The history of the Colosseum

You ready? Rome, here we go! 

Rome is a place that would never stop surprising you; where art, history and all its architectural testimonies from all sort of times and eras still prevail.

Getting to know the history of one and each of its many secrets would be practically impossible so, in order to facilitate you future trip, we will help you by giving you some important information about the biggest and most famous amphitheatre in the world, which is also the emblem of the city, the Colosseum of Rome.

Table of contents

When was the colosseum built?

Its construction started on the year 70-72 A.D. This ambitious project was commissioned by the emperor at the time Flavius Vespasianus, hence the monument is also known as “The Flavian Amphitheatre” (honouring the Flavian dynasty), its construction was like a gift for the Roman people to gain their sympathy and become more popular.

Later, it will adopt the name of Colosseum derived from the great Nero’s colossal statue that was erected next to the building.

Colosseum’s capacity is of around 65.000 people. It was created to replace the old amphitheatre that was destroyed during the great fire of Rome in the year 64  A.D, funded by the many treasures spoiled after the conquest of Jerusalem and slave sale.

Its construction lasted for almost 10 years, using as the main materials: travertine blocks, concrete, wood, tiles, tuff, marble and cement. Approximately 700.000 tons of stone were used.

The architects and engineers planned for the top section of the Roman Amphitheatre to be less heavy so, in order to avoid it collapsing, they used cement and bricks as those are more lightweight than the tuff stone.

colosseum history

The inauguration lasted for over three months

In the year 80 A.D, the roman emperor Titus Vespasianus organised the games for the important inauguration of the Colosseum, these games lasted for a hundred days in a row.

Hundred of animals died during the celebrations; and not just these were the only deaths considering the numerous fights between gladiators, executions and battle simulations on the arena.

The grades of the Colosseum were divided according to the different social status “Gradus”

It was distributed in five different levels for the public with very defined areas depending on social status:

  • Podium: this area was destinated for senators, magistrates and priests, and on the extremes (the best seats) was located the Imperial Tribune.
  • Maenianum primum: This part was for aristocrats that weren’t part of the senate. 
  • Maenianum secundum: The wealthy citizens were located here.
  • Maenianum seummun (the upper area): Here you could find the poorest members of the city.
colosseum history

The great fire in 217 AD

In the year 217 there was an electric storm (according to Dion Casio) that destroyed the wooden floor within the Colosseum that couldn’t be fully repaired until the year 240 and continued being modified during the years 250-252 and again in 320.

The Barbarians and wealthiest and more powerful families of Rome were the main perpetrators during the assault to the Colosseum. Nowadays, the holes produced by the Barbarians can still be seen along its facade, they robbed the material and bronze that supported the stones between them. 

For 10 centuries the Colosseum, the Forums and the Circo Massimo were used as public canteens to rebuilt and decorate their palaces. Much of the stone and sculptures can be now found, for example, at the Barberini Palace or in the Vatican.

The arena of the Colosseum was still used for competitions until the VI century, being the very last gladiator fight recorded on the year 435. 

Now you know a little bit more of the history and we encourage you to come visit it and discover the interior of the roman Colosseum yourself.