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The Ancient Roman Colosseum Is Definitely Worth Visiting

The ancient Roman Colosseum is the most popular site for visitors to Rome, Italy and definitely worth the time to visit it at least once, if not even more.

ancient roman colosseum - Busy

Busy All Day And Night

The Ancient Roman Colosseum History

The Colosseum functioned the same as the stadiums of today, to provide entertainment to the masses in Rome. It did this by providing a stage for the exotic animals captured in all corners of the Roman Empire, to build the support for the emperors amongst the Roman people, to showcase the latest Roman engineering and to stage reenactments of famous Roman battles.

There are two surprising facts that I learned while touring the amphitheater (meaning “theater in the round”). First, all the Colosseum’s major events were free to the public. The emperors themselves would pay for them. This public gift was a way to gain the favor of the people of Rome. This obvious bribe is still practiced today by politicians around the world.

The second thing I learned from our tour guide is that contrary to popular belief, Christians were never martyred in Il Colosseo. The guides try to make this abundantly clear, which isn’t to say a lot of people didn’t die there. They did! There were particularly brutal games in which 10,000 animals were killed in a single day.

How Old Is The Ancient Roman Colosseum?

Construction of the Colosseum began in 72 AD and was financed by treasures taken from the Jewish Temple and the workforce consisted of 12,00 Jewish prisoners (i.e. slaves) after the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 AD.

How Was The Colosseum Built?

The slaves worked long hours under harsh conditions, using building materials like: wood, limestone, tuff, tiles, cement and mortar, including bringing the travertine building blocks from a quarry 20 miles away in Tivoli. The construction took 8 years and once completed, a 100-day long inaugural games were held at the new Flavian Amphitheater in 80 AD which were paid for by the Emperor.

ancient roman colosseum - glowing

The Colosseum at Night

Where Is The Colosseum Located?

Let’s start with where it IS NOT and that is Las Vegas. Apparently Caesars decided to build a performance space in Nevada and called it The Colosseum. I have a lot of opinions about Vegas, but they aren’t really relevant for this blog, so I’ll leave it at this: The Colosseum is in Rome, and the gondoliers at The Venetian in Vegas are also fake. Also, The REAL Colosseum does not have an Instagram account.

The Colosseum is certainly in Rome. In fact, it was built in the center of Rome, in the Celio district (rione) and is just east of the Roman Forum. One of my favorite experiences continues to be walking from Piazza Venezia down Via dei Fori Imperiali towards the Colosseum at any time, early morning when it is empty, at night when it is lit up, and even during the day. 

If you want to get to the Colosseum using public transportation, you have many options offered by ATAC:

  • Take the subway, Metro B, and get off at the Colosseo stop.

  • Take a city bus, lines 75, 81,673,175 or 204 will get you there. 

  • Tram #3 is an option, but they run less frequently.

How Big Is The Roman Colosseum?

ancient roman colosseum - Cloudy Night

Another Shot of the Colosseum at Night

This massive elliptical structure is four stories high and approximately 620 x 513 feet. It has 80 entrances and exits, which is something to think about if you have ever been to a modern stadium and waited more than 30 minutes to exit because of the crowds. To compare the size to football or more appropriately baseball stadiums of today, the Colosseum could hold around 50K spectators and that is approximately the same size as Yankee Stadium, which can hold up to 54K fans. It is an impressive size, but American football still wins, with Cowboys Stadium holding up to 80k spectators.

What Is Inside The Colosseum?

Below the Colosseum floor there are the remains of numerous rooms and underground passages. There were trap doors and elevators used to launch the animals and gladiators onto the main floor. Pulley systems were also used to raise and lower scenery used for elaborate battle reenactments. There is even an elaborate drainage system that was used to flood the arena and reenact naval battles with specially trained swimming horses and bulls.

The stands were divided into sections according to social standing. The emperor carefully managed the separation of the different classes at all public spectacles. The Ima Cavea section was reserved for the emperor, politicians and vestal virgins, with their names having been written in their seats. The higher you go in the stadium, the poorer you were, with the top level available to the lowest class and the slaves.

The Restoration of the Colosseum

Because of the Colosseum’s 2,000 years of age and the effects of pollution, it has gone through regular and ongoing restorations. There was a major restoration program carried out in the 90’s costing almost $20m. Recent updates include a restoration of the external façade, which was completed in 2016, and in 2018 a new initiative was started with a focus on the underground passages, cages and rooms where prisoners, animals and gladiators were kept.

Were there Gladiators in the Colosseum?

Of course there were gladiators in the Colosseum, didn’t you see the movie? Also, there is a hostaria right across the street named Hostaria al Gladiatore and that couldn’t be right outside if it wasn’t authentic.

Seriously though, the gladiator contests were a major part of the entertainment in the Colosseum with a gladiator training site right outside. The gladiators’ barracks at the Ludus Magnus just across Piazza del Colosseo were connected to the arena by tunnels. The Ludus Magnus had its own miniature training arena, which was also a popular attraction for Romans.

How Do You Get Tickets To The Colosseum?

ancient roman colosseum - at Night

The Colosseum During Late Blue Hour

You can wait in a very long line at the Colosseum, but I wouldn’t recommend it. There are an almost infinite number of tour groups that might be your speed, or you can go to the website of Il Ministero della Cultura and decide what ticket is right for you. I would recommend a combination of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

I also wrote a post about: “Is The Roma Pass Worth It?”, which I would recommend taking a look at before you make any decisions.

What Are The hours?

Keep in mind that the last entry is one hour before closing time. The hours are:

  • 9:00 am – 7:15 pm from March 27 to August 31

  • 9:00 am – 7:00 pm for the month of September

  • 9:00 am – 6:30 pm from October 1 to October 31

  • 9:00 am – 4:30 pm from October 31 31 December 21

By the way, I was not totally correct above, the park does have an Instagram account!

Are Tours Of The Colosseum Worth It?

My opinion on guided tours has changed over the years. When I first visited the Colosseum I did a self-guided tour and to be honest, I didn’t get a lot out of it. Over the years I’ve visited the Colosseum on 4 separate occasions and I now believe there is a lot of value in guided tours. There are quite a few, so you will need to spend some time looking for the best one for you.

How Long Should You Spend At The Colosseum?

This is totally dependent on the tour you choose and, in my opinion, on the weather. Don’t underestimate the blazing heat of Rome in the summer and make sure you are well hydrated. If you have tickets before you arrive, you should plan on a couple of hours. If you show up without tickets, good luck. The lines can be crazy long and again, this is a good opportunity to get over heated.

More Amazing Sites In Rome To Consider

If you found this guide to the ancient Roman Colosseum helpful, you might consider checking out some of these other amazing sites on your next visit to Rome:

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