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Discover the Roman Colosseum History!

The Colosseum is the most attractive monument in Rome, known for its brilliant elliptical architecture and gruesome entertainment history!

Millions of visitors visit the historical monument, but do you know its exciting construction and gladiator fight history? 

Visitors who want the best experience on this amphitheater’s arena floor and underground chambers must know all about its backstory.

In this article, we will tell you more about the naming of this Flavian monumental structure that has such a significant impact on the culture of Rome! 

A Quick Glance at the Colosseum Rome History Timeline 

Being over almost 2,000 years old, the Colosseum has a rich history!

72 AD: Construction began under Emperor Vespasian after Nero’s death. 

80 AD. Emperor Vespasian’s son, Titus, declares a hundred games to celebrate the inauguration.

83 AD. Titus’s younger brother saw the completion of the Flavian amphitheater. He excavated the area for the arena and the underground chambers.  

217: A mighty fire caused by lightning destroyed the upper floors. 

404: Gladiator combat came to a decline to follow the Christian teachings. 

410 (in the late 6th century): The arena and surrounding area became 

a cemetery. The locals converted the vast spaces under the seating area into houses and workshop spaces.

523: The Colosseum held its last animal hunt. 

1808: A powerful Roman clan, the Frangipani family, overtook the amphitheatre. 

1349: An earthquake caused huge damage to the structure.

1382. The property falls into the hands of the Church. One-third of it goes to the Religious brotherhood, the Arciconfratenita del SS. Salvatore and Sancta Sanatorium. They also have the permission to sell the destroyed remains of the Colosseum. 

14th to 18th century. The materials used in constructing this monument were melted down and used in other structures of Rome. Some of it was also used to build St. Peter’s Basilica! 

1750- Pope Benedict XIV protected the land as a holy area since Christians died in the structure. 

19th and 20th century: Reconstruction of the Amphitheatre took place. 

2013 to 2016: Restoreres cleaned the centuries-old grime exterior of the Colosseum to reveal a stunning color! 

How did the Colosseum Get its Name? 

Did you know that the Colosseum was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre? 

Then how did it get its name, “The Colosseum?”

Most people believe this name was given because of the structure’s colossal size, but that is not true.

At the amphitheater’s center stood a 30-meter-tall bronze statue of Emperor Nero, known as the Colossus of Nero.

Emperor Vespasian named the statue “Colossus of Nero” to represent the strength of Nero by comparing him to Sol, the Roman Sun God. 

Sadly, the beautiful statue broke to pieces during the earthquake or the 410 Sack of Rome. 

You can still see the pedestal of this statue outside the building.

Some people also spell the name as “Coliseum” in Rome! 

What was the Color of the renowned Amphitheatre? 

The elliptical building was painted with a striking red, ochre, green, and blue color in its glory days!

Even though the colors have now wholly faded, leaving it a tan-colored structure, it is still one of the most beautiful structures in Rome.

The exterior of the building had a beautiful marble that is only visible at the top tier today. 

The corridors leading to the seating area in the theater were also covered in a vibrant mosaic of colors!

The 50,000 visitors’ seating area was bright white, and architects also found pictures of gladiators carved into the seats. 

Researchers found Graffiti drawings of two phalluses on its walls after deep cleaning. 

The Construction History of Colosseum in Rome Italy

The Flavian amphitheater stands on a flat land area between Caelin Hill, Esquiline Hill, and Palatine Hill. 

Before the amphitheater, this was an artificial lake area with a canal.

The 64 AD Great Fire of Rome destroyed this densely populated area, which Emperor Nero then took over. 

Emperor Nero constructed his famous Domus Aurea, which was his personal complex, on this land, surrounded by beautiful pillars and a sparkling lake. 

During the early Flavian era after Nero’s death, his Domus Aurea was used to construct many Gladiator training grounds.

The beautiful lake was covered, leaving behind land on which stands the glorious Colosseum!

Since this area stands in the heart of the center of Rome, it was extremely popular even in the Flavian dynasty. 

This construction began around 70 AD under Emperor Vespasian and was completed when Emperor Domition took over in 83 AD.

He wanted the structure to be an attraction spot showcasing deadly gladiator fights and a place to host mock battles. 

The Inauguration Ceremony 

The Inauguration Ceremony
Photo by Den Harrson on Unsplash

Before the structure’s construction was complete, Titus, the son of Emperor Vespasian, organized a grand inauguration. 

A hundred games took place to celebrate this achievement, which the Emperor completely funded.

He wanted to gain goodwill with the people because of disastrous events, like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, that happened during his reign. 

Cassius Dio, a researcher, says that over 9,000 animals of all kinds were slaughtered during the games. 

Simulated battles, like the famous Battle of Corcyrean Greeks and Corinthians, were held during the games.

The Emperors hired many artists to replicate the backgrounds of scenes from mythology and historical stories. 

These artworks enhanced the scene of the events and were used as backdrops for animal hunting and other activities. 

Decline of Gladiator Fighting

The Amphitheatre was mainly built as an entertainment center, showcasing gladiators fighting amongst themselves.

Even though people believed these fights were natural, most were staged and trained in advance.

The Gladiators were prisoners of war!

It was also used to give public speeches and announcements and to conduct executions with the help of deadly beasts. 

In the 6th Century AD, with increased Christian beliefs, such fights and bloodshed became evil.  

Emperor Honorius banned this type of entertainment in 404, and the people no longer enjoyed watching Gladiators fight against each other.

The last animal hunt in the amphitheater occurred in 1523, as King Theodoric the Great began criticizing the cost spent on this activity.  

Medieval Changes 

The 6th century saw many changes in the activities at the Colosseum, as entertainment Gladiator fights were banned in the area.

Since Rome’s Catholic faith deepened, a small chapel was constructed in the amphitheater. 

The entire arena floor was converted into a cemetery ground, while the seating area was redeveloped into small living quarters.

Later, all these dwellings shut down as the Frangipani family began using the structure as a fortified castle. 

Since the Pope moved to Avignon in the mid-14th century, the population of Rome reduced, leaving the Colosseum a scary hiding place for thieves. 

Restoring the Glorious Flavian Structure

Restoring the Glorious Flavian Structure
Photo by tommao wang on Unsplash

The Colosseum underwent many restoration efforts, as it was a fire victim of lightning and multiple earthquakes. 

The upper levels burned for days as lightning struck the exterior in 217, and these repairs ended in 240.

Some repairs were also continued in the years 250, 252, and 320. 

Emperor Theodosius II and Valentinian III organized a restoration after an earthquake hit Rome in 443.

Another major earthquake hit Rome in 1349, which destroyed the southern outer side of the Colosseum.

Pieces of this destroyed structure were stolen and used to build many other buildings around the city. 

In 1377, on the Pope’s return to Rome, he took over the amphitheater and the holy order of the Arciconfraternita del SS. Salvatore ad Sancta Sanctorum.

While constructing the Colosseum, massive iron clamps were used to hold the structure together, and they were forcefully taken out.

This destruction remains on the structure’s exterior, as deep indents are left behind even today. 

Modern Roman Colosseum

Before Pope Benedict XIV managed to preserve it as a sacred space where Christians were martyred, there were many other ideas for its reconstruction.

Pope Sixtus V wanted to turn the massive structure into a wool factory, which would be a source of employment for prostitutes.

Cardinal Altieri permitted the locals to conduct bullfights in the Flavian amphitheatre in 1671, which caused chaos among the public. 

Ignoring all these suggestions, Pope Benedict XIV decided to erect stations of the Cross all around the arena floor. 

After him, many Popes tried to conduct repairs on the Colosseum, bringing it to its current look today! 

The Colosseum Today

The Colosseum Today
Photo by Atıf Zafrak on Unsplash

The Colosseum currently covers 6 acres of land in Rome and is three times the width of an American football field!

Over seven million visitors worldwide travel here to see the ancient arena floor and mysterious underground chambers of the gladiators. 

It was also declared as one of the world’s seven wonders on 7th July 2007. 

The Colosseum has 80 intact entrances today, from which only three entrances are used for visitors. 

You can also see stunning artifacts in the top-floor museum dedicated to Eros, the Greek God of Love. 

Since the structure is holy to the Church, occasional Stations of the Cross are held here every year on Good Friday. 

The amphitheater is a remembrance of the history and stunning engineering of the Romans since the ancient period. 

You must have Colosseum tickets to explore the monument and access the restricted areas for the best experience! 

FAQs of Colosseum History 

1. What is the story behind the Colosseum?

The Colosseum was an entertainment spot, hosting gladiator fights, adventurous animal fights, mock wars, and gruesome executions. Locals could also attend speeches at this spot. 

2. When was the Colosseum destroyed? 

A major earthquake in 1349 in Rome destroyed the South side of the amphitheater. The broken pieces of this structure were melted and used in other Roman architecture like buildings, schools, hospitals, etc. Some of this material was also used to construct St. Peter’s Basilica. 

3. Who constructed the Colosseum?

The Colosseum was constructed under the reign of Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD. His elder son, Titus, conducted an inauguration ceremony while his younger son, Domitius, ensured its construction was complete in 83 AD.

4. What was the Colosseum originally built for?

Ans. The Colosseum was originally built to host entertaining events like gladiator fights, wild animal hunts, stage mock battles, public executions, and to give speeches in public. 

5. What is the secret of the Colosseum?

Ans. The Colosseum has many secret corridors and trap doors. These are now in open air, but previously, they were underground. 

6. Why was the Colosseum abandoned?

Since Emperor Honorius banned gladiator fights at the Colosseum, it became a place people rarely visited. It was then used as a grave in the Middle Ages before the Church overtook the monument. 

7. Where did the marble from the Colosseum go?

Most of the marble has become a part of the beautiful exterior architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica. Some of it was also used in other buildings around Rome. 

8. What’s the Colosseum’s real name?

The Colosseum was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre.

9. Who owns the Colosseum now? 

The Italian Government owns the Colosseum. They also provide funds for its maintenance and restoration. 

10. Why is the floor of the Colosseum not flat?  

The arena floor of the Colosseum is a high wooden platform-like stage. This high platform allows visitors to enjoy the fight from wherever they are seated. 

Featured Image: Julius_Silver from pixabay (Canva)

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