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Fascinating Facts about the Colosseum (Rome)

The Colosseum
Iconic!  Magnificent!  The Symbol of Rome!  The Greatest Roman Architectural Work!

These and many more adjectives and praises have been poured upon the glorious ruins of stone and cement that sit in the heart of modern Rome. It is one of the most visited monuments in the world. Any and every movie that features the city has to have a shot of the Colosseum in it!

Here are some interesting facts about the Colosseum that you may or may not know.

•    It stands just east of the Roman Forum

•    It was commissioned around A.D. 70-72 by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people

•    It was built on the site of Nero’s Golden Palace. An enormous complex that Nero had built for himself after a great fire ripped through Rome in A.D. 64

•    Nero also built a statue of himself – the Colossus. This gigantic statue gave the building its current name.

•    It took only about 8 years to build; a relatively quick time period for such a grand project

•    Officially opened in A.D. 80 by Vespasian's son Titus

•    Was officially known as the Flavian Amphitheatre

•    The opening ceremony went on for 100 days with games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights

•    During the course of the inauguration some 9,000 wild animals were killed.

•    What stands today is only a third of the original structure

•    It measures about 620 by 513 feet (190 by 155 meters) and is a freestanding stone and concrete structure.  It stands more than 48 meters (159 ft) in height

•    The great amphitheatre covers 6 acres

•    It was clad in marble

•    There were 160 larger-than-life statues in the arches on the upper floors

•    The Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman world

•    Unlike previous and other amphitheatres it was not dug into hillsides for support

•    It has four stories – above ground – with 80 arched entrances supported by semi-circular columns

•    The columns on each storey are different in style.  The lowest were the simple Doric columns. Above them were columns of the Ionic form and topped by the intricate and beautiful Corinthian style

•    The Arch of Constantine was built in A.D. 315 near the main entrance

•    At its peak usage the Colosseum could seat more than 50,000 people – must have been quite a squeeze!

•    The upper story contained seating for lower classes and women

•    The lowest story was preserved for prominent citizens.

•    Below ground were rooms with mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena

•    The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). It had a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery.

•    The Colosseum was covered with a giant sail known as the velarium. This protected the spectators from the sun and rain. It was attached to large poles on top of the Colosseum and anchored to the ground by large ropes.

•    The events featured gladiatorial combats, hunts, wild animal fights

•    There were over 20 different types of Gladiators

•    There were also larger and dramatic mock naval engagements for which the arena was flooded with water

•    Most of the combatants were men (though there were some female gladiators). Gladiators were generally slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war

•    From its early history, the Colosseum has suffered damage from natural causes such as lightning and earthquakes

•    It has been plundered for its materials that was used in numerous buildings including St Peter’s Cathedral, Cathedral of St John Lateran, the Pallazo Venezia and fortifications along the River Tiber

•    About 2/3 of the original Colosseum has gone.  Its original marble facing, the statues decorating the arches and the lavish decoration of the interior have either disappeared of adorn other buildings in and around Rome

•    Restoration started in the latter part of the 19th century and still continues today

•    Before the overgrowth of vegetation was cleared away in 1871 over 400 species of plants grew on the ruins

•    Was in regular use for over 400 years

•    42 Roman Emperors witnessed the events at the Colosseum

•    An estimated 700,000 have people died in the various sports at the arena

•    There isn’t much evidence to support the claims that early Christian martyrs met their fate in the Colosseum

Photo Credit: jimmyharris

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  1. comment by: Albus Brian on Jun 27 at 15:49

    As the sun is hidden, Rome, tourist destination in nature is transformed. Be taken when walking along its streets during the night fun is in every corner.

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