Colosseum Architecture & Construction | Design of the Ancient Roman Amphitheatre

Built in 72 AD, the Colosseum represents the unmatchable craftsmanship of the early Romans. Millions of builders, architects, engineers, artists, and painters made incredible contributions to make a structure that would mesmerize onlookers even after thousand nine hundred and fifty years. 

Architecture & Design of Colosseum | Quick Overview

Colosseum Architecture

Who Built the Colosseum in Rome?

It is impossible to know who were the architects of the Colosseum as many architects were involved in the process. Historians have also left out their names, but credit has always been given to three important kings from the Flavian dynasty.

Colosseum Architecture

King Vespasian

When Emperor Nero came into power, the area where the Colosseum was built, officially called Domus Aurea, actually belonged to the people. He declared the area his own and used it to build a grand statue of himself with gardens, an artificial lake, and pavilions. King Vespasian, who succeeded Nero, wanted to give back to the people something that would make them happy. He chose the Domus Aurea as his venue to build the Colosseum. Under his rule, the construction of the Colosseum began with the help of skilled artists, craftsmen, engineers, builders, painters, and laborers. 

Colosseum Architecture

King Titus

At the time of King Vespasian’s death in 79 AD, three tiers were completed. His successor and son, King Titus, added the fourth tier. The fourth tier of the Colosseum was used for seating the common folks of the city. He inaugurated the Colosseum in 80 AD with inaugural games. These games became an annual activity, lasting for 100 days. These games included gladiator combats, public execution of criminals, animal fights, simulated naval battles, hunting, theatre, and other recreational activities for the entertainment of the people.

Colosseum Architecture

King Domitian

King Titus’s brother and successor, King Domitian, completed the gallery and the underground tunnels known as the Hypogeum. The gallery was added to accommodate the poor people, women, and slaves who could witness the annual games. There were no seats made for this section. Audiences had to stand and watch the games from here. The Hypogeum is a series of underground tunnels and trapdoors where war criminals, slaves, and ferocious beasts were kept. They were released into the arena through trapdoors to fight gladiators. 

Colosseum Architecture & Design

Colosseum Architecture

The Colosseum was built in the Ancient Roman Architectural style. Construction took about seven to eight years, making it one of the largest and most complex structures. The columns were built using three different styles. 

The doric style was used for the ground floor columns where the wealthiest Romans used to sit. The second-tier columns were built in the Ionic style. The third-tier columns, made for the common people, were made in Corinthian style. 

It has 80 gates in total, each with an arch. 76 gates were used by the people, while 3 were reserved for noblemen and councilmen of the state. The Emperor used the North Gate, which had a distinct arch, to enter the premises. The entire structure was built using different stones held together by iron clamps.

Structure of Colosseum

Colosseum Architecture

The Colosseum was built using a variety of ancient Roman stones that were held together with cement and iron clamps. Tuff, Travertine limestone, wood, tiles, bricks, and blocks of tufa were used to build the amphitheater. It also had a marble covering that was later used to build different buildings and structures throughout Rome.

The building had two walls, inner and outer. The latter was severely damaged in the earthquake of 1349, which is why only parts of the outer wall can be seen today. The different entry points were built so the entire premises could be entered and exited within 15 minutes. It was built in an elliptical shape to make viewing possible from all seats. The gallery above the 4th tier was added by King Domitian, who made sure that people could view the arena clearly while standing.

Stages of Construction of Colosseum

  • Pre-70 AD: The foundation stone of the Colosseum was laid on the area known as Domus Aurea, which King Nero used to build a large statue of himself. King Vespasian chose this area to build the Flavian Amphitheatre.
  • 72 AD: The construction of the Colosseum was started. King Vespasian worked with many skilled architects, artists, painters, builders, and engineers to bring his vision to life. The Romans had just won the war with the Siege of Jerusalem. Many Jewish slaves were used as laborers to build the structure.
  • 79 AD: King Vespasian passed away after completing three stories of the Colosseum. His successors and son, King Titus, took over the responsibility of building the Colosseum. He added a fourth tier to the Colosseum, meant for seating the common people of Rome.
  • 80 AD: The Colosseum was officially completed by Titus in 80 AD. A 100-day inaugural game was hosted here to commemorate the moment.
  • 90 AD: After King Titus passed away, King Domitian took over the reign and added to the Colosseum. The gallery was built for slaves, women, and poor people, where they could stand and watch the annual games. He also added the Hypogeum, an underground tunnel to cage animals and slaves.

The Exterior of the Colosseum

Colosseum Architecture


Although it is partially visible now, the Outer Wall of the Colosseum was built using tufa, travertine limestone, cement, and other stones held together by iron clamps. When built, it completely covered the arena and the seats in an elliptical shape. The Outer Wall is only partially intact now because half of it collapsed in the earthquake of 1349. It was further damaged by natural disasters, pollution over the years, and vandalism. Its height is about 48 meters, and about 3.5 meters thick.

Colosseum Architecture


There are a total of 80 arches in the Colosseum, 76 of which were used by the people to enter and exit the premises. The wealthy class of ancient Rome used 3 gates, while the Emperor and his troupe used the North Gate. It is supported by columns made using different styles across all the tiers of the Colosseum. These gates were built so people could enter and exit the Flavian Amphitheatre in just 15 minutes without causing any stampede. 

Colosseum Architecture

Colosseum Interior

Colosseum Architecture

First Tier

The first tier of the Colosseum was built for the wealthy class of ancient Rome. The columns used were built in Doric style, with some seats engraved with the names of the people who sat there. These inscriptions have diminished over the years, but you will still be able to see ancient carvings below some of the seats. The first tier is closest to the arena, giving the audience a clear view of the proceedings of the annual game. Right underneath this tier, the Hypogeum was built by King Domitian. 

Colosseum Architecture

Second Tier

Classism played a huge role in the seating arrangement at the Colosseum. The noblemen and respected classes were given seating on the second tier. The columns in this tier were built using the Ionic style. People would use staircases to reach the seats there. During medieval times, workers used to set up workshops below the seats in this tier. 

Colosseum Architecture

Third Tier

This tier was open to the public. The columns here were built in Corinthian style, but it was less elaborate than the other two tiers. While all the seats inside the Colosseum gave a clear view of the arena floor, the third tier and above provided the least amount of visibility. There was some damage to the third tier during the earthquakes and other natural disasters, but it has managed to survive. 

Design and Architecture of the Colosseum Underground

King Domitian, the younger brother, and successor of King Titus made the Hypogeum or underground tunnels that would be used to cage animals, war criminals, and slaves. Trapdoors were present in the Hypogeum for easy transfer and release of wild beasts to the arena floor and back using large moving platforms.

The Hypogeum was connected to the arena floor using 80 huge shafts. The Emperor was given special access to the Hypogeum, and it was also well-connected to the stables outside the Colosseum. In the initial plan of the Colosseum, the Hypogeums were not included. However, King Domitian built it later, along with the galleries above the 4th tier.

Various historians have also recorded that the Hypogeum used to be filled with water for naval battles. However, this claim is questioned as there were many ways for water to escape, and it would not have been possible to hold it.

Colosseum | Roman Engineering Marvel

Even though the Colosseum was built thousand nine hundred and fifty years ago, it still stands tall as proof of the brilliance of ancient Romans and their incredible attention to detail.

Every year, this incredible monument is visited by 6 million people. If you plan to go to Rome, you must add the Colosseum to your itinerary and learn about its rich history.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Colosseum Architecture

Q. What is the Colosseum architectural style?

A. The Colosseum architectural style is Ancient Roman Architecture that is common among structures built in that era.

Q. Why is the Colosseum architecture famous?

A. Colosseum architecture is famous because it was built in the Ancient Roman style and has withstood natural and man-made disasters through 1950 years.

Q. What was Colosseum inspired by?

A. King Vespasian wanted to gift the Roman people an amphitheatre where they could enjoy games after the mishaps that had plagued the Roman empire in the early centuries.

Q. When was Colosseum built?

A. The Colosseum was built in 72 AD and was completed by 81 AD.

Q. How old is Colosseum?

A. The Colosseum is 1,950 years old.

Q. What’s inside Colosseum?

A. Inside the Colosseum you will find an arena floor, three tiers where the audiences would sit, underground tunnels called the Hypogeum, and many arches with entry and exit points.

Q. What does the exterior of the Colosseum look like?

A. The exterior of the Colosseum looks like a series of arches used by the audience to enter and exit the premises. It was built using travertine limestone, tuff, stones, tiles, cement and iron clamps.

Q. What is part of the interior of the Colosseum?

A. The interior of the Colosseum comprises the arena floor, four tiers, a gallery on the top floor, underground tunnels called the Hypogeum, and 80 gates.

Q. How big is the Colosseum?

A. The Colosseum is 2 hectares in area, including the interior and the outer wall.

Q. What are the dimensions of the Colosseum?

A. The Colosseum is 620 by 513 feet and could accommodate 65,000 people in its glory days.

Q. What is Colosseum made out of?

A. The Colosseum is made from travertine limestone, tuff, stones, cement, iron clamps, marble and lime.

Q. Where can I buy tickets to Colosseum?

A. You can buy tickets to the Colosseum outside the venue and online. As it is visited by 6 million people every year, it is best to purchase Colosseum tickets online.