can join the Colosseum arena tour or the Colosseum underground tour. The entrance to the Colosseum is overcrowded, especially in the Summer season. We recommend that you make your ticket reservation at least 2 weeks in advance.