7 Things You Didn't Know About the Colosseum

Or should that be VII things?

By Google Arts & Culture

1. It's the biggest amphitheatre ever

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is a world-renowned landmark found in the centre of Rome, Italy. Built between 72-80CE of travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built.

2. It had VIP sections and ticket stubs

Just like a modern stadium, the Colosseum had numbered seats and VIP sections. The north gate was reserved for the emperor, and the south, west, and east, for other VIPs. The tickets were made from fragments of broken pots, with the seat numbers carved in.

3. It was riddled with secret passageways and trap doors

Today, the network of tunnels and passageways called the hypogeum is exposed to the air, but originally lay hidden beneath the arena floor. This housed animals, slaves, and gladiators, ready to spring up into the arena through many hidden trap doors.

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer (1863-1883) by Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824-1904)The Walters Art Museum

4. Being fed to the lions was a myth

The image of Christians being sent to face the lions is a popular one. The claim was first made by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749. But it's not strictly true. Christians were executed at Rome's Circus Maximus, but there's no evidence to say they were at the Colosseum.

Washerwomen in the Ruins of the Colosseum (ca. 1760s) by Hubert RobertBrooklyn Museum

5. It wasn't always considered so important

It might be hard to believe, but throughout the medieval era the Colosseum wasn't a particularly important building. Its arches were rented out for use as workshops and warehouses, it housed a small chapel, and its stone was quarried for use in other buildings around the city.

The Colosseum Seen from the Southeast (c. 1700) by Gaspar van Wittel (called Vanvitelli)Harvard Art Museums

6. It nearly became a factory

During the 16th and 17th century, Church officials sought to make a profit from the Colosseum. Pope Sixtus V planned to turn the building into a wool factory to provide employment for Rome's prostitutes, but this woolly-headed idea was never followed through.

Interior of the Colosseum, Rome (c. 1832) by Thomas Cole (1801-1848)Albany Institute of History & Art

7. The ruins became a jungle

Secluded from the busy streets of the city, the ruins of the Colosseum became a unique habitat for a staggering variety of plants. These were first catalogued by the physician Domenico Panaroli in 1643. At the last count there were 242 species.

Colosseum ColosseumTouring Club Italiano

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