*The proper name of the Colosseum is not the Colosseum. It is the Flavian
*The Emperor Vespasian began construction between 70 and 76 AD, and it
was completed by his son Titus in 80 AD. They celebrated the opening by
holding 100 days worth of games there.
* The Colosseum was built on the site where Nero had had a huge villa
for himself. Vespasian wanted to build something for the people, but it
got its popular name because it was built near where Nero had erected
a colossal statue of himself. It showed him as the god of the sun. It
was 100 feet high, and it was the largest gilded bronze statue in antiquity.
(When it was later moved away, it took 24 elephants to move it).
* The Colosseum had a canvas roof--the velarium--raised and lowered by
a specially trained team of Roman sailors known for their skill with rigging
ships. The canvas "big top" had a large hole in the center to admit more
* The building required 100,000 cubic meters of marble, and 300 tons
of iron to hold the Colosseum together. The marble was carried in by 200
ox-pulled carts. The inner walls were made of tufa (siliceous rock deposits)
and the vaulting of the ramped seating area was made of concrete. Hebrew
prisoners were employed in its construction. Once the Colosseum was completed,
it became the prototype for all later amphitheaters.
* A wooden flooring was used to cover the subterranean chambers where
the gladiators as well as the animals were kept prior to performance.
During the first ten years of its existence, the stadium was filled with
water and used for mock naval battles. However, over time the Romans found
it was damaging to the foundation as well as to the flooring. (248 is
recorded as the last year for the naval battles).
* The word "arena" is Latin for sand. Sand was spread across the amphitheater
fighting floor to soak up blood.
* Professional gladiators, primarily condemned criminals, prisoners or
war, and slaves, fought either animals or each other, generally until
death. Their weapons might include nets, swords, tridents, spears, or
firebrands. Occasionally, free Romans and women would enter the fight
for a few brief moments of glory. Contrary to common belief, there is
no documentation to back up the story of Christians being fed to the lions
at the Colosseum.
* During Hadrian's reign, the arena was planted to resemble a jungle,
with every shrub and tree concealing a trapdoor, beneath which lay a lion
or lioness ready to spring up and do battle with the gladiator-huntsmen.
* After being badly damaged by a series of earthquakes, the Colosseum
was transformed into a medieval fortress. It became a source of building
materials during the Renaissance when Pope Paul III had some of the Colosseum's
stones transported to build his own palace. In the 18th century, Benedict
XIV and other popes after him began to organize restoration work. During
the Renaissance, bullfights were the popular sport that the public enjoyed
watching at the Colosseum.