Ancient Rome: The Colosseum

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

Hi friends! Do you know that our school, Santa Maria Institute, is just ten minutes from one of the most important monuments of ancient Rome? What are we talking about? The Colosseum!

The Colosseum is a giant amphitheatre in the center of Rome, Italy. It was built during the Roman Empire.

Roman Colosseum

When was it built?

Construction on the Colosseum was started in 72 AD by the Emperor Vespasian. It was finished eight years later in 80 AD.

How big was it?

The Colosseum was huge. It could seat 50,000 people. It covers around 6 acres of land and is 620 feet long, 512 feet wide and 158 feet tall. It took more than 1.1 million tons of concrete, stone, and bricks to complete the Colosseum.


Where people sat in the Colosseum was determined by Roman law. The best seats were reserved for the Senators. Behind them were the equestrians or ranking government officials. A bit higher up sat the ordinary Roman citizens (men) and the soldiers. Finally, at the top of the stadium sat the slaves and the women.

Seating inside the Colosseum was according to social status

Emperor's Box

The best seat in the house belonged to the Emperor who sat in the Emperor's Box. Of course, many times the Emperor himself paid for the games. This was one way for the Emperor to make the people happy and to make them like him.

Underground Passages

Below the Colosseum was a labyrinth of underground passages called the hypogeum. These passages allowed animals, actors, and gladiators to suddenly appear in the middle of the arena.


The walls of the Colosseum were strong, built with stone. They were made of a number of arches in order to keep the weight down. There were four different levels that could be accessed by stairs. The floor of the Colosseum was made of wood and covered with sand.

Interior of the Colosseum


Outside the Colosseum there was an enormous 30 foot bronze statue of the Emperor Nero called the Colossus of Nero. Some historians believe that the name “Colosseum” comes from the Colossus.

Colossus of Nero

The Velarium

To protect spectators from the hot sun and the rain, there was a retractable awning called the velarium. There were 240 wooden masts around the top of the stadium to support the awning. Roman sailors were used to put up the velarium when it was needed.


The Colosseum had 76 entrances and exits. This was to help the thousands of people to exit the arena in case of a fire or other emergency. The passages to the seating areas were called vomitoria. The public entrances were numbered and spectators had a ticket that said where they were supposed to enter.

Why is it spelled that way?

The original name for the Colosseum was the Amphitheatrum Flavium, but it eventually became known as the Colosseum. The normal spelling for a generic large amphitheater used for sports and other entertainment is "coliseum". However, when referring to the one in Rome, it is capitalized and spelled "Colosseum".

Interesting Facts about the Colosseum

• Certain classes of people were banned from attending the Colosseum. They included former gladiators, actors, and gravediggers.

• There were 32 different trap doors underneath the floor of the stadium.

• The first ever games at the Colosseum lasted for 100 days and included more than 3,000 gladiator fights.

• The west exit was called the Gate of Death. This was where dead gladiators were carried out of the arena.

• The southern side of the Colosseum collapsed during a large earthquake in 847.

(Wikipedia source: )


The Colosseum Quiz

(Questions on this quiz are based on information from the text above)

1) When did construction on the Colosseum begin?

  1. · 512 BC

  2. · 92 BC

  3. · 72 AD

  4. · 112 AD

  5. · 476 AD

2) Around how many people could attend an event at the Colosseum?

  1. 2,000

  2. · 5,000

  3. · 12,000

  4. · 20,000

  5. · 50,000

3) What group of people got to sit in the front rows?

  1. · Women

  2. · Senators

  3. · Slaves

  4. · Soldiers

  5. · Citizens

4) Who had to sit or stand at the back, near the top of the stadium?

  1. · Senators

  2. · Consuls

  3. · Important officials

  4. · Women

  5. · Men

5) What was the hypogeum?

  1. · A large awning that could be set up to keep rain or the sun off of the spectators

  2. · It was the name for the entrances into the stadium

  3. · A large statue situated just outside the main entrance

  4. · A school for the best gladiators

6) True or False: The Colosseum had one main entrance where everyone had to enter

and exit the stadium.

  1. · True

  2. · False

7) Who was banned from attending events at the Colosseum?

  1. · Actors

  2. · Gladiators

  3. · Gravediggers

  4. · All of the above

  5. · None of the above

8) What was the velarium used for?

  1. · It had trap doors where animals and gladiators could spring up onto the stage

  2. · It worked as a quick way to remove dead gladiators

  3. · It helped to keep the sun and rain off of the spectators

  4. · It was a special place where the Roman Emperor could sit

  5. · It helped to keep unwanted people out of the stadium

9) Where did the Colosseum get its name?

  1. · From the Emperor who built it

  2. · From the most famous gladiator of the day

  3. · From the architect who designed it

  4. · From area of town where it was built

  5. · From the large statue of Nero that stood nearby

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