You’ve landed at the Colosseum in the beautiful, historic city of Rome, Italy! Home to many great spectacles and events during the ancient Roman Empire, this large stone structure has storey-after-storey of arched windows! The Colosseum is considered Rome’s main attraction. The Colosseum is a large, oval-shaped amphitheater and remains to this day the largest standing amphitheater in the world! This is remarkable considering it was built in the year 80 AD.
10 Facts about the Colosseum
- Was it always called the Colosseum? No, in fact its actual name is the Flavian Amphitheatre and it was named after a string of family Emperors who built it. The original emperor passed away before it was completed, but his sons took over the duties to completion.
- How long did it take to build? Just like Rome itself, the Colosseum wasn’t built in a day. In fact, the Colosseum’s construction was completed in the year 80 AD with work that continued over the proceeding 16 years under the rule of three emperors. When it first opened, the Emperor Titus declared a celebration that included 100 straight days of gladiatorial events that is said to have taken the lives of more than 2,000 gladiators.
- What was it made of? The Colosseum was built in part out of travertine limestone, a common stone used in Rome for temples, monuments, and aqueducts. The outside wall of the Colosseum is estimated to have used over 3.5 million cubic meters of Travertine stone that was held together with a series of iron clamps as opposed to mortar.
- How many people could attend an event? It is estimated that 50,000+ people could be seated in the amphitheater for viewing events in the arena. The Colosseum also boasted over 80 different entrances for the huge crowds to come and go.
- What sort of events took place? Gladiators entered the ring to be part of spectacles and animal hunts that used many different types of animals, such as elephants, giraffes, lions, bears and even hippopotamuses. Executions were another regular event with obviously gruesome outcomes that could be publicly attended.
- Did people pay to go to events? No, in fact it was a free for all, usually paid for by the emperors. Once in a while, free food was served and the emperors often used it as a way to gain public support and popularity.
- Did it have a roof? Not exactly a roof but something that certainly functioned as one. A giant velarium, which was basically a large sail or awning was pulled over top of the seating areas to provide shade from the blazing sun.
- Why would a botanist be interested in the Colosseum? Botanists have a particular interest in the grounds of the venue because approximately 240 different species of plants make their home on the site of the amphitheater. The number of plants that have been catalogued over the centuries total more than 600 varieties. It is rare for single site to have had its plants catalogued for centuries like the Colosseum has, giving botanists a wealth of data to draw conclusions from.
- How did all of the damage occur? In addition to natural ageing from weather and time, the Colosseum has been damaged over the years by some very significant earthquakes, one of which completely collapsed the south side of the structure in 1349. Vandalism, lootings, bombings, and even centuries of neglect lead to the Colosseum’s deterioration.
- Is it still in use today? Today, the Colosseum is a major tourist attraction with millions of people visiting each year to look, walk the grounds, and take guided tours. There are occasional Roman Catholic ceremonies that take place as well a museum has been built on the upper floor of the building. In modern day, large-scale restoration efforts are ongoing to preserve this great piece of world history.