Interesting and fun facts about the Colosseum for kids

by marta

Interesting and fun facts about the Colosseum for kids and curious adults: Colosseum facts for homeschooling or getting ready for a visit to the Rome Colosseum.

The Colosseum is the most recognizable of all Rome landmarks and one of the symbols of the city.

View of the inside of the Colosseum from the third tier

It is the biggest Roman amphitheater in the world and a building that never fails to capture the attention of children especially, who are likely to have seen in history books, cartoons, movies and videogames.

The Colosseum is full of interesting facts and stories and these are our favorites!

In the evening we came upon the Coliseum, when it was already twilight. When one looks at it, all else seems little. The edifice is so vast, that one cannot hold the image of it in one’s soul: in memory we think it smaller, and then return to it again to find it every time greater than before – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, write

Find more quotes about Rome here

Good to know! If you are planning a visit to Rome with kids, you can find here >>> our complete family guide to Rome.

Fun and interesting facts about the Colosseum for kids

We gathered this fact from the many guided visits we took of the Colosseum in Rome.

If you are in Rome and want to visit, these are the best tickets and tours to get!

What is the Colosseum

The Colosseum is a large ancient Roman amphitheater located in the city of Rome, Italy.

It dates back to the times of the early Roman Empire and it is now an archaeological attraction, visited every year by millions of people (it gets 6 million tourists a year!)

It is one of the most famous archaeological ruins in the world and a Unesco World Heritage site since 1980

How old is the Colosseum?

The Colosseum was built under the Flavian Emperors, in the I century AD.

Its construction started under Emperor Vespasian in 75AD and it was finished under his son Emperor Titus, who officially inaugurated in 80AD

So the Colosseum is almost 2000 years old!

Why was the Colosseum built?

The Colosseum was built as a stadium.

It has the same shape as modern arenas (this is why they are called Coliseums!) and it was used by Roman emperors for centuries to offer shows and games to the Roman population.

Romans loved going to the stadium and the games and shows at the Colosseum were always huge events that attracted lathe crowds. You can find here >>> the most popular shows and games in Ancient Rome.

Who built the Colosseum and how?

The Colosseum was built by order of Emperor Vespasian and Emperor Titus and physically built by slaves, in many cases prisoners of war who were captured during battle.

They lifted the heavy materials needed for the construction with cranes equipped with a counterweight.

The Colosseum is made of travertine ( a type of marble), tufo (a local stone), bricks and concrete posed one on top of the other.

To make it more solid and stable, the stone was connected with metal beams that would secure them one to the other.

Metal became scarce in the Middle Ages so many of them got stolen, but we can still see where they were!

If you look at the Colosseum walls, you will notice several holes. These where the hollow spaces that used to host the beams, now gone!

Many of the Colosseum’s most precious materials got stolen after the fall of Rome, including the beautiful marble that covered its outer ring.

How big is the Colosseum

The Colosseum is 189 meters long, 156 meters large and has a surface of over 24.000 (24 thousand) sq meters.

It is over 48 meters high and could host up to 50.000 (50 thousand) spectators.

The Colosseum had 80 entrances that people used to enter and exit the theater quickly.

These were called ‘vomitoria’ because they allowed the crowds to get out fats as if the theater was ‘vomiting’ them out!

What does the name ‘Colosseum’ mean

Colosseum is not the real name of the theater but rather, a nickname that stuck and now is uses as often if not more often than its original one.

Its official name was and still is ‘Flavian Amphitheater’. You can see the plaque with its official name outside, on the external wall close to the entrance!

Flavian means ‘of the Flavian’.

Flavian was the family names of the emperors that built the colosseum and they named it after themselves to make sure people knew who to thank (and who was in charge!)

Amphitheater means that the colosseum is a theater with an oval form.

A standard theater is shaped like a C, with the seats for the audience on the round part of the C and the stage in front.

An amphitheater is like a double theater, with two Cs looking at each other and with the stage in the center ( )

The nickname Colosseum came from a large or indeed colossal statue of Emperor Nero that used to be beside it.

People would meet under the statue (The Colossus) and the name of that location stuck even after the statue went.

So the Colosseum is not called Colosseum because it is colossal, although it sure is big!

Fun fact: the metro station just beside it is called ‘Colosseo’, proving the ‘nickname’ really stuck! Colosseum is like most Romans call it now.

How much was a ticket for a show at the Colosseum – one of the most surprising facts about the Colosseum for kids AND adults!

Entrance to the colosseum was free.

Each family would receive their tickets and allocated seating.

The best seats were given to the richest and most important families, especially those of senators and important political figures.

The poorer you were, the worst seat you got: the seats for the poorest of the poor were the ones high up, far away from the arena where the action happened.

The best seat in the stadium was for the emperor.

It was at the best distance from the arena floor (the stage) to see the show properly and it was in oriented in such a way that the sun would not be against him, hindering his sight.

You can see some of the seats as you step onto the arena, partially restored to give an idea of what they would have looked like.

Colosseum arena and seating

What types of shows happened in the Colosseum?

Several types of shows were performed in the colosseum including fights (gladiator vs gladiator, wild animal fights, gladiator vs animal fights), theater performances and capital executions.

You can learn here >>> all about Roman gladiators

One of the most popular types of shows held in the Colosseum was animal fights, which the Romans called venationes (hunts).

The Romans went to all lengths to secure exotic animals to impress the crows.

Among the others, they say the Colosseum hosted fights with elephants, bears, bulls, tigers and lions!

Shows were one of the most popular pastimes in Ancient Rome and aways attracted large numbers of spectators.

It was also, maybe surprisingly, used to re-enact battles, including naval ones!

According to ancient sources, the Colosseum was equipped with a system that would flood its arena area and allow for battles between ships!

While this seems plausible to archaeologists, there are several reasons to believe that these battles, if ever happened, were not a common occurrence: it is possible only one ever took place, in occasion of the Colosseum’s inauguration.

Where were the animals fighting in the Colosseum kept

The animals were kept under the main stage while they waited for their turn to be in front of the public.

Once it was time for their appearance, they would be put on a lift operated by slaves.

You can still see a replica of the lift nowadays: it is now visible during a tour of the underground part of the colosseum.

Here is where the animals and all the props and scenes used in the shows were kept.

Underground of colosseum

A gladiator hospital was just beside the Colosseum

Despite what you may have seen in the movies, the gladiators didn’t always fight to their death.

They were considered great entertainers and a lot of money would go into their training so that they could keep making the public happy: a little like famous athletes nowadays.

When they got injured, they were brought to the gladiator hospital where the level of care was excellent.

The Emperor didn’t decide the gladiator’s fate with his thumb

Emperors did not use to put their thumb down to send a gladiator to their death.

Despite what we are used to see in movies and many modern representation of the ancient games in the Colosseum, the emperors would not put their thumb down to indicate a death sentence.

This idea only became popular in the XIX century when French painter J.L. Gerome represented the use in one of his paintings.

In reality, it seems that Roman Emperors used their thumb to signal the end of the fight but holding the thumb inside their fist, as if to symbolise a sword (the thumb) back in its case (the hand).

The Colosseum is now one of the wonders of the modern world

The Colosseum is now one of the modern wonders of the world however, it wasn’t always kept in high regard!

During the Middle Ages, it was abandoned and it became full of unusual plants and flowers making it interesting for botanists more than historians.

This is why in many paintings you will see it abandoned and surrounded by overgrown vegetation and even grazing cattle!

I hope you enjoyed these facts about the Roman Colosseum and you can soon go visit!

If you do, make sure you read our tips for visiting the Colosseum with kids first and read about our experience visiting the Colosseum top tier and underground area, so you know what to expect.

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Images of Colosseum outside and inside with text 'Fun and interesting facts about the Colosseum for kids'

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