Secrets of the Colosseum - Uncovering its Secrets and Mysteries 1


For hundrets of years, the Colosseum has been at the heart of Rome. From gladiatorial battles to executions, few places are more closely associated with ancient Roman life and culture than this iconic amphitheater. Here’s your guide to discovering its amazing secrets and exploring its mysterious past.

The Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum) was built between the Palatine and the Esquiline, on the site of the artificial lake of Nero’s Domus Aurea. Construction began in 70 A.D. under Emperor Vespasian and was inaugurated by Titus in 80 A.D., although the building was not finished at that time. The inauguration ceremony lasted 100 days. During this time about 5,000 predatory animals were killed. In 107 AD, Emperor Trajan, in celebration of his triumph over the Thracians, ordered games for 120 days, using 10,000 gladiators and 11,000 predators. Entry to the stadium was free of charge.

The Saint Benedictine monk Beda Venerabilis described the importance of the Colosseum in the 8th century as follows: “Dum Colosseum stabit, Roma stabit, dum Roma stabit, mundus stabit” – “As long as the Colosseum stands, Rome stands, as long as Rome stands, the world will stand”.

Over 40,000 slaves worked on the construction. Over 100,000 m³ of travertine and 300 tons of iron were used. The outer gallery has a height of 50 m. The larger axis is 188 m long and the shorter 156 m. Due to the elliptical shape, more spectators could find space. Taking into account the standing room, the amphitheater had a capacity of 70,000 spectators.

The building consists of three tiers supported by 80 numbered arches. The attic floor was decorated with gold bronze shields. A complex of corridors and staircases led to the 160 vomitoria, which lead to the rows of seats. The rows of seats were divided into sectors according to the status of the citizens. The closer the seats were to the arena, the more important were the spectators. Women were generally given the most distant seats.

The Velarium (awning) was anchored to 240 posts and was controlled by a detachment of marines stationed in the Gulf of Naples.

When naumachia (naval battles) no longer took place in the Colosseum, Emperor Domitian built the premises under the arena. The elevator complex thus created, enabled the lightning-fast creation and alteration of scenery. For example, they were able to transform a desert landscape into a blooming forest with lakes. One of the most impressive spectacles was when suddenly 100 lions jumped into the arena at once.

The program of the games was published in advance and ran according to a fixed schedule.

First there was a parade. Accompanied by trumpets and horns, the host (e.g. magistrate, emperor) together with the Venatores (hunters), the gladiators, the criminals sentenced to death, the referees and other participants marched through the city.

In the morning, events with animals took place. These included, fights between exotic animals, hunting shows or fights between animals and gladiators. Some of the most popular animals were lions, tigers, crocodiles and elephants. A lion could cost between 125.000 and 150.000 sestertii. In comparison, the average daily consumption of a family of three was 6 sestertii per day. Thus, with the price of a lion the family could have lived for about 70 years.

At noon were the executions. There were two types of executions. Ad bestias, meant to be mauled by wild animals and ad gladium, was the fight against gladiators.

In the afternoon, the gladiator fights took place. These ranged from duels to the representation of battles with hundreds of gladiators. The merit of the gladiators, per fight, ranged from 1,000 for unknown, up to 15,000 sestertii for famous fighters.


Colosseum (Rome)