The Colosseum is the largest stone amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire. It was a stadium purpose built for Gladiator games although it showed animal hunts, chariot races and perhaps even naval battles according to some sources.
Amphitheatre means double theatre. Originally theatres, as borrowed from the Greeks, were semi-circular with the seating surrounding the stage which was at the bottom of the arena. The Romans figured out that if you put two together facing each other you could fit double the spectators inside.
It was named after the family that built it; the Flavians. Romans were very much into glorifying their family’s name. So originally the Colosseum was called the Flavian Amphitheatre. It later earned the name Colosseum due to large statue of the Roman Emperor Nero (54 – 68 AD) called the Colossus which sat 20 metres or 60 feet away. The statue was in the square before the Flavian Amphitheatre was. Due to the fact that this statue of Nero was older and taller and that ‘Colosseum’ is a lot easier to say than ‘Flavian Amphitheatre’, it eventually took that name. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
Originally this whole area was part of Nero’s palatial complex, the Domus Aurea or Golden House, which sat on the Oppian hill slightly Northwest and all of this square was a private walled enclosure with gardens inside. Where the Colosseum now sits there was a huge artificial lake. When Nero committed suicide in 68 AD, his eventual successor Vespasian knew the people wanted to get rid of his memory. So they had a central location, there was demand for a new gladiator stadium as the previous amphitheatre of Statilius Taurus had burned down in the fire of AD 64, all they needed was money.
This came in the Jewish War of 66 to 70 AD. Vespasian was the general in charge of this war for the Romans. He won the civil war which followed Nero’s death in 69 AD and became Emperor. He returned to Rome with a huge amount of money, fifty thousand kilograms (one hundred thousand pounds) worth of gold according to some sources and a large number of Jewish slaves. It was these that built the Colosseum. Vespasian’s motto, which he printed on coins, was ‘Roma Resurgens’, Rome rises from the ashes. It was a reference to the fire of Rome seven years previously, which signalled the beginning of the end for Nero. The colosseum was going to be something new; a psychological departure from the old system. Also using a piece of land previously held by an Emperor perceived to be selfish and reckless and giving it to the public also made Vespasian look humble, selfless and thrifty.
Preliminary work began in seventy AD, the year Vespasian returned from the Jewish war and it would take between eight to ten years of construction work to complete the building and another two years for the basement section. Firstly, they drained the lake, scooped out a huge area of earth and covered the area with concrete made with volcanic rock called pozzelano. This mortar could actually set in wet conditions allowing the Romans to build aqueducts and bridges across water. Next they laid the foundations which were several meters of travertine. This is a strong rock which comes from Tivoli, 35 miles away. Julius Caesar had actually outlawed carts in the city during the day so Vespasian had to change the law to allow the 100,000 square meters of it required for construction.
Travertine formed the skeleton of the colosseum, including all the outer and internal arches. Apart from the mortar, 300 tonnes of iron clamps were used to hold those rocks together. The inside was then covered in red brick for the front aisles and the whole building was then faced with marble. In his life time Vespasian would see up to the third floor completed. His son Titus saw the fourth floor finished and opened the stadium in 80 AD. His brother Domitian added the basement section. The building when finished had an elliptical, or a flattened circle, shape and measured 190 metres long by 160 metres wide (600 feet by 500 ft). To book a colosseum tour please click here.
On the bottom level there are 80 arches and these acted as entrances. 76 were for the public. Two were for the Emperor and Vestal Virgins and two were for the Gladiators.
During the construction there was a team of slaves and masons working on each individual arch working to a uniform plan that ensured it could be completed quickly. Each arch was numbered and you can still see some of the numbers above the arches today. Everyone who went into the amphitheatre had a ticket, which was piece of pottery with a level and seat number, you didn’t need to be able to read – just recognise images to understand how to get to your seat. Unlike today the Colosseum was always free and formed an essential part of the policy of bread and circuses; keep the masses happy with free food and sports and they will not rebel.
On Level two and three there are also 80 arches and these contained statues of consuls (prime ministers of the Roman Republic and Empire), Emperors and Gods inside the gaps. In level four the bays are walled in with a window in every second bay and there was a military shield in every other bay; 40 windows and 40 shields in all.
In the fourth level there are three little shelves at the top of each bay. These shelves held vertical sticks to which awnings or curtains were attached. This was a huge sheet manned by sailors which was fanned above the stadium to keep the sun out of the spectators’ faces, keeping them cool and to fan the various smells that come from 50,000 people using not very many bathrooms. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
Christians in the colosseum
In the south part of the Colosseum is a cross erected by Mussolini in 1926 as part of his policy of having good relations with the Catholic Church. One of the stereotypical ideas of the colosseum is the Christians thrown to the lions here. We have no written or other evidence to suggest that Christians were killed in the Colosseum. This does NOT mean that none were killed here, just that no surviving Roman writer said so. Our written sources tell us of Christians being killed “in amphitheatres”. The Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre built by the Romans and as this was the capital city, Christians were blamed for the Great Fire of Rome by Nero (64 AD) and they refused to worship the Emperor or State Gods. They undoubtedly were killed here; lots of things happened that we don’t have written evidence for. In remembrance of their deaths, this cross was erected here. Also every good Friday the Pope and the Cardinals do a candlelight vigil here in the colosseum by walking around the perimeter.
colosseum arena floor
There are two viewing decks on either side of the arena floor and these are in the same places are the boxes for the Emperor and Vestal Virgins. From here you can get a pretty good idea of how the stadium was laid out. Part of the arena has a wooden floor; this is a recreation of what the Colosseum floor was like. It was a wooden oval which covered all of the gap. The floor was then covered with sand. The Latin word for sand is arena, which is where we get the English word. Sand was used to soak up the blood. After someone was killed, slaves would run out and rake it to remove the blood which could possibly discourage the next fighter.
At the edge of the arena floor you can see the wall separating the arena from the spectators. This separating wall was 6 feet tall and at one time had elephants tusks sticking out from the top into the arena to stop people or animals escaping through the crowd. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
colosseum seating arrangements
Seating arrangements in the Colosseum exactly reflected social classes within the city.
Rome was a heavily class divided city with distinctions protected by law. The stands were known as the cavea and everyone who came to the Colosseum got a ticket which was a piece of pottery called a tessera. The first section after the wall was the smallest seating section; reserved for the Emperor, Vestal Virgins, senators and other important dignitaries. There were four steps or terraces and the senators usually brought their own foldable director style chairs as two hours sitting on cold marble will make your butt go asleep. The Emperor had his own private box and the Vestals had their own box opposite it as well where the cross is today. The Vestals were only women allowed in the bottom floor of the stadium; it was one of the perks of their vow of chastity. There were also underground passageways to each box for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins to enter and leave without running in to the crowds.
Senators sat in the rest of the first section separately from the Emperor. They were almost always from the upper classes, you had to be a millionaire to be a senator, and their prestigious status stood them apart from the rest of the normal rich, the equestrians. All of these rich guys had their own cloak room and bathrooms.
The second section of level one was for the normal non-senatorial rich, the equestrians (from equites or knights) were the cavalry; the upper middle classes. They had 9 levels of seats. If you ask me these guys had a better view than the Emperor due to the steep nature of the stadium.
The first part of level two was for normal citizens or the middle class, teachers, doctors, wealthy trades people. The second part of level two had the normal tradesmen or working classes called plebeians, although the middle classes were also called plebeians technically.
Level three was for slaves. This was important social function. Slaves were allowed attend games. When they saw other slaves being killed, it made them more willing to obey their master and less likely to escape. They might think their life is bad but at least they are not being killed in the arena.
Level four was for women. No matter what class you were, if you were a woman you sat in the nosebleed section. Women were generally speaking not encouraged to attend the games, the view of the time being what they saw usually upset them. The top level had very little room and could only accommodate perhaps 5,000 people. This was standing room only although wooden seats were later added. Some historians are of the belief that these were professional women, members of the oldest profession on earth. There is ancient Roman Graffiti in certain parts of the Colosseum to reflect that.
On the very top of the building stood the sailors. These were member of the fleet of Misenum near Naples, the best sailors in the Empire. They manned the huge awnings, curtains or sails which projected out over the audience, keeping them cool, fanning them and keeping the sun out of their eyes during the mid day heat. This form of ancient air conditioning was called a velarium in Latin. These sun shields were a big incentive for the crowds. We have a record of flyers from Pompeii with the words, “there will be awnings”, vela errunt, so obviously they were something which would attract spectators.
The awnings were attached to poles or sticks which stood on the shelves on the outside of the stadium. They were connected to ropes and there were probably pulleys to extend and retract the awning. To ensure the awnings were deployed at the same time, there could have been at many as 240 sailors on top of the stadium but probably far less. The awnings were most likely made of linen, which was the lightest material available at the time.
Each of the seating sections were divided by walkways to get to your assigned seat. These walkways were called vomitoria. They were called this as they literally spewed people in and out of the stadium very quickly also as due to what was shown here, they ended up with a lot of barf in them. This is where we get the English word vomit.
The maximum capacity in the Colosseum was 87,000 people according to a written record from of 354 AD. However modern historians have measured the total seating and standing area and divided it by the average butt size and come up with the figure of forty five to fifty thousand. Today the building sees 3 million visitors per annum.
Lastly is the basement section or hypogeum. This was not finished until two years after the Colosseum was opened. Slaves dug the underground sections here which had many compartments for animals, props such as trees, weapons and the like. You can see a main alley running through the centre of the basement. This underground passageway went all the way 100 yards passed the colosseum and connected it with the Ludus Magnus, the main gladiator training barracks, which was built at the same time. This meant that gladiators could be on call all the time to come down and fight.
The arena floor also had trap doors which sprang up and released animals at the fighters. These animals such as lions, tigers, leopards came from the various parts of the empire and were imported to the Colosseum to wow the crowds. These animals were starved, antagonised and beaten to make them aggressive and fight the first thing they saw. They were imported in cages which were placed in one of the elevator shafts, raised by slaves and released when needed. There was a whole mini society at work underneath the stadium ensuring the rest of the building worked.
The Colosseum was the first place ordinary Romans would see such animals which was part of the attraction of the stadium. Everything was geared toward crowd enjoyment. The crowd was even consulted from time to time, if a gladiator was wounded and pleaded for mercy, the Emperor or whomever was president of the games would ask the crowd what to do who would either give a thumbs up for live or thumbs down for death. There are historians who claim these gestures meant the opposite: thumbs up cut his head off, thumbs down sheath your sword. Either view is just as valid. These are not the only Roman gestures to have survived in our time. The middle finger comes from ancient Rome as well. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
gladiators in the colosseum
Three or possibly four types of games took place here. The first in the day were the chariot races. Chariot racing was the most popular form of entertainment in Rome and it was also the oldest. The Romans got it from the Etruscans; a previous Italian civilisation who lived in north of Rome. It involved a man in a chariot being brought around by either two or four horses. Two men raced against each other to complete 7 laps of the track and could hit and attempt to kill each other. There were often teams of men who were backed by huge financial interests due to gambling. The Emperor would often sponsor or favour a team or champion. Chariot races were usually held in the Circus Maximus which is not too far way and could hold 5 times the amount of people as the Colosseum could. Here chariot races were not comparable to those held in the Circus and were really a warm up act. Roman chariot races are where we get the inspiration for Formula 1 racing and NASCAR from.
Next were the animal hunts or venationes. These were very popular and involved huge acts of cruelty that would have the animal rights people incensed today. We have written evidence that when the stadium opened there were 100 days of games and 5000 animals were killed in the opening days of the stadium. In fact so many animals were killed in amphitheatres such as this that it hugely contributed to the thinning out of their numbers and in some cases removed some animals from Europe all together. Animals included Rhinos, hippos, elephants, giraffes (which Caesar is responsible for bringing to Rome), as well as lions, panthers, tigers, crocodiles and ostriches. This was the first time the people of Rome would see such far flung creatures and this added to the attraction of the stadium. Animal hunts were a warm up to the main event, which was of course, gladiator games.
The Latin word Gladia, from gladius, simply means a short stabbing sword and gladiator means swordsman. Gladiator games started in the forth century BC. We know that from pictures on tombs depicting men fighting. The first written record of a gladiator game comes from 264 BC given for a Consul or Prime Minister of the Roman Republic. The were organised a family member for his deceased relative and were called Munera or dutiful gifts. What better way to honour your relative than have two random guys fight to the death? Eventually the contests became so popular they were organised and got their own stadiums such as this and were simple called Ludi or games, there is the modern board game Ludo.
Gladiators were professional fighting men who fought for money, reputation but in most cases their lives. Most gladiators were escaped slaves, army deserters, criminals, prisoners of war or in some cases bored rich men; in our time even Donald Trump tried professional wrestling and he became the President of the United States. This is not the first time the Chief Executive of a country tried professional fighting; even the Emperor Commodus tried his hand a gladiator games in the colosseum. Most people did not want to be a gladiator at all, as gladiators were legally given less respect than slaves.
Successful gladiators could earn quite a bit of cash, prestige and women, as each fight could be their last. They were occasionally even invited to upper class parties. When a man first became a gladiator he was known as a novice, had to sware an oath to the underworld gods to perform to the best of his ability. He would also sign a contract with the fight promoter, the lanista. These lanistas usually took relatively good care of the fighters, they paid them well and gave them the best medical attention available at the time. A good gladiator was an investment; the longer he lived the more he paid out. Although most gladiators would die within a year.
Gladiators fought with distinctive armour in memory of the early tribes from which the first Gladiators came from such as the Samnites, Thracians and Gauls. So there was fighter with a spear and a net called a Murmillo or fish head, another with a sword and a shield called a Samnite, a Retiarius who had a net and a Trident, a hoplomachus who had a sword and a shield and a helmet and a Thracian who had a curved sword. Spartacus was a Thracian. Basically all gladiators had some kind of shield and helmet, but their style dictated what kind of sword they had or if they had a spear. We know what weapons they had from written sources of the time and also from Pompeii. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius n 79 AD, the year before the Colosseum was finished, so quickly covered Pompeii in lava and preserved the gladiatorial weapons of the period. If you get a chance to go there, the amphitheatre there is very well preserved.
These fighting styles were called families and training barracks where they were from were called colleges. Many gladiators would leave money with their college to bury them honourably when they died, meaning the college was actually like a trade union of sorts. One of the few areas Rome believed in gender equality was death sports, so women were allowed compete as gladiators. The sources regarded female gladiators as inferior; they were often put fighting against male dwarves and do not seem to have been taken seriously. Female gladiators were unfortunately banned in 200 AD by Septimius Severus, the guy, who built the triumphal arch beside the Senate building in the Roman Forum.
In very rare cases if a fighter won many battles over a number of years he could be pardoned by the Emperor and would be given a rudis; a token wooden sword granting him freedom. He would be a freedman, could never be a citizen but his children could be. We have a record of the Emperor Titus, who opened the stadium, actually freeing a slave gladiator who really impressed him and then paying 1000 gold coins to have him come back fight the next month because no one else was as good.
Gladiators were just like any sportsmen if they were tall or very well built they would become noticed and popular. Left handed fighters were something of a novelty just like today with left handed tennis players or left handed batsmen in cricket or left handed hitters in baseball.
Gladiators entered through the South entrance and came up to the Imperial box. They gave the Emperor a Roman Salute and said, “Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute thee”. So even before they died there was a culture of respect for the state and the Roman way of life. If they lived they went back out through that door nearest to where we came in. If they lost they went through this door here in the direction of the Ludus Magnus; the door of death. Once dead two men would approach the body. One was disguised as Charon, the keeper of Hell, in effect the Devil and the other as Mercury, messenger to the Gods. These men would put the body on a couch and exit through this door. They were then brought to the spoliarium or morgue. This is where we get the English word to spoil; to rot or go bad. There they were stripped of their armour. If they had no union burial plan they were fed to animals or thrown in the Tiber or disposed of cheaply.
Gladiators fought other gladiators, gladiators fought deserted slaves, criminals and animals. There were also re-enactments of historical battles with teams of gladiators representing the sides in that war. The largest recorded gladiator games took place in 107 AD. They were organised by the Emperor Trajan to celebrate his victory over Dacia or modern day Romania. The games lasted 123 days and involved eleven thousand animals and ten thousand gladiators. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
The most famous Gladiator of all time was probably Spartacus. He was a Thracian, or Northern Greek, who escaped from a training base in Capua in Italy and rallied 70 other Gladiators to his cause. They settled at the bottom of Mount Vesuvius and sacked local towns. More and more gladiators came to join them and the senate freaked out. If this continued all kinds of slaves would rebel so they sent Marcus Crassus, Rome’s richest man, to deal with him. In the end he got Spartacus, who was killed in a battle and not in the “I’m Spartacus” of Kirk Douglas movie fame. Crassus also crucifed over 6,000 of Spartacus’ supporters along the Via Appia, the road from Brindisi to Rome. He also never gave the order for them to be taken down so the corpses remained on the crosses for months, a sign against further rebellion. Crassus was the guy who bank rolled Caesar’s career and later led a failed invasion of Iraq (bank then called Parthia), and was killed by having molten gold down his throat, because he loved money so much.
We do have a record of a Roman Emperor who liked to take part in the games and actually fight here. That man was Commodus, son of Marcus Aurelius. He was one of Rome’s truly bad Emperors, alongside Caligula, Nero, and Domitian. Commodus, who was played by Joaquin Phoenix in the film Gladiator, trained as a gladiator, and sometimes slept in the barracks. He once had the area divided in to four sections with an elevated walk way so he could shoot the animals with a bow and arrow, which was quite talented at. He also once fought an Ostrich here and cut its head off. He then walked up to the senators and held the severed head and bloody sword, basically showing them what would happen to them if they opposed him. Commodus had a separate underground tunnel built for him to enter the arena and get access to his private box. Some senators used this tunnel to try and kill him once, because he was an unbalanced ruler. This plot failed although the Senators did later poison him for trying to kill a consul, the highest ranking civil servant underneath him. The consul in question had the pleasure of digging Commodus’ unmarked grave on the day he was to be killed.
The last type of activity which may, and I stress may, have taken place here is naval battles. Some Roman amphitheatres were capable of being flooded. This involved and underground piping system with water siphoned from a nearby aqueduct, filling the arena. There is a record of a naval battle here from 80 AD during Titus’ reign where horses and bulls had been trained to swim.
If this happened here it would have been in the first two years before the basement section was built, because after that, the water would have drained away. Secondly the only entrances to the arena floor for Roman boats are the 4 directional gates. These are not wide enough to bring in a Roman boat, even a small one for the time, so boats would have to be constructed inside the arena over night, extremely difficult to accomplish even with slaves. The Colosseum was used in bouts of activity for days at a time, so once the stadium closed at night they would have to get the boat built by the next morning which would have been almost impossible.
Thirdly archaeologists have found no evidence of a piping system nor pipes to and from the acquaduct which date after 82 AD. These may have rotted, been buried underneath the basement or replaced. There have been lead pipes found in the lower floors but these were for the toilets and water fountains here. These have been the only pipes found so if these were used to flood the arena with water, the whole stadium would have smelt like a very clogged toilet.
It was most likely the Emperor Domitian who decided to abandon the water games here, in favour of making a basement for slaves to let animals come up from the floor. Besides the Circus Maximus was nearer to the Tiber and could be flooded very easily. This would explain why we have no specific references to water battles here after 82 AD. So water battles could have happened here in the first two years but it is very unlikely afterwards. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
The stadium was owned by the state but most of the games were put on by the private sector. The organiser, who was usually a rich man was known as the Editor. He hired the Lanista or trainer to get the gladiators he wanted, which fighting style, and all the other details. He also promoted the event with leaflets; Romans had many slaves to copy simple pictures and words to attract the crowds. If enough of a buzz was created, influential people might attend and maybe the Emperor. The organiser of the games might win political favour, if he did not already have it. Games were occasionally paid for by the state and these were huge occasions as the Emperors usually had a limitless purse and did not want to be outdone by any private citizen.
When the Colosseum opened in 80 AD there was 100 days of games to celebrate the completion of the building. According to sources 5000 animals were killed. For the majority of the Empire the stadium was in continuous use, in the sense that barely a week went by without an event. Our records reflect Roman writers, many of whom worked for the state as senators, and wrote down only when the state put on big free games. Estimates for the death toll of the Colosseum are at least half a million people over its life time. That is 50 people per week over 400 years which is very likely accurate.
As the Roman Empire began to decline so too did the Colosseum.
The Roman Empire existed by having the army control and exact taxes from the provinces. Corrupt government at home meant weak governance abroad. So many Germans, and other peoples previously considered by Rome to be Barbarians, served in the Roman army that they became more organised. Recognising how weak the Roman state was, these Germans and Slavic peoples decided to sack it and take its wealth. These men included Attila the hun, Alaric the Goth and Odoacer the German. A weaker less organised state meant a weaker economy and less games. Less money meant higher prices and no one could afford to have many children so a reduction in population followed. For the Colosseum this meant less fighters. Once these invaders left Rome we know some Emperors tried to stage games but these were nothing on the scale of what had gone on previously.
In 217 AD the Colosseum was damaged by fire due to a lightning storm which damaged the upper wooden seating sections for women, causing the bricks to crack. This damage was not repaired until 23 years later in 240 AD. The building was similarly damaged in 252 and 320 AD. In 443, 484 and 508 AD there were large earthquakes which further damaged the already weak top sections.
end of the games
The decline of the Roman Empire coincided with the rise of Christianity. Christianity of course decrees that no man may own another, so that’s slavery gone and no man may kill another unless in punishment or self-defence so that’s gladiators gone. In 423 AD Emperor Honorius banned Gladiator Games which put an end to them although we have very rare mentions of them until later that century.
So now you have animal hunts and chariot races left. Our last record for animals hunts in 523 AD. Politcal breakdown, no provincial governors nor legions meant animals were no longer be imported and the stadium was not in good condition as there was no money to repair it. Chariot races continued but there was the more suitable circus to hold the games in inside the city. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
Continuing with the Christian association, a small church was built on what remained of the arena floor in the late 6th century and a cross was erected there too. The remaining outside arches were used as shops and sleeping quarters for the inhabitants of Rome. Each arch contained a shop with a table.
In 1200 a Roman noble family called the Frangipane family took over this area and used the Colosseum as a castle. The last big earthquake was in 1349 AD which collapsed all of the outer wall which you can see is still missing today. After this the noble family moved out – probably a wise decision. The collapsed rock was taken by the Catholic Church for their various building projects including St. Peter’s Basilica from 1506. Even some of citizens of Rome now had a new doorstep from the Colosseum. If you look around the stadium you will see numerous holes giving the building a Swiss cheese effect. This is due to people removing the iron clamps which held the rocks together for weapons and other uses.
A religious order of monks later moved in to the Colosseum due to its association with Christian martyrs and remained there until the 19th century. After the Catholic Church had effectively gotten everything of use from it, they decreed it was no longer to be pillaged. Pope Sixtus V wanted to turn the building into a factory to provide work for the homeless and prostitutes, to get them back on their feet. He died before this plan was realised and the plan died with him.
In 1749 Pope Benedict XIV decreed that the Colosseum was a holy place due to the amount of Christian martyrs that died here. He put the stations of the cross around the arena and forbade anyone to remove anything from it.
In the late nineteenth century, there were a huge number of plants sitting in the basement. Botanists came in 1871 and identified 420 different plants, the majority not native to Rome. These came front seeds dropped by birds or stuck in animal fur which fell out when the animals were killed here. To this day one of the Colosseum’s highest expenses is weed-killer. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
With the advent of the Italian State in the 1870s, ownership was passed from the Catholic Church to the Italian State. This meant the archaeologists could go in and get all their information, some of which I gave you today. They cleared all the plant life which had overgrown into the stadium and removed the Christian elements returning it as much as possible to its Roman and non-Catholic Appearance. The work was finished by 1930 which coincided with Mussolini’s reign.
Mussolini created the Via Foro Imperiali, a road which actually cut through the Imperial and Roman fora, in order to give direct access to the Colosseum. This was part of his policy of glorifying Italy’s Roman past. The Colosseum was not damaged during the Second World War (1939-1945) as both the Allies and Axis powers were under orders not to harm Rome. After the war, it was turned in to a traffic island; cars drove around it. No one ever crashed in to the building during this time, which is a miracle if you’ve seen the way they drive in Italy. This is also the reason why there is so much dirt on the outside of the building, it comes from years of traffic fumes. From 1993 to 2000 a major cleaning operation was undertaken which cost 20 million dollars at the time.
Due to the amount of people that were killed here, any time a country bans the death penalty or a life sentence is commuted the night lighting changes from purple to gold. The death penalty is illegal in Italy. The Colosseum has been featured in many modern films. It was a location in Roman Holiday. Bruce Lee fought Chuck Norris here for Way of the Dragon. Ridley Scott’s Gladiator’s central character was a Gladiator who fought here, played by Russell Crowe. Ridley Scott was actually not impressed by the building and told the Italian Press as much. The Colosseum was totally destroyed in the film The Core and Britney Spears fought here for a commercial for Pepsi. The stadium also featured in the Simpsons in the episode where Sideshow Bob was Mayor of a small town.
At the Olympic Games in Sydney in the year 2000, the Colosseum was printed on the medals given to the athletes. This had actually been going on for some years, but it was wrong as the Olympic games are Greek and amphitheatres such as this are intrinsically Roman. Finally, today the Colosseum acts as a backdrop to concerts which are held in the square. Artists have included the late Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Billy Joel. To book a colosseum tour please click here.
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