What Was the Colosseum Like 2,000 Years Ago?

What Was the Colosseum Like 2,000 Years Ago?

There are few tourist attractions in Italy more famous than the Roman Colosseum. This crumbling edifice, built in AD 72, sits in the heart of the Italian capital city, Rome, and it stands as a reminder of the glory days of the Roman Empire.

It’s easy to look at the Colosseum and only see what it is now. It’s a relic of a time gone, but 2,000 years ago this world famous landmark served as more than just a tourist attraction. So, travel back in time with Venice Events and let’s catch a glimpse of what the Colosseum was like 2,000 years ago…

The Largest Amphitheatre Ever Built

The Romans never shied away from grand gestures and the Colosseum is no exception. To this day, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built, and it stands as a reminder of the truly terrifying days of Roman imperial might. From gladiator fights, to state executions, this now benign building, has a troubled history.

Built for Entertainment

Born after decades of misrule, the Colosseum was designed to create a sense of community, a focal point for Roman citizens to gather for entertainment. This epic building could hold 50,000 spectators, all there to watch gladiator battles, wild animal hunts, and larger events such as mock naval battles (the amphitheatre was filled with water for this occasion).

The Colosseum's interior truly is spectacular!


2,000 years ago the Colosseum looked very different to what it does today. Using large archways, some of which were filled with statutes, with no less than 80 entrances, this was truly an awe-inspiring building. Inside the arena, there were three tiers of seats for the spectators, and a wide marble terrace podium where the prestigious ring seats were located.

The Doric archways on the ground level are 23ft (7m) high and 14ft (4m) wide!

Blood Sports and Death

Blood sports and death were the real reason for the games held at the Colosseum. The scope of these games grew until their heyday under Claudius with 93 games a year. These events often lasted from dawn until dusk, with the gladiators starting things off with a chariot procession and a now famous salute to the emperor: ‘Hail, Emperor, those who are about to die salute you!’

Gladiators used a variety of weapons, including swords, spears, tridents, and nets. Female combatants were also allowed, and there were wild animal hunts too. Lions, tigers, bears, hippopotamuses, deer, ostriches, giraffes, and even whales all found themselves hunted in the Colosseum’s arena. This was a place where imaginations ran riot, and brutality was championed.

'Pollice Verso' (with a thumb turned down) by Jean-Léon Gérôme (Source: Wikipedia)

The Decline of the Colosseum

This shrine to decadence, this temple to violence, didn’t last forever. In 404 CE, the games were finally banned by the Emperor Honorius. The building itself was damaged in an earthquake, and many of its parts were stolen over the years to build new structures around Rome. What’s left of the Colosseum is a grand building, a testament to the glory days of the Roman Empire, a reminder of the excesses, the brutality, and the beauty of a civilisation long gone. From whales and naval battles, to gladiatorial contests and state executions, the Colosseum is certainly an artefact from another era. It’s a place that’s full of stories that stretch our imaginations and it still stands to this day, over 2,000 years later.

Make sure you book one of our escorted tours of the Colosseum and make the most out of your next Italian vacation.