7 Colossal Facts About The Colosseum

Rome‘s Colosseum draws millions of visitors per year looking to experience the amphitheatre once home to gruesome gladiator battles. At nearly 2,000 years old, the Roman masterpiece truly is a sight to behold. From naval battle simulations to its original name – here are seven facts you may not know about the Colosseum.

Colossal Facts About The Colosseum

1. Its Original Name Was The Flavian Amphitheater

Emperor Vespasian built The Colosseum in around 70 CE and then later opened by his son, Titus in 80 CE. Vespasian, Titus and then Domitian, who went on to rule from 81-96 were known as the Flavian Emperors, and for this, the Colosseum was called Amphitheatrum Flavium, or, The Flavian Amphitheater.

colosseum facts

2. There Were Maritime Battles, Too

In addition to the gory gladiatorial battles, the Colosseum could also mock a battle at sea. Underground plumbing allowed the arena to flood for ‘sea battles.’ This was short-lived, though as Romans better enjoyed the gladiator fights and the lower area of the arena needed to be utilised for other things.

colosseum facts

3. The Amphitheater Could Seat 50,000 Guests In An Organised Fashion

The roster of guests who attended Colosseum games ranged from rich to poor and every social status imaginable. Because of this, the Colosseum had separate sections based on class and wealth. Filing into the arena was simple with numbered arches, rows and seating charts to guide people to one of the five sections. With a width of around 14 inches per person, the Colosseum managed to hold 50,000 spectators at a time.

4. The Fighting Was Sophisticated

For over 400 years, a variety of slaves, criminals, gladiators and soldiers fought in battles at the Colosseum. Purely for the entertainment of the emperors and Roman people, you’d imagine that it was a bloody mess. Often times it was, however, the pairing was organised with fighters between men or man and animals classed by record, experience, skill and fighting style.

colosseum facts

5. It Is The Largest Amphitheatre In The World

Despite the fact that the Colosseum was constructed in just ten years, it is the largest amphitheatre in the world. It measures 615 long, 510 feet wide and 157 feet high; the reason for its speedy construction can be linked to the slaves who built it. After the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, Vespasian put the captured slaves to work on the Colosseum.

colosseum facts

6. It Used To Be An Artificial Lake

Nero, famous mostly for killing his family and fiddling while the city burnt down, had a pleasure palace on the site of the Colosseum. It included a large artificial lake and a massive ‘Golden House’ with ivory, jewels, marble and all the other palace fixin’s you’d expect. After the fire of Rome, Nero’s suicide and a few decades time, Vespasian came to the throne and then decided to revamp the area.

Vespasian had The Golden House destroyed, and then the Baths of Trajan built on top. He then had the lake filled in and used as the foundation of the Colosseum.

colosseum facts

7. 100 Days Of Games

Unfortunately, Vespasian didn’t live to see the Colosseum’s completion in 80 CE. The honour of debuting the amphitheatre fell to Titus who kicked off the opening with 100 straight days of games ranging from animal hunts to gladiatorial fights.


Melanie Hamilton

Melanie is an avid traveller with a passion for history and global foods. She is currently based in Tbilisi, Georgia where most of her time is occupied with qvevri wine and Soviet history. Having do-si-do'd her way across Europe and Latin America, she's enjoyed some of the world's most exciting places firsthand and can't wait to tell you about them.

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