The Grand Colosseum History

Flavian Amphitheater | Gladiatorial Combats | Grand Structure

Learn about the history of the Colosseum From why the location was chosen to what the Colosseum represented to the Emperors and people of Rome.

 

The Beginning Of The Colosseum

Located in the heart of Rome in Italy, the Colosseum is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. This 2000-year-old structure is the largest ever built and is a reminder of Roman engineering and ingenuity.

Located in the heart of Rome in Italy, the Colosseum is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. This 2000-year-old structure is the largest ever built and is a reminder of Roman engineering and ingenuity.

The Builders Of The Colosseum - long description

The Builders Of The Colosseum

During the rule of Emperor Vespasian, which was around 70-72AD, began the construction of the Colosseum. Vespasian died before his vision came to life and his son Titus took over to complete the development and celebrated with a 100-day festivity to mark the occasion. During the reign of his son Domitian, several changes were also made. These three emperors were part of the Flavian Dynasty, and as such, it was called the Flavian Amphitheatre. There were two kinds of construction workers employed for the construction; Jewish prisoners who were primarily responsible for the menial work and hired professionals such as Roman painters, artisans, engineers, and builders.

The Colosseum was built to show the power, wealth, and strength of the Roman Empire where various forms of entertainment would be on display for the Roman population.

Colosseum History – The Location

 The Colosseum is located east of the Roman Forum which is surrounded by ancient government buildings at the heart of the city center in Rome. A site had been chosen to build the Colosseum which was between Esquiline, Palatine, and Caelian Hills. This site was devastated by the Great Rome Fire in 64AD. The emperor Nero had his eye on the site and seized much of the area. There he built the Domus Aurea which was a large palace which was beautifully landscaped with gardens and pavilions. Right in front, he had built a lake. Later, Emperor Vespasian would build the Colosseum over the lake which was filled in, and the supporting buildings such as the gladiator schools and the Sanitarium were built in the surroundings. It is believed the Colosseum’s name is derived from the nearby enormous statue of Emperor Nero.

Colosseum History - The Location
Colosseum's Purpose - long description

What was the Colosseum used for?

The primary reason the Colosseum was built was for Emperor Vespasian to gift the Romans a place for entertainment purposes. It also served as a reminder to the Romans of the power of their emperor, the wealth, and generosity bestowed on them. Many events were organised, but the main drawcard was the gladiator fights. It is believed that the gladiator games began to celebrate the death of a nobleman by making human sacrifice to appease the spirit of the departed. In other words, it was connected to magic and religion. It also showed the wealth and prestige of the individuals who held these games. The gladiator battles were mainly between males, and later on, animals were introduced to add more excitement. These animals were normally brought in from Asia, Egypt and Africa. The gladiators were normally made up from slaves, prisoners of war or convicts. Yes, gladiators were allowed to go free after they had won several battles and it was a great honour for a gladiator to receive a wooden sword from the emperor in front of a roaring crowd which signified their freedom.

The Colosseum had other purposes too

With time, the audience wanted to see more than just gladiator fights. So, a more lavish style of extravagance was introduced, which included animals fighting with gladiators. There was a gory inclusion – executions ad bestias where those poor souls condemned to death would be sent unarmed in the amphitheatre and without any clothing. They had to fight with the beasts till death. Circus acts such as magicians and acrobats also performed. Some sources claim that mock naval battles were also carried out at the amphitheatre, where the hypogeum was filled with water. Mythology had deep roots in Roman psyche, and as such, scenes of the natural environment would be created, and the animals would be introduced in the environment. Dramas from mythology would then be played out, and where there was a death scene, a convict would be used and killed either by mauling or being burnt alive keeping it authentic.

Colosseum History

AD 70-71

Emperor Vespasian decides to give back to the people of Rome. He decides to give back what Emperor Nero had taken – land to build his own palace. So, the once man-made lake in his palace which now lay in ruins was decided to be built into an amphitheatre for the entertainment for the Romans.

AD 80-81

With the Emperor Vespasian dead, his son Titus completes the colosseum and inaugurates it. His brother Domitian completes the third floor as well as creates the hypogeum which is the underbelly of the amphitheatre connected by tunnels and passages to keep the gladiators and animals which would eventually be performing on the arena.

222

Several fires have badly damaged the Colosseum and Alexander Severus rebuilds the Colosseum which is a project which takes almost thirty years.

404

Paganism ends and the last of the gladiatorial battles are fought as Emperor Theodosius wants to establish Christianity.

523

The last of the staged hunts are performed in the Amphitheatre putting an end to the entertainment.

16th Century

Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) planned to turn parts of the Colosseum to a wool factory for Rome’s prostitutes which caused quite a stir. The plans never went ahead as the Pope died. Then there was a proposal for bullfights and that too was hastily withdrawn after public outcry.

18th– 20th Century

The Colosseum was declared a sacred site for Christians by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749. He installed the Station of The Cross as a reminder of the Passion of the Christ as a memorial to the martyred Christians in the Colosseum. Restoration projects, big and small were carried out by later popes.

Colosseum History – Today

With over 7 million visitors, the Colosseum, though a former shell of its glory is still one of the most visited attractions in the world. At the cost of 40billion lira, major restoration works were carried out between 1993 and 2000. With previously closed chambers now open, visitors can see more of the Colosseum today! It is almost impossible to hold any events indoors in the Colosseum, but its backdrop has been used by famous musicians for their concert events. The lucky musicians have included, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Andrea Bocelli.

Discover the wonders of the Colosseum

Select from one of our curated Colosseum tours and be transported to Ancient Rome

Select A Tour Now With Great Deals