The Colosseum

About the Colosseum

Standing tall for almost 2,000 years in the heart of the Eternal City, the Colosseum of Rome is a timeless monument to the ingenuity and power of the ancient Romans. Having hosted some of the most thrilling and brutal spectacles in antiquity – from gladiatorial battles and naval reenactments, to epic chariot races and brutal public executions – the Colosseum is one of the most popular tourist attractions across the world.

The massive amphitheater offers a unique glimpse of everyday life during the Roman Empire. Inside, visitors can explore the vast arena and underground areas, where gladiators lived, trained and fought. The Colosseum’s towering arches and supporting columns reflect the incredible engineering and architectural prowess of ancient Romans, while the upper levels offer breathtaking panoramic views of the city. So come, explore the Colosseum ruins and journey back in time to a world of drama and excitement.

Interesting Facts

What is the Colosseum? 

The Colosseum is an immense amphitheater and architectural marvel in the center of Rome that dates back almost two millennia. It was built during the height of the Roman Empire and over the centuries served as a venue for thrilling spectacles, from gladiator competitions and sea battles, to chariot races and religious processions.

Showcasing the power and sophistication of Rome, the Colosseum stands as a lasting symbol of the empire's engineering might, attracting millions of visitors every year.

When was the Colosseum built?

Construction of the Colosseum began in 70 AD, during the reign of Emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD, by his son and successor, Titus. Vespasian’s younger son, Domitian, came to power a year later and further developed the amphitheater, building underground tunnels and additional seating areas.

The Colosseum suffered significant damage over the ages from fires and earthquakes and was eventually abandoned. During the late Middle Ages though and following the return of the Pope to Rome, major restoration and reconstruction work has been carried out to the ancient amphitheater.

What makes the Colosseum so special?

Built on the site of Nero’s private lake in the center of Rome, the Colosseum is the world’s largest standing amphitheater and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. In its heyday, the Colosseum could seat up to 80,000 spectators, while many important events were hosted in its arena.

Overcoming many technical limitations, the Colosseum is a deeply influential feat of ancient Roman engineering and as an enduring symbol of the Eternal City’s rich history and culture, it has inspired countless artists throughout the ages.

Colosseum Highlights

The Arena

In the center of the Colosseum is its famous oval-shaped Arena, where warriors and beasts were pitted against one another in front of roaring crowds of spectators.

Beneath the sand-covered floor lies a labyrinth of tunnels and rooms that served as an underground network for the fighters and animals. But the arena wasn't just for blood and gore; it was also the stage for more peaceful spectacles, such as mock sea battles and religious processions.

Surrounding the arena is a complex system of corridors, stairways and viewing areas that could seat up to 80,000 spectators, while the Roman Emperor overlooked from his box in the northern end. Today, the Colosseum arena remains an evocative ruin, a reminder of Rome's glorious past.

Underground Levels

To discover the magic behind the scenes in the Colosseum arena and truly appreciate the technical prowess and engineering of ancient Romans, don’t forget to visit the amphitheater’s underground levels.

The hypogeum, as it is called, was an innovative and complex structure of tunnels, trapdoors and corridors, a testament to Roman ingenuity. This subterranean network allowed for seamless coordination of elaborate events, ensuring smooth transitions between different acts and spectacles taking place above ground. The hypogeum, which was remodeled many times over the centuries, was also connected to famed Ludus Magnus gladiator training grounds.

Join a Colosseum tour to take a step back in time and visit the backstage areas, where gladiators, performers and wild animals prepared before they hit the stage.

Must-see at the Colosseum's Archeological Park

Domus Aurea

Emperor Nero’s famed Domus Aurea, or “Golden House”, can be found on Oppian Hill, to the north of the Colosseum. Constructed to replace his previous palace that was ravaged in the Great Fire of 64 AD, the Domus Aurea lived up to its name with imposing buildings decorated with gold and precious stones amongst lush vineyards and an artificial lake. Despite the damage sustained over the centuries, the ruins of the ancient palace invite you to learn more about the infamous Emperor.

Arch of Constantine

Standing next to the Colosseum, on the route taken by emperors when returning victorious to Rome, is the Arch of Constantine. While the origins of the heavily-decorated arch are a bit uncertain, it is believed to have been erected to commemorate Constantine the Great’s tenth anniversary in power and victory over his predecessor. The last grand monument of Imperial Rome, distinguished for its style and lauded for its sculptures and reliefs, remains a source of inspiration and wonder across the world.

Colosseum Museum

From the site of epic gladiatorial competitions in antiquity, its adoption by the Christian Church during the Middle Ages and its symbolic presence in modern times, the Colosseum has a long history that is intertwined with that of Rome. A museum dedicated to the world’s largest amphitheater can be found on the second level of the Colosseum. The museum’s impressive collection of artifacts recovered from archeological excavations will shed light in the Colosseum’s life and how it changed through the centuries.

The Colosseum and Palatine Hill

The Colosseum and Palatine Hill are two landmarks in the center of Rome with deep historic and symbolic ties. Imposing and awe-inspiring, the ancient gladiatorial amphitheater majestically rises at the base of Palatine Hill, an area that Rome's affluent and influential have called home for centuries.

Emperor Vespasian decided to build the Colosseum as a way to gain favor with the Roman people after the unpopular reign of Nero, whose lavish palace once dominated Palatine Hill. This new amphitheater would not only provide entertainment for the masses, it would also showcase his power.

Today, the Colosseum and Palatine Hill are a reminder of the imperial power, grandeur and excess in ancient Rome. Visitors can walk down to the Colosseum arena to see where gladiators once battled for their lives and then explore the ruins on Palatine Hill where emperors lived and shaped the world.

What are the Seven Hills of Rome?

Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill, where myth and history meet, is the legendary birthplace of Rome and was home to many Roman emperors. The Colosseum stands tall, at the foot of Palatine Hill, which had long been the home of the city’s wealthy and powerful. Visitors can delve into the past by and get a glimpse of imperial opulence by exploring the Flavian Palace, admiring the magnificent frescoes in the House of Augustus and wandering through the House of Livia. The Palatine Museum, displaying many valuable artifacts and art recovered from the area, is another must-visit site, offering a window into ancient Rome's origins and grandeur.

Top attractions

  • The Colosseum
  • Flavian Palace
  • House of Augustus
  • House of Livia
  • Palatine Museum

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill, the center of religious and political power in ancient Rome, stands as a testament to the Eternal City's enduring legacy. Visitors can immerse themselves in history at the site of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus and wander through the remarkable Capitoline Museums, showcasing an extensive collection of ancient Roman artifacts, statues, and art. The hill also boasts the captivating Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by the legendary Michelangelo, adorned with its iconic equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

Top attractions

  • Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus
  • Capitoline Museums
  • Piazza del Campidoglio

Aventine Hill

To the southwest of the Colosseum lies Aventine Hill, a picturesque haven among Rome's Seven Hills, which offers a peaceful retreat rich in history and culture. Once a working-class neighborhood, it now boasts elegant villas, gardens and churches, such as the Basilica of Santa Sabina and Church of Santa Prisca. Among the many highlights on the hill is the Knights of Malta keyhole, revealing a perfectly framed view of St. Peter's Basilica and the mesmerizing Orange Garden with its stunning city panoramas.

Top attractions

  • Basilica of Santa Sabina
  • Church of Santa Prisca
  • Knights of Malta keyhole
  • Orange Garden

Caelian Hill

Caelian Hill, a tranquil residential district, presents a perfect blend of Rome's historical and contemporary allure. Explore the intriguing layers of the Basilica of San Clemente, be amazed by the grandeur of the Baths of Caracalla and take in the peaceful atmosphere of Villa Celimontana park. Complete your journey with a visit to the enigmatic Church of Santo Stefano Rotondo. Caelian Hill offers a unique experience that bridges the gap between ancient Rome and modern city life.

Top attractions

Esquiline & Oppian Hill

Esquiline Hill, including the intriguing Oppian Hill located at its southern spurr, is home to numerous landmarks that showcase the splendor of ancient Rome. Venture through the expansive Baths of Trajan, admire the breathtaking mosaics in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and pay your respects to Michelangelo's striking Moses sculpture in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli. Additionally, the nearby Colle Oppio Park offers a magnificent vantage point of the city, providing panoramic views of the ancient Colosseum.

Top attractions

  • Baths of Trajan
  • Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Church of San Pietro
  • Colle Oppio Park

Viminal Hill

The smallest of Rome's Seven Hills, Viminal Hill offers a vibrant fusion of history and contemporary life. Wander through the vast Baths of Diocletian and become captivated by Bernini's celestial Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Stand in awe of the architectural grandeur of Termini Station and explore Italy's rich archaeological heritage in the National Roman Museum. Despite its size, Viminal Hill promises a wealth of unforgettable experiences in the Eternal City.

Top attractions

  • Baths of Diocletian
  • Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria
  • National Roman Museum

Quirinal Hill

Quirinal Hill, distinguished as the highest of the Seven Hills, beckons visitors to explore its regal past. Meander through the opulent Quirinal Palace, the home of popes, kings and Italy's president, and become enchanted by the mesmerizing beauty of the world famous Trevi Fountain. Revel in the exquisite art collection housed within Palazzo Barberini, and admire the architectural brilliance of the Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. Your unforgettable Roman adventure on the stately Quirinal Hill awaits.

Top attractions

  • Quirinal Palace
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Palazzo Barberini
  • Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

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