With a capacity of 50 000 spectators, the Colosseum was the world’s largest ampitheatre ever built at the time. It was an amazing feat of human engineering, given as a gift to the Roman people by Emperor Vespasian…and it was used to spill blood. Eh, and a little bit of clean entertainment too.
With good reason, the Colosseum has captured the minds and imagination of people across the centuries since it was built in around 70AD. What is worth knowing about the Colosseum before visiting, or to know more about the Roman civilization of the time? Well, here’s the deal in ten neat, squared out facts.
Interesting Facts To Know About The Colosseum
1. What was the Colosseum used for?
The Colosseum was used for entertainment purposes. Entertainment for the Romans was quite different to what we’d consider to be entertainment these days. Events at the Colosseum consisted of executions, violent wild animal hunts, depictions of famous Roman battles, gladiatorial contests, and for dramas. Quite the range.
2. Why is the Colosseum so damaged and broken today?
When you visit, you’ll notice that parts of it are completely missing. Well, here’s the thing: the Colosseum is a ruin, and it’s been considered to be a ruin for the past 1 500 years. Like all other ruins, they’re a bit – how do I say this – ruined. For the most part, the damage to the Colosseum comes from earthquakes and other natural disasters over the ages. This, and from visitors across the ages taking pieces of it as souvenirs. Like I said, people have been impressed by it for centuries.
3. How long did it take to build the Colosseum?
It took just 8 years to build the Colosseum, one of history’s most impressive structures. And that happened nearly 2000 years ago. Its alternative name, both then and now, is the Flavian Ampitheatre because it was built during the Flavian dynasty.
4. How many died in the Colosseum?
All in, there were approximately 1 400 000 deaths across its 390 years of use. Of those 1 400 000 deaths, approximately 400 000 were human deaths, and 1 000 000 were animal deaths. That’s about 1 025 human deaths and 2 564 animal deaths every year.
5. Who was banned from visiting the Colosseum?
For the most part, everyone was welcome at the Colosseum. The hierarchy of seating and importance at the Colosseum was: Senators, Officials, Citizens and Soldiers, and finally Women and Slaves. Those who were banned from attending events at the Colosseum were gravediggers, former gladiators, and most curiously, actors.
6. Did gladiators fight to the death in the Colosseum?
Think about ancient gladiators exactly like modern day MMA fighters, except with a lot more armor and deadly weapons. And less flexibility, probably.
Most of the time, though, gladiators would simply fight until there was a decisive winner (just like modern day fighting sports) or when one of the gladiators ran out of steam. Gladiators were highly trained athletes and entertainers, and they went through extensive training at schools dedicated to training them up. If gladiators were mostly one and done, there’d simply not be enough people in supply to keep the sport going.
However, all games were paid for by a sponsor, which was often the emperor of the time. On the odd or special occasion, extra money would be paid to hold a gladiator event where they would fight to the death. So, did gladiators always fight to the death at the Colosseum? Mostly no, but sometimes yes.
7. How much did it cost to build the Colosseum?
If you had to rebuild the Colosseum again today, it would cost you a whopping $675 million and take approximately 2 years to finish. That’s just 4x faster than it was built 2 000 years ago – not bad form from the Romans, huh?
8. Where is the Colosseum located?
Okay, so you know it’s in Rome, and maybe you even know that it’s in central Rome right next to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. But more specifically, on the same ground where the Colosseum now stands, was the Golden House of Nero. The Golden House, of course, belonged to the Roman emperor Nero. It was an extravagant palace with art, domes, lengthy corridors, and links between some of the 7 hills of Rome – including the Palatine Hill. Most importantly, it also had an artificial lake. This artificial lake was drained by Emperor Vespasian and it was on this ground that the Colosseum was built.
9. What animals were used in the Colosseum?
Beyond the entertainment aspect, animals in the Colosseum were also used for punishment – known as Damnatio Ad Bestias – Condemnation to Beasts. For this punishment, the condemned were usually killed by lions and other big cats. In fact, Damnatio Ad Bestias was one of the events held at the opening of the Colosseum.
Across all events, including entertainment and hunting events, there were appearances by lions, leopards, tigers, wolves, hyaenas, buffaloes, elephants, bears, rhinos, hippos, boars, wild goats, deer, crocodiles…and yes, even rabbits.
10. Is it worth it to visit the Colosseum?
Absolutely. Without a doubt, you have to find your way to the Colosseum at some point in your life. It’s one of the most awe-inspiring sites you’ll ever see – and you’ll never forget the first sighting you see of it. Definitely get a ticket and take an inside view of the ampitheatre, and consider getting a guide to tell you exactly what you’re looking at. It’s so worth it.
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