Near the center of one of the most ancient and iconic cities of the world rests a colossal structure. A structure so grand and majestic in scale and history, so rich and vibrant in stories and traditions, so heavy with cultural significance, and so dignified in stature and architectural brilliance, that no other structure of the like ever comes close to its grandeur.

This colossal structure – aptly called the Colosseum – is one of Rome’s greatest attractions and one of the world’s New Seven Wonders.

Throughout its 1,942 years of existence, the Colosseum has housed some of the deadliest events in the history of mankind and has managed to stand major earthquakes, fires, robberies, and attacks. Today, the former amphitheater is known for the centuries of legacy it carries.

It is no secret that the Colosseum is a popular historical monument. All of us have read about it in our history and G.K. textbooks in school. Some of you might also have read stories on the Colosseum and watched movies about its past, present, or future, or had the chance to visit this splendid place a few times.

But you wouldn’t have watched, read, or listened to what we are about to tell you today!

In the next few minutes, we will share ten facts that are stranger than fiction – interesting facts about the Colosseum in Rome that are bound to make you raise your eyebrows and gape at the wonder of one of the most historically, culturally, and architecturally significant attractions in Europe.

Be prepared for surprises!

Eight years in the making

It is no secret that the Colosseum is colossal. However, did you know that its construction took an equally colossal amount of time, labor, and two Roman rulers to construct this magnanimous structure?

The construction of the Colosseum began in 72 CE under the reign of emperor Vespasian and was not completed before 80 CE when Vespasian’s heir Titus had already been crowned.

According to various sources, tens of thousands of Jewish slaves won in wars were made to construct this epochal monument. Of course, slaves were not the only ones involved in building the Colosseum. Many professional engineers, builders, and artists contributed to constructing the more complicated sections.

The largest amphitheater (not a theater)

The Colosseum is the world’s largest amphitheater. The entire elliptical edifice is 189 meters in length and 156 meters in width, with a height of 48 meters. The arena is 87 meters long and 55 meters wide. 

But what is more astounding is the outer wall, of which just a small portion remains standing today. The grand outer wall of the Colosseum is 48 meters high, making the area of the Colosseum close to six acres (24,000 square meters). On the busiest days, the Colosseum could reportedly house over 80,000 spectators.

The division of classes

The social stratification of classes was prevalent in Rome, with the nobles and knights being the most respected ones. This social stratification was also evident in the Colosseum.

Another one of the interesting facts about the Colosseum is that its seating arrangement was divided according to the class division of the time – into four tiers.

The most elite spectators – the emperor, the Vestal Virgins, and the senators– were seated at the bottommost level, having the best view of the arena.

The second seating tier, located above that of the senatorial class, was reserved for the nobles and the knights.

The third tier was divided into two sub-tiers: the lower section for wealthy common people and the upper for poor citizens. The topmost tiers were for women, children, and slaves.

Standing the test of time 

Being one of the oldest monuments of great historical significance, the Colosseum has witnessed some major natural disasters and has suffered greatly due to the same.

A great fire (not the Great Fires of 64 CE) broke out in 217, severely damaging the Colosseum, especially the wooden upper interior parts. It was not before 240 that the damaged portion was repaired. And that’s not even all!

One of the most interesting facts about the Colosseum is that it has also been a victim of several earthquakes; the most destructive ones between 443 and 1349. The earthquake of 1349 caused the greatest damage– the entire southern side of the wall tumbled down. What we see today is just about a third of the original monument.

Colosseum, Coloseum, Coliseum

We have been talking about the Colosseum for a while now. But did you know that the “Colosseum” is not what it was always called?

The structure was originally addressed simply as amphitheatrum, meaning amphitheater. Another name for the structure might have been Amphitheatrum Caesaream (Caesarean Amphitheater). The term “colosseum” came into existence around 1000 CE. Even then, several etymological differences prevail in the spellings of the Colosseum. It is also referred to as the Coloseum or Coliseum.

Net Payable: Zero

A standard ticket to visit the Colosseum costs around €18, though citizens of the EU can buy the same tickets for €4. But what if we tell you that you could visit the Colosseum for free? Yes. You could visit the Colosseum at no cost if you were a Roman born in the ancient era! 

Jokes apart, visitors could really enter and exit the Colosseum for free and even have free food during the events. The events lasted several days, with several hours spent every day. All the costs were borne by the emperor. 

Danse Macabre

The Colosseum is widely hailed as one of the greatest achievements of human civilization. But when you look at what the great Colosseum originally represented and stood for, you realize the irony.

Since its inception, the Colosseum has been the ground of millions of deaths. Tens of thousands of spectators came to witness some of the most gruesome public events– wild beasts killing and eating men alive, slaves fighting with each other for their lives, public beheadings, castrations, and whatnot.

According to estimates, around 400,000 people and over a million animals have succumbed within the walls of the Colosseum.

Sea battles within the Colosseum

As long as we’re exchanging interesting facts about the Colosseum, how could we miss out on this one? No, we are not joking. Sea battles did take place often in the Colosseum. The purpose behind this was to entertain people by showing them mock sea battles, which the common folk would never witness otherwise.

It used to take around seven hours to fill the arena sufficiently for the mock boats to float. The mock sea battles were called naumachia in Rome and were one of the greatest attractions at the Colosseum.

Other than the sea and the ships, nothing was fake. Combatants really engaged in a deadly fight, just like the gladiators. The naumachia was another deadly event organized in the Colosseum.

One Colosseum, many uses

For more than five centuries, the Colosseum was used for the purposes we have already discussed. But with the decline of the Roman empire, the maintenance of this grand structure became a burden, even more so when the structure suffered some major damages due to earthquakes.

By the 6th century, the arena started being used as a cemetery, while several other parts were rented out as housing and workshops. Six centuries later, the Colosseum was fortified by the Frangipanis. By the 14th century, the fate of the Colosseum made it a popular destination for robbers who looted the Colosseum of precious stones and marbles.

The Colosseum’s underground secret

Well, it’s no secret anymore, but at the time of their use, the hypogeum stood true to their literal meaning: underground. These were a network of tunnels and trapdoors that were originally hidden below the arena floor and remained hidden from the spectator’s eyes.

The hypogeum is where the gladiators and wild beasts were kept just before their show. The gladiators used to prepare for the bloody battle. However, the hypogeum is almost completely visible and accessible to the public today, so you can explore them as much as you like.

In the end

The Colosseum in Rome has been around for almost two millennia, withstanding multiple unfortunate events of robberies, attacks, fires, and natural calamities. It has been broken and rebuilt in the past, and even though it’s not intact today, the brokenness brings out its true beauty – the beauty of perseverance.

We hope to have uncovered to you a side of the Colosseum you hadn’t seen before today. Of all the interesting facts about the Colosseum we discussed above, how many did you already know? Tell us your Colosseum Awareness score out of 10 in the comments below.

Does learning such lesser-known facts about the famous wonders of the world fascinate you? Then we have just the perfect recommendation for your next read! Check out our Great Wall of China blog here!