In the northeastern corner of the Roman Forum is the famed Colosseum. Built in 80 AD, the Colosseum was the greatest arena constructed within the ancient world. This enormous building had an area base of 6 acres and seated upwards of 50,000 spectators with over 80 entrances. When in use, it even had drinking fountains and functional bathrooms. It was originally known as the Flavius Amphitheatre because its construction was started by Emperor Vespasian from the Flavia Family.
Within the theater, men and women sat in separate areas and people sat by class with lower class in the highest seats and the upper class closer to the action. During the first 100 days that the Colosseum was open, there were violent battles each day with man vs. beast and beast vs. beast. Animals from around the world were brought in to fight for sport and a complicated series of pulleys allowed the animals to be rocketed through trap doors in the floor of the Colosseum surprising the spectators. They would watch as animals fought one another or as hunters took on the raging beasts. Public executions were also held at the amphitheater. Over the span of its life, it is estimated that around a half million people died within the walls of the arena.
There were also reenactments of famous battles performed at the arena for the entertainment of the people. At times, the oval stage in the lower level was filled with water and tales of war on the high sea were depicted for audiences. Different sets and displays were also used with a series of hinges in order to create backdrops for shows. It was a rather modern set up in the ancient world.
13 Things you didn’t know about the Roman Colosseum
- The latrines were made of cold marble, thus the wealthy would have someone go warm up their seat for them!
- No one knows who the actual architects or constructors of the Colosseum were because of the seal of pride.
- Built in just 9 years, the Colosseum is said to have been built by 60,000 Jewish slaves.
- The mock naval battles used 3 million liters of water.
- Only open 10-15 times a year, attendance and food was free.
- The word “fornicate” originated here. The arches (fornix in latin) of the Colosseum were a popular place to meet and have sex.
- The animals were kept without food for a week so that they were hungry.
- For safety of the attendees, 100 archers were ready to kill a lion if it tried to jump over 4 meter front seats.
- Immediately following animal kills were BBQs so that the meat could be served to attendees.
- Gladiators were never pitted with animals. The men that fought the wild animals were usually hunters that were criminals, as a form of execution.
- Coffins were recycled as water troughs.
- Thumbs up was actually a sign to put the Gladiator to death via jugular.
- Food for thought: Animals ate the people (fighters) and the people (attendees) ate the animals.
These incredible buildings eventually fell into disrepair when the last Roman emperor was overthrown. After 1,000 years of rule, the Roman Empire slipped into obscurity and buildings were left to the elements and torn apart for materials. The civilization that once forced its will upon the world, collapsed under its own weight only to be rediscovered thousands of years later. The remarkable Roman Empire will never be forgotten and the ruins shall remain as an exhibit of their lives allowing if only a glimpse, into the ancient world.
This is one of the few places I have been that have literally been a jaw-dropping experience. Be sure to visit it for yourself, but in the mean time, feel free to experience my virtual interactive 360 view and feel like you’re standing inside the Colosseum!
Follow Jeana’s travel adventures on her blog Surf and Sunshine, on Twitter at @SurfnSunshine and on Instagram at @JeanaTravels.