Colosseum · The Flavian Amphitheater
The Roman Colosseum was originally called Amphitheatrum Flavium, the Flavian amphitheater. The name Colosseum is attributed to a colossal statue of Emperor Nero, that was there.
Colosseum · The best tickets
In addition to the tickets for individual visitors and groups, there are tickets for the special “Stern” entrance which leads directly into the arena. At this entrance, the waiting times are much shorter than at the entrance for individual visitors. While you can only visit the first and second level of the Coliseum with the regular tickets, there are tickets for visiting the arena and the underground of the Coliseum and tickets for visiting the arena and all five aboveground levels of the Coliseum.
Colosseum · Why you should book online
The Colosseum, the Flavian amphitheater, is visited annually by more than 6 million people. As part of the security measures, you will find security checks at the entrance to the Coliseum. In the Colosseum, no more than 3,000 visitors are allowed to be at the same time. For this reason, you can visit the Coliseum from 1 January 2019 by reservation only.
At the Colosseum you will almost always find long queues at the ticket offices. From 1 January 2019, the ticket offices sell only tickets for the same day. When you arrive at the cashier, you’ll see what times are still available for tickets. If the tickets are sold out for the day, you may return the next day.
At the Coliseum, there are always flying traders around, offering guided tours and preferential entry. These offers are to be treated with caution. So even if you decide on short notice, you book better on the Internet. You can book directly on the mobile phone and you will receive the ticket immediately delivered to your phone.
- Buy tickets that are valid both printed or on your mobile phone. With these tickets you can go straight to the entrance and you do not have to exchange a voucher for a ticket.
- Do not purchase tickets where you need to pick up an audio guide on-site. For pickup and return you need more than half an hour. Here you will find tickets where you can download the audio guide to your smartphone.
- For the Coliseum, there are only tickets with a fixed entrance time. You will also need a reservation from 1 March 2019 on the Roma Pass and the other City Cards. Click here to compare the City Passes for Rome.
- For tickets with a fixed entry time, a maximum delay of 15 minutes is allowed. Since you have to pass the security check beforehand, you should be at the Coliseum 30 minutes before the scheduled entry time.
Colosseum · Preferential entry · Avoid queues
The Colosseum has three entrances: the entrance for individual visitors, the entrance for groups and on the opposite side of the Colosseum the entrance “Stern”, which leads directly into the arena on the ground Floor. The entrance “Stern” is also called Gladiator Gate.
At the entrance for individual visitors you will always find a queue. These are the visitors who want to buy the ticket at the desk. If you have already bought your ticket on the Internet, you can pass the queue and come directly to the security checkpoint.
With the Roma Pass, Omnia Card and Rome Sightseeing Pass, you will go to the group entrance, which is located to the left of the entrance for individual visitors, until February 28. From March 1, 2019 you go to the entrance for individual visitors. For children and adolescents up to the age of 18 in your company, you will receive the tickets at the box office for reservations and groups.
The entrance “Stern”, which is located on the other side of the Colosseum and leads directly into the arena, can only be used with guide. Tickets and tours to the upper floors and to the underground of the Colosseum and some express tours begin at this entrance. While at the entrance for individual visitors the waiting time for the security check may be around 15 minutes, there is usually no waiting time at this entrance. The fast way to enter the Colosseum is therefore the Gladiator Gate “Stern”.
As the queue at the coliseum can take more than an hour, it is highly recommended to buy the tickets on the Internet. With the Internet tickets for individual visitors and guided tours you save valuable time at the cash desk and only have to wait at the security checkpoint.
The tickets for the express entrance “Stern” are only available on the internet. With this entrance the entrance time is exactly fixed, with each appointment a maximum of 25 visitors are admitted and will be accompanied by a guide. It is therefore difficult to get tickets for this entrance and they are sold out long in advance.
Colosseum · Preferred admission on the first Sunday of the month
On the first Sunday of the month, admission to the Coliseum is free and the queues are accordingly long. If you want to enjoy the preferential entry with the Roma Pass, you can take the group entrance and you will be charged a museum entrance fee.
In principle, therefore, I advise against visiting the Colosseum on the first Sunday of each month, as it is extremely crowded these days.
Colosseum · Admission
The ticket for the Colosseum, with the exception of the night ticket, is valid on the same day and the following day also for the visit of the Forum Romanum with the Palatine.
Admission to the Coliseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine is free until the age of 18. With the online booking you save valuable time at the cash register. School groups must book in advance. Information can be found on my page for Colosseum tickets.
For all tickets and tours you have to be there on time for the specified date. Since the time windows for access to the Coliseum are strictly regulated, the guides can not wait for you.
At the time specified on the ticket, you must have already passed the security checks. You may be late for a maximum of 15 minutes, otherwise the ticket will be forfeited.
With Roma pass, Omnia card and Rome sightseeing pass guests enjoy free entry after making a reservation. With the City Passes, a visit to the Coliseum, Roman Forum and Palatine is considered one museum visit. The area of Forum Romanum and Palatine has two common entrances, one on Via di San Gregorio and one on Via dei Fori Imperiali. You can visit the Colosseum once and pass through one of the two entrances to the Roman Forum and Palatine, and the two visits count as one museum entry.
Colosseum · Night opening “La Luna sul Colosseo”
From mid-May to the end of December, the Coliseum will be open at night for guided tours. The guided tours can only be reserved on the internet and have a duration of 75 minutes. Since these tours are booked up quickly, I recommend reserving in good time.
Colosseum · Useful tips
The Colosseum is often the scene of people dressing up as gladiators. They demand money when they are photographed. You should therefore agree the price in advance, otherwise they demand more and there is trouble.
Flying traders offer all sorts of mostly worthless goods. When bottled, make sure that they are originally sealed, otherwise they are only filled with well water. It’s best to bring your own bottles, which you can refill at each fountain in Rome. At the Coliseum, you will find a free drinking water station right at the exit of the metro station.
You should also be wary of hawkers who offer guided tours or entrance without waiting. There are also hop on hop off tours and all sorts of other tickets offered. You can not be sure that the offers are legitimate, so it is better to book online or buy your tickets at an official box office.
There are toilets in the Colosseum, but there are often waiting times. You may want to visit a restroom before going to the Colosseum.
Colosseum · Short overview
The Coliseum is located on the edge of the archaeological area of the Palatine and the Roman Forum. It is the largest amphitheater in the world and was built by Emperor Vespasian from 72 AD. Previously, here was an artificial lake, which belonged to Nero’s Imperial Palace Domus Aurea. It was used until the 5th century for games, shows and animal baiting. From the Middle Ages until the 18th century, the Colosseum served as a quarry for the construction of churches and palaces.
Colosseum · Opening hours
The Colosseum is open all year round and only closes on the 1st January and on 25th December.
The Colosseum opens at 8:30 in the Morning. Last entry is one hour before closing. The Colosseum closes:
- From the last Sunday in October – 15th February: 4:30pm
- 16th February – 15th March: 5pm
- 16th March to last Saturday in March: 5:30pm
- From the last Sunday in March to 31st August: 7:15pm
- 1st September – 30th September: 7pm
- 1st October to the last Saturday in October: 6:30pm
At the Coliseum, it can to extraordinary closures are due to certain events, such as for example the way of the cross from the Pope on good Friday or a bicycle race.
Colosseum · How to get there
At the Coliseum there is the metro station Colosseo the line B.
Bus lines are the
- Line 51 from Piazza San Silvestro – Via del Corso and further to San Giovanni
- Line 75 from Trastevere to the central train station Termini
- Line 85 From Via Tuscolana via San Giovanni and then Via del Corso and Via del Tritone to Termini Central Station
- Line 87 From Via Appia via San Giovanni and continue through the center to Prati and the
- Night bus line N2.
The tram line 3 goes from Trastevere and the Pyramid to the Coliseum and on to San Giovanni, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, San Lorenzo and the zoo.
Walking to the Coliseum:
- From Piazza Venezia on the via dei Fori Imperiali
- From the Circus Maximus on the via di San Gregorio
- From the Papal Basilica of St. John – San Giovanni past San Clemente through via di San Giovanni in Laterano
- From the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on Via Merulana to the first intersection at Largo Brancaccio and then through Viale di Monte Oppio and on through the park
- From Monti and the Cavour metro station, take the long staircase to the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli with the Moses of Michelangelo and continue via Via Eudossiana and Via della Polveriera. Easier, without stairs, but also less picturesque, it goes through the Via dei Serpenti and on through the Via degli Annibaldi to the Coliseum.
From the airport to the Coliseum:
- Rome Fiumicino Airport – Colosseum: Train Line FL1 to Roma Ostiense, change to Metro B to Colosseo Station or Tram 3 to the Coliseum
- Rome Ciampino Airport – Colosseum: shuttle bus to Rome Termini Station, change to Metro B to Colosseo Station
- Port of Civitavecchia – Colosseum: Train direction Rome to Roma Ostiense, change to Metro B to Colosseo Station or Tram 3 to the Colosseum
by Heinz-Jürgen Beste, DAI Rome
History and events in the Coliseum
The Romans loved their games: Thousands flocked to the huge arena on match days to watch animal raids and gladiatorial combat. It was a bloody pleasure. Death was omnipresent, though not every fight ended lethally. After all, the training of the gladiators cost time and money, which wanted to be well invested. The effort that the emperors drove as playmakers is still immense for today’s circumstances: For some celebrations, which could last several days, they brought hundreds of wild animals from all areas of the empire to Rome. Elephants and bears, deer, antelopes, wild boars and wolves …
As brutal as the games were, their process was well thought-out and so refined was the infrastructure that made the realization of the shows possible. It is estimated that up to 50,000 people were seated on the ranks of the Flavian amphitheater. An ingenious route system ensured that the crowds came smoothly to the ranks and, after the end of the performance, also quickly outside.
The pleasure of one was the work of the other. Hundreds of slaves and workers were in the background to ensure that the performance went smoothly on the stage. It helped a sophisticated elevator system.
The ancient writers repeatedly report that animals and fighters appeared out of nowhere in the arena. Researchers have therefore long suspected that there must have been lifts in the basement of the Coliseum, with which even entire sets could be promoted upwards.
In recent years, archaeologists and building researchers of the Archaeological Monuments Office of the city of Rome and the German Archaeological Institute have studied in detail the entire basement. It succeeded in bringing some secrets of the lifts to light.
Since steam and electric drive were not yet available, on the other hand, muscle power was available at low cost, the lifts were powered by winches. So that the elevators did not obstruct the view of the arena, the elevator cabins were only pulled up to below the arena floor. The last meters were laid back by the animals over ramps, which could be folded down from the arena floor by counterweights.
The elevator systems of the first phase were not in operation for a long time. A few years after opening, the statics of the arena-supporting walls had to be improved. The elevators were moved to the center of the arena, where they were less vulnerable.
History of the Colosseum – Facts and Figures
The “Flavian Amphitheater”, the ancient name, was built from 72 to 80 AD. The opening ceremonies in year 80 allegedly lasted 100 days: In addition to gladiator battles and animal hunts (in which 5,000 animals are said to have been killed), even sea battles were readjusted.
The elliptical structure is about 188 m long and 156 m wide, the arena measures 86 m by 54 m, the basement 76 m x 44 m.
The last gladiator fights took place in 434/5 AD, and the last animal baiting is recorded for the year 523 AD. The common name “Colosseum” dates back to the early Middle Ages.
by Heinz-Jürgen Beste, DAI Rome
The Flavian Amphitheater is one of the highest achievements of Roman civil engineering, for which the huge dimensions, the short construction period of less than ten years, the capacity of fifty thousand spectators and the perfect organization of the stream of visitors give a vivid testimony. The building influenced strongly the shape of the Roman amphitheater, as the great theaters in Italy and in the provinces show its archetype.
After the city fire of 64 AD, Emperor Nero had transformed the area between Esquiline, Caelius and Palatine into his private park, the Domus Aurea. During the reign of Emperor Vespasian, this was returned to the public and built with public buildings, which centered on the Coliseum. The works probably began in the years 70 to 72 AD. Gladiator schools, depots for weapons and stage decoration and other infrastructure were among them. The amphitheater was inaugurated in the year 80 AD by Emperor Titus. During the hundred-day inauguration ceremony a sea battle was organized in the Colosseum in addition to gladiatorial fighting and animal hunts. Completed was the entire plant probably in the nineties of the first century AD. The last reported animal hunt took place in 523 AD and henceforth the construction largely served as a quarry. The current name Colosseum was created only in the eighth century.
The first systematic excavation took place from 1806 to 1814 by the Roman archaeologist Carlo Fea. Because of the high groundwater level, the excavation had to be stopped soon and filled up again. Only 1874 to 1876 it was possible to expose the eastern part of the basement. The until then buried western part was excavated between 1934 and 1938, unfortunately without any documentation. In the extensive restoration in the course of this work, a large part of the ancient structure was lost.
In my (DAI Rome) study and documentation of the podium and the basement, begun in 1996 in collaboration with the Roman Antiquities Administration, it was possible to distinguish between several construction phases from half a millennium of use. So far, three different systems can be located, whose installation between the end of the 1st century (81-96) and the middle of the 4th Century AD are to be set. Two of the elevator systems, those in corridors B, F and H, belong to the construction phase of the Colosseum, due to structural details, and can thus be dated to the Flavian period. For corridor B, an elevator system with 28 cages was used to transport animals up to the size of a cat or a bear into the arena. Corridors F and H complete the elevator system in the basement, since there was a system of 20 movable platforms about 4 x 5 m in height, by means of which large decorations were pulled up to give a showcase to the animal hunting (venationes).
Due to a fire disaster in the Colosseum caused by a lightning strike in 217 AD, and the consequent restoration work that lasted nearly twenty years, there was a need to stabilize the wall structure in the basement, rendering the two previous elevator systems useless. In this respect, a new elevator system was built in Corridors E and G with which 60 cages could be moved. However, due to the limited space in the corridors E and G, it was necessary to abandon the previous elevator model – winch, elevator cage, winch, elevator cage, etc. – and hoist several cages with one winch.
In addition to focusing on the function of the basement, it was also possible to make statements about the location and course of the naval battle (Naumachia) at the inauguration and the division of seats for the senators.
The desire of the Antiquities Authority to restore the arena was met by the year 2000 in collaboration with the University La Sapienza. For didactic and monument preservation reasons, only about a seventh of the total area in the east of the arena was covered. This part was so heavily destroyed by the excavation and subsequent restoration of 1875 that could easily be set the new support system on the ancient foundations. The examination of this project showed that the arena’s ground in antiquity was completely renewed at least twice, its running level raised and its wooden structure profoundly changed.
The name of the Colosseum
The Coliseum is actually called Anfiteatro Flavio, in Latin Amphitheatrum Flavium, in honor of the ruling family of the Flavians, at the time of its construction. Prior to the construction of the Colosseum, at the entrance to the palace of Emperor Nero, the Domus Aurea, stood a colossal bronze statue of the Roman Emperor, the Colossus of Nero. He should have been around 35 meters high.
After Nero’s death, the amphitheater was built on part of the site. The colossus was converted to the sun god and set up in front of the theater. The name Coliseum is attributed to this colossus.
The Coliseum is located in the oldest part of Rome and is surrounded by archaeological sites. The most famous are the Palatine, the Roman Forum and the Imperial Forums, the excavations under the Basilica of San Clemente and the Roman houses under the Basilica of St. John and Paul on Celio Hill.
More information can be found in my post about Ancient Rome.