The Colosseum was surrounded by an area of ​​over paved in travertine.

The external facade (high to 48.50 m) is in travertine and is divided into four tiers, according to a typical pattern of all buildings Pageant Roman world: the three lower registers with 80 arches numbered, straight from the pillars to which huddled semicolumns, while the fourth level (penthouse) is constituted by a solid wall, scompartita by pilasters in correspondence of the pillars of the arches. In sections of the wall between the pilasters open 40 small square windows, one every two panes (panes had to be filled with the bronze medallions), and immediately above the level of the windows are placed three protruding shelves for each pane in which they were housed the wooden poles that were used to open and close the velarium, a pool cover that protected the audience, manned by a detachment of sailors of the fleet of Misenum and probably anchored to the ground to the series of inclined stones which is still visible in part, outside the limit of the auditorium basement in travertine (those visible on the side toward Celio).

The second and third level arches are edged by a continuous parapet, in correspondence of which the half-columns have a nut as a base.

The columns and pilasters of the four orders have to start from the bottom Tuscan capitals, Ionic, Corinthian and Corinthian smooth leaves. The first three rows repeat the same sequence visible on the façade of the theater of Marcellus.

The depictions monetary handed down to us the presence of four arches at the endpoints of the axes of the ellipse of the plant, adorned with a small porch marble.


Auditorium and access to the public

Inside the auditorium with the steps to the seats of the audience was entirely of marble and divided through praecinctiones or baltea (bands dividing wall), in five horizontal sectors (maeniana), reserved for different categories of the public, which can subside with increasing height. The lower area, reserved for senators and their families, had wide steps and downs that housed wooden seats (subsellia) on the balustrade of the podium were inscribed the names of the senators that the seats were less reserved.

They followed the maenianum primum, with a score of marble steps, the maenianum secundum, divided into imum (lower) and summum (top), again with about sixteen marble steps, and finally the summum maenianum, with about eleven steps to the wooden inside the colonnade which crowned the auditorium (porticus in summa cavea): the architectural remains of the latter belong to the remakes of Severan era or of Gordian III. On the steps in the colonnade women took their places, to which, by Augustus onwards, he was never allowed to mix with other viewers. The worst place was on the terrace above the colonnade, with standing room only, intended to lowly classes of the people.

Vertically sectors were marked by ladders and the entrances to the auditorium (vomitoria), and were protected by barriers in marble (dating back to the restoration of the second century).

At the two ends at the minor axis, externally preceded by a projection, there were two boxes reserved for the important persons accommodated in two stages since disappeared. One, in the shape of "S", was destined to the emperor, the consuls and the vestal virgins, the other to the praefectus urbi and other dignitaries.

Viewers reached their place entering the arcades reserved for them. Each of the 74 arches for the public was marked by a numeral, engraved on the keystone, to allow viewers to reach quickly and neatly in place. From here you browsed to cross stairs that led to a series of symmetrical annular vaulted corridors. Placing each in a large area comprising three wedges, scompartito by pillars. The route had walls covered in marble and had a stucco decoration on the ceiling, still the original of the Flavian era. The southern stage, which housed the emperor, he had another more direct access, through a cryptoporticus that led directly to the outside.

Twelve arches were reserved for Senators and led into in the corridors that reached the innermost ring: from here with a short staircase reached the lower area of the auditorium. Although these steps were covered with marble.

The other arches giving access to the many stairs to one or two ramps leading to the upper sectors. The walls were covered with plaster here, even on times.


Arena and service areas below

The elliptical arena (86 x 54 m) had a part in paving brick and partly in wood plank, and was covered with sand, constantly clean, to absorb the blood of the killings. She was separated from the auditorium by a high podium of about 4 m, decorated with niches and marble and bronze protected by a balustrade, beyond which the seats were located in rank.

Under the arena were made ​​service environments, articulated in a large central passage along the major axis and in twelve corridors curvilinear, arranged symmetrically on both sides. Here was the elevator that allowed the arena to pick up the machinery or animals used in games, and that, in number of 80, were distributed on four corridors: the remains now preserved refer to a remake of the third or fourth century. However, it is still possible to make a comparison with the basement of the Flavian Amphitheatre of Pozzuoli, built by the same architects of the Colosseum, in order to have an idea of ​​how they could be in the basement of the Roman Coliseum in Pozzuoli in fact are still visible gear that the Romans used to raise the cages containing wild animals arena.

The structures underlying service arena were provided with separate entrances:

• underground tunnels at the end of the main axis gave access to the central passage under the arena, and were used for the entry of animals and equipment;

• Two inputs with monumental arches on the major axis gave directly into the arena and were intended at the entrance of the protagonists of the games (the pump), gladiators and animals too heavy to be lifted from the basement;

• The arena was also available for the attendants to open passages in the service tunnel that ran around the podium of the lower area of the auditorium. The gallery is reached from the ring innermost, the same that used the senators to reach their seats.



The building stands on a platform raised above the surrounding area with travertine. The foundations consist of a large audience in tuff about 13 m thick, lined on the outside by a wall of bricks.

The supporting structure is made up of blocks of travertine pillars, connected by pins: after the abandonment of the building tried to fuse these metallic elements and reuse them, digging the blocks at the joints: this activity should be the numerous holes well visible on the exterior façade. The pillars were connected by seven walls of tufa blocks in the lower order and brick at the top. The structure was supported by vaults and arches, exploited to the maximum to achieve safety and convenience. Outside is used travertine, as in the series of concentric rings support the auditorium. In these annular walls open various arches, decorated with pilasters that frame them. The vaults (among the oldest of the Roman world) are in opus caementicium and are often ribbed by crossed arches in brick, also used in vestments. The radial walls, as well as the two outer ambulatory, are reinforced by blocks of tufa.

A complex system of water supply and disposal allowed the maintenance of the building and fed the fountains placed in the auditorium for the spectators.



The Coliseum hosted the games of the amphitheater, which included: fights between animals (venationes), the killing of prisoners by wild animals or other types of executions (noxii) and the fights between gladiators (munera). The activities followed an encrypted program: in the morning there were fights between animals or between an animal and a gladiator, at lunchtime were performed and the death sentences were carried out only in the afternoon battles between gladiators.

For the inauguration of the building, the Emperor Titus of games that lasted three months, during which killed about 2,000 gladiators and 9,000 animals. To celebrate the triumph of Trajan suiDaci 10,000 gladiators fought there.

The last gladiatorial combat are witnessed in the 437, but the amphitheater was still used for venationes (killing animals) until the reign of Theodoric the Great: the last were organized in 519, during the consulship of Eutarico (son of Theodoric), and in 523, to the consulate of Anicius Maximus.


Origins of the name

Nearby there was a colossal statue of Nero in bronze, from which it derives its name Colosseum, first mentioned in the Middle Ages and also linked to the colossal dimensions of the building.

After the death of Nero, the statue was remodeled to likeness of Sol Invictus, the sun god, by adding the rays around the head of the solar corona. The Colossus was then moved from its original location, the entrance hall of the Domus Aurea to make way to the temple of Venus and Rome under Hadrian in 126. The site of the base of the colossal statue after the move is currently marked by a modern tufa base.



This is the epigram of the Venerable Bede, English scholar who lived between the late sixth and early seventh century. A.D. We Italians, we have to be proud of.

Quamdiu stabat Colyseus

STABIT et Roma;

Quamdo cadet Colyseus

Cadet et Roma;

Quamdo cadet Rome

Cadet et mundus.

(As long as you resist the Colosseum,

resist even Rome;

when he falls the Coliseum,

Rome will also fall;

when Rome falls,

will fall even the world).




Translated via software



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