Visit the Colosseum
A visit to the Coliseum can’t be missed during your city trip to Rome. This historic building is incredibly interesting, and I really recommend to book a guide right away. For five euros extra on top of your ticket, you’ll get information that will make your visit a lot more pleasant and interesting. All the information that you find in this article was also told to me by a guide. And this is only a small part of all that you get to hear!
After you have shuffled through the security and scanned your tickets, you can finally enter this mythical building.
After a few flights of stairs (there is also a lift for people who have difficulty walking, or people with strollers) you get a nice view over the Flavian amphitheater. You’ll probably immediately notice how big and deep this building is.
The gladiatorial battles took place in the deepest part of the Colosseum. Here you can now see the semi-covered basements, in which the gladiators, murderous animals and slaves were pumped up and prepped to enter the battlefield. The gladiators, slaves and wild animals were pulled up from these dungeons with an ingenious system (a wooden cage lifted by slaves with the help of gears and pulleys).
Imagine how magical it must’ve been in those days: suddenly a cage appears, out of which men, women or starving animals appeared to battle for their lives.
The arena itself was completely sprinkled with sand, because sand absorbs all the blood and there wouldn’t be too much cleaning once the battles had ended.
These fights were one against one, and not dozens of gladiators fighting each other like in the movies.
Often the gladiators also had to battle against starving, wild animals. Usually these were lions, bears and other predators. But giraffes, zebras, hippos and elephants also regularly appeared on the battle scene.
From the many seats it was decided whether the losing gladiator was killed or whether his life was spared. So it’s in fact a myth that the emperor raised his thumb to decide about the lofe of the warrior.
This was of course heavily manipulated! The owners of the gladiators had people in the amphitheater who incited the other visitors to save the gladiator’s life (usually). As a result, only very few of these soldiers were actually killed in the end.
Of course this was very different when they fought against animals… You can’t oblige beasts to make this choice, and so an injured gladiator was pretty much always killed by their furry friends…
The spectators closest to the arena were of course the richer families: the nobility. On the second floor, still close to the battlefield, you found the soldiers; the middle class.
A few seats higher you could find the poorer part of the population.
And the worst views were kept for slaves and… Women!
The games in the Colosseum
The famous games in the Coliseum of Rome were held regularly. After all, it was important to keep your people happy during times of hunger and war! And there’s no better way to do that than to organize gruesome free fights, right?
The lucky citizens of Rome didn’t have to buy tickets for the Coliseum like we have to do now. The games were always free. They were completely paid by Rich Romans, mostly with political intentions. Often the games were performed for dozens of days in a row, until the fall of the Roman Empire.
When gladiatorial battles were announced, the entire population of Rome went crazy.
At that time, seeing a gladiator, would now be the equivalent of seeing a Hollywood star. So it was very much looked forward to!
People were also betting on the gladiators. As a result, the population could also see these warriors prepare for battle in a building right next to the Coliseum.
Once the gladiators were ready to start the real battles, they fought only three to five fights a year. Depending on their contract, they would remain in the service of their owner for four to five years and then become a free man. Slaves could never be released.
What happened to the Colosseum after the Roman Empire?
As we all know, the Roman empire didn’t last forever. And with the fall of the Roman empire, came the closure of the Flavian amphitheater.
The building fell into disuse, but was soon looted by many people. Valuable materials such as bronze, marble and all kinds of artifacts were stolen and often reused for all kinds of purposes.
When you visit the Colosseum, you may notice that there are a lot of holes in the walls. Here, metal constructions were used to reinforce the building. During several lootings, these parts of the theater were also stolen, and large parts of the building started collapsing because of that.
Only hundreds of years later, there came an end to all the looting. The Pope of that time declared the building as sacred.
From that moment on, this circular structure was mainly used as storage places and stables for horses.
Many centuries later, the Coliseum became a tourist attraction, and so Rome made sure that the amphitheater became safe and accessible for the many interested tourists to visit. Just a few years ago the entire exterior of the building was restored and cleaned up. This work alone had a hefty price tag of 25 million euros!
Coliseum tickets: save time and money
The rows in front of the Colosseum are insanely long… Even in low season you can easily wait in line for an hour or even a few hours. To escape these long queues, you have four very easy and quick alternatives!
- Buy a skip-the-line Coliseum ticket. With these tickets you get priority over everyone. You still have to go through a security checkpoint, but it’s much shorter and shouldn’t take more than five minutes to cross. These tickets only cost two euros more than a normal ticket and you’ll save a lot of time.
- Buy your tickets online. They cost the same as the skip-the-line tickets and you have a lot more possibilities. Online you can also book a guided tour (audio guide or a real guide) and even arrange a visit to the gladiator’s arena.
- Buy your tickets at the Palatine hill entrance. Right in front of the Colosseum you can find some small ticket counters. The queues are a lot shorter here, so that you won’t lose that much time when buying your entrance tickets here. The Coliseum tickets you buy here are just the same as when you buy them in the Colosseum itself. They give you access to both the Colosseum and the Palatine. Average waiting times here are 15 to 30 minutes.
- Show your EU identity card. Are you a resident of the European Union and are you younger than 25? Then show your identity card! Normally tickets cost €12. with an EU ID you pay only €7.50.
Priority tickets, combi tours and guided tours can also be booked online:
Colosseum opening hours
The Coliseum is open every day except for December 25, January 1 and May 1.
During the year the opening hours are somewhat different:
- Late October to February 15: From 08:30 AM to 04:30 PM.
- From 16 February to 15 March: From 08:30 AM to 05:00 PM.
- From 16 March to the last Saturday of March: From 08:30 AM to 05:30 PM.
- The last Sunday from March to 31 August: From 08:30 AM to 07:15 PM.
- From 1 September to 30 September: From 08:30 AM to 07:00 PM.
- From 1 October to the last Saturday of October: 08:30 AM to 06:30 PM.
Some fun facts about the Colosseum
- The name ‘Colosseum’ comes from the gigantic statue (‘Colossus’) that once stood near the amphitheater. However, this structure was knocked down and melted to make weapons out of it.
- The Coliseum has a circumference of 527 meters (1729 ft) and is 48.50 meters (159 ft) high.
- There was room for more than 50,000 spectators in Rome’s Flavian Amphitheater.
- Not only gladiatorial battles were held in the Colosseum. Criminals and enemies of the Roman Empire were also brutally condemned to death here. For example, they were nailed to crosses until they died or they passed away out of exhaustion. Sometimes criminals also had to fight wild animals but without any weapons…
- Nobody was persecuted in the Coliseum just because he or she was a Christian.
- The floor of the Coliseum wasn’t made out of marble, as many think. The floor consisted of stones in which a ribbed tooth structure was carved. This had to ensure that the visitors didn’t slip because of their smooth, leather sandals.
- The gladiators weren’t just men! Women also fought. They were mainly tall, blonde women who were captured in the northern parts of Europe.
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.