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Explore the Colosseum | Largest Amphitheatre in Rome

Explore the Colosseum, Rome's iconic amphitheater that was once a stage for gladiatorial contests, wild animal hunts, and elaborate naval battles. A testament to Roman engineering prowess, this awe-inspiring edifice continues to captivate with its...

Quick information

RECOMMENDED DURATION

3 hours

VISITORS PER YEAR

6000000

NUMBER OF ENTRANCES

5

EXPECTED WAIT TIME - STANDARD

1-2 hours (Peak), 30-60 mins (Off Peak)

EXPECTED WAIT TIME - SKIP THE LINE

30-60 mins (Peak), 0-30 mins (Off Peak)

UNESCO YEAR

1980

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Did you know?

The Colosseum once had a retractable roof called the ‘velarium’, made of linen and controlled by sailors.

The Colosseum's underground tunnels, known as ‘hypogeum’, contained cages for gladiators and animals.

Emperor Vespasian financed the Colosseum's construction using the spoils from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

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Colosseum, Palatine Hill & Roman Forum Access with Audio Guide
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Colosseum Express Guided Tour
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1 hr.
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Colosseum, Palatine Hill & Roman Forum Guided Tour
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3 hr.
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Colosseum, Palatine Hill & Roman Forum Guided Tour with Arena Access
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Why Is the Colosseum a must-visit attraction in Rome?

The Colosseum is a powerful symbol of Rome's enduring legacy, representing the might, genius, and ambition of the Roman Empire. If that doesn't convince you, here are some reasons why visiting the Colosseum should be at the top of your travel itinerary.

  • Live out your gladiator dreams: Step into the Arena floor, where gladiators once battled fiercely for glory. Imagine the roaring crowd and clashing swords and immerse yourself in the electrifying atmosphere of the Colosseum in its heyday.
  • Experience the magic of the Colosseum: Explore the hypogeum, the backstage where gladiators and animals waited their turn to enter the arena and get a sense of the trepidation they experienced. Take a moment to appreciate the complexity and genius that went into creating the structure.
  • Enjoy the view from the Belvedere: Enjoy sweeping views of the Colosseum's ruins, its architectural grandeur, and Rome's skyline, including the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the modern cityscape.
  • Glimpse into Ancient Rome: Gain insights into the social and political life of ancient Rome, when the Colosseum served as a venue for entertainment in the form of battles, public spectacles, and dramas.
  • Appreciate the masterpiece of design: Marvel at the Colosseum's architectural brilliance, from its ingenious retractable roof to the cleverly designed exits that could empty the venue of 50,000 people in minutes. It's a testament to Roman engineering, built in record time with techniques that were centuries ahead.

History of the Colosseum, Rome

  • 64 CE: The Great Fire devastates part of Rome where the Colosseum would later be built. Emperor Nero claims the area for the Domus Aurea.
  • Post-68 CE: After Nero's fall, the Domus Aurea is dismantled, and the artificial lake is drained. The area gets repurposed for the Flavian Amphitheatre (the Colosseum).
  • 70-80 CE: Construction of the Colosseum begins under Emperor Vespasian and is completed by Emperor Titus. Further enhancements, including the hypogeum and underground chambers, are added by Emperor Domitian
  • 80 CE onwards: The Colosseum serves as the venue for grand spectacles, such as gladiatorial contests and mock sea battles.
  • 5th/6th Century: The use of the Colosseum for games gradually diminishes as the Roman Empire faces decline.
  • 12th Century: The amphitheater starts being used as a fortress by the Frangipani family and other Roman nobility. 
  • 1349: A massive earthquake leads to the collapse of a large section of the outer wall.
  • 19th - 21st Century: Significant restoration efforts are undertaken to preserve the Colosseum's structure and grandeur, ensuring its legacy continues.

Who built the Colosseum?

Colosseum - Who Built The Colosseum?

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was built by the emperors of the Flavian dynasty. Construction began under Emperor Vespasian in around 70-72 AD and was completed in 80 AD by his son, Emperor Titus.

Further modifications were then made under Domitian, Titus's brother and successor. These three emperors, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian, ruled from 69 AD to 96 AD, and their collective efforts contributed to the creation of the Colosseum, which remains one of the most iconic symbols of Ancient Roman engineering and architectural prowess. The Colosseum was financed through the spoils and wealth acquired from the Roman conquest of Jerusalem during the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD).

Design of the Colosseum

Colosseum - Design Of The Colosseum

What does the name 'Colosseum' mean?

Originally, the amphitheater was known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, named after the Flavian dynasty of emperors who constructed it.

The name Colosseum is believed to have originated in the Middle Ages from the Latin word "colosseus". Some accounts suggest that this references the colossal bronze statue of Nero that once stood nearby. While others believe it refers to the grandeur of the amphitheater itself.

What was the purpose of the Colosseum In Rome?

The Colosseum in Rome has served multiple purposes throughout its extensive history, reflecting the changing times and needs of society. 

Colosseum in ancient times

Ancient times

Originally, the Colosseum was a grand arena for public spectacles. It was the epicenter for gladiatorial contests, where gladiators faced off against each other or wild beasts. Beyond these bloody engagements, it hosted mock naval battles (naumachiae), re-enactments of famous victories, performances based on mythology, and public executions. These events were integral to Roman culture, providing entertainment, showcasing imperial power, and reinforcing social hierarchies.

Colosseum in Medieval Times

Medieval times

In the Middle Ages, the Colosseum underwent significant transformations. It served religious purposes, including use as a church, and became a stronghold for powerful Roman families like the Frangipane and the Annibaldi. The period was marked by neglect, compounded by natural disasters and looting, leading to its gradual deterioration.

Colosseum in Modern Times

Modern times

The 19th century marked the beginning of efforts to preserve the Colosseum, initiated under Pope Pius VIII. However, it wasn't until 1990 that comprehensive restoration projects were launched to repair and conserve this iconic monument. Today, the Colosseum stands as a testament to Roman engineering and a symbol of Italy's rich historical heritage, attracting millions of visitors from around the globe.

Colosseum in popular culture

The towering ruins have become a popular subject in literature and art, as well as in film and television, often depicted as a symbol of power and glory.

  • The Colosseum has been immortalized in works of literature, from the thrilling lines of Lord Byron's poetry to the dramatic Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz, where it's practically a character in its own right.
  • The Colosseum has found its way to the big screen as well. Who doesn't remember watching Russel Crowe duking it out on the arena in the Gladiator (2000)?
  • If you are an avid gamer, you would have probably spotted the amphitheater in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. that allows players to scamper around a Colosseum so well-crafted, it feels as if you have been given a front-row seat to the glory days of Rome, all without leaving your living room.

Flora of Colosseum

Colosseum - Flora of Colosseum

The Colosseum once teemed with a diverse array of plant species, many of which were not native to Rome. Nineteenth-century botanist Richard Deakin, fascinated by the Colosseum's flora, observed that these plants acted as “a link in the memory,” triumphantly flourishing amidst the ruins. The Colosseum's green inhabitants ranged from species well-known in Italy, such as hollies, capers, knapweed, and thistle, to those unique to its ancient stones and found nowhere else in Europe. This botanical diversity has been celebrated in literature, with Charles Dickens vividly describing the plant life at the Colosseum in his book, “Pictures from Italy.”

Today, the Colosseum is home to 243 distinct plant species, continuing to be a living testament to the intersection of natural beauty and historical decay.

Frequently asked questions about the Roman Colosseum

Why was the Colosseum built?

Emperor Vespasian originally constructed the Colosseum to serve as a grand amphitheater for public spectacles, including gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, and mock naval battles. It was a gift to the Roman citizens from the Flavian emperors, symbolizing the empire's wealth, power, and engineering prowess, while also serving as a tool for political propaganda.

What makes the Colosseum's architecture unique?

The Colosseum was a marvel of ancient engineering, featuring a complex system of vaults and arches that allowed it to support the weight of the massive structure. Its elliptical design, and sophisticated system of entrances and exits (vomitoria) that enabled large crowds to enter and exit efficiently was revolutionary for its time. The use of concrete and stone allowed for the Colosseum's iconic durability and scale.

How many people died in the Colosseum?

Estimates show that about 400,000 people died in the Colosseum throughout its history. In its first 100 days alone, 2000 gladiators are said to have lost their lives here.

What happened to the Colosseum after the fall of the Roman Empire?

In the years following the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE, the Colosseum fell into disuse and began to deteriorate. Over the years, it evolved to serve various purposes, including as a fortress, quarry, and Christian shrine. Significant restoration efforts didn't begin until the 19th century.

How did the Colosseum influence modern stadiums?

The Colosseum's design principles, such as maximizing visibility for spectators, efficient crowd management, and the use of retractable coverings, have influenced the design of modern sports stadiums around the world.

What’s inside the Colosseum?

In the center of the Colosseum is the arena- a wooden floor on which the battles and shows were performed. Below the wooden floor is the Hypogea- a place where the beasts and machines were housed. You can also view the various floors of the Colosseum from where you can view the arena, including the Belvedere on the top floor.

Can you still see gladiatorial equipment in the Colosseum?

While the original gladiatorial weapons and armor have long since disappeared, head to the Colosseum Museum on the second tier to view displays replicas and findings from the site and other Roman locations, offering insights into the lives of gladiators and the equipment they used.