What to See Inside The Colosseum

The Colosseum is the greatest example of ancient Roman engineering, making it one of the most famous structures in the world.

It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and a relic of ancient Roman history.

Artists have always wanted to paint it, but among famous buildings, none is linked as much to violence as the Colosseum.

But its history isn’t just about violence; after all, its premise even saw concerts by stellar performers like Paul Mc Cartney, Ray Charles, Elton John and Billy Joel.

But for starters, let’s learn a bit about its building and what’s inside the Colosseum.

In 72 CE, The Romans, under emperor Vepassian’s order, constructed an arena larger than the one in Ancient Greece. 

The intent was to surpass anything ever built in the Hellenic world and build an arena for sports and entertainment.

They added ingenious design elements like their pioneered concrete and arches. 

The Romans decorated their no-nonsense mega structures with all three Greek orders of columns- doric, ionic and Corinthian respecting the Greek culture. 

colosseum entrance
Image: David Köhler on Unsplash

As you reach and walk out of the Colosseo station, you’ll first notice the outer ring of the Colosseum.

As you get closer, you’ll see it has multiple rings- the four visible levels, with the outer walls towering at 57 (187 feet) meters in height.

The first three levels have 80 large arches on each floor, forming a 159-foot-tall outer ring. 

The arches on the ground floor were entrances for the visitors.

On top of each arch on the ground floor, there were numbers, and the entrance gate number was for spectators.

The tickets issued to spectators correspond to these entrances.

The fourth level, the posterior, is a solid wall called an “Attic” pierced by small rectangular windows arranged in a pattern. 

On the top is a stone structure to maintain a mat vertically repeated 240 times.

This installation formed a crown of vertical poles between which we could stretch a velarium canvas.

Colosseum Gate
Image: Stanley Kustamin on Unsplash

Before walking inside through one of the huge gates, “Did you know that back in the day, the Colosseum had 80 different entrances”?

This massive structure back then had 80 entrances, four reserved for emperors and senators and the remaining 76 for the general public. 

Gladiators had two entrances- one was the Libitinarian Gate, between numbers 57 and 58, for dead gladiators.

The other one, often called “Gate of Life,” between 19 and 20, from which the gladiators used to enter the amphitheater. 

Roman Magistrates entered through gates 38 and 39, which are still visible today.

The Emperor, Senators, and Vestal Virgins had an entrance between 76 and 1 number gates, now the Colosseum’s exit.

Today, you only need to remember three entrances- the main entrance, the group gate and the stern gate. 

The main entrance is next to the Arc of Constantine and is for individual visitors and people with disability.

The second entrance is a few steps away from the main entrance of the Colosseum, accessible from the Piazza del Colosseo. 

If you are in a group or have booked a guided tour of the Colosseum, you can enter through this gate.

The Stern Gate is the third entrance gate to the Colosseum, also known as Gladiator Gate, because back then, Gladiators used to enter the arena from this gate.

Visitors with special access to the underground or the arena floor can enter directly from this gate. 

However, after the COVID, visitors with underground and arena access tickets will enter from the main entrance, making their way around the Colosseum on the inside to access the stern gate.  

Colosseum Arena

Arena colosseum
Image: Mira Van der Veen on Unsplash

Stepping inside, you can almost hear the roar of ancient Rome.

As soon as you enter the arena, you can hear the silent echoes of 50,000 spectators cheering for the gladiator who once fought to the death there.

A guided tour will tell you more about the intricate details while you peer upon its ancient balconies.

Feel the buzz in the air, the weight of thousands of eyes on you, a mix of fear and excitement with increased pulsation as you prepare to face the unknown. 

The arena floor (arena means “sand” in Latin) was the scene of all the action, but you get to experience its past in serenity. 

It was so large, measuring 83m long and 48 m wide, a ratio of 1.73, that it also reenacted significant historical battles. 

Forests were created in the arena to act as backdrops for nava and hunting games.

Naval games were also another notable feature of the Colosseum arena. 

Apart from that, it also saw annual sports like gladiator combats, theatrical performances, executions, and animal games.

The arena floor was made of wood and covered with a layer of sand to absorb the shed blood of gladiators, criminals and animals. 

Though the original wooden floor no longer exists, a new platform allows visitors to experience standing on the arena Floor.

To access this area, a special ticket with access to this area is required that you can buy online.

Colosseum Hypogeum

Hypogeum colosseum
Image: Tamal Mukhopadhyay on Unsplash

While the arena of the Colosseum captured all the attention with its grandeur, there was a hidden realm beneath it from the spectators’ view.

Though unseen, this concealed underground area called Hypogeum played a vital role in its success.

It was sort of the core of all the production that took place on the floor of the amphitheater and even served as the entrance for gladiators, animals, and war criminals.

It was built about 10 years after Domitian’s inauguration of the Colosseum and. was made primarily of masonry, including a system of tunnels with two major corridors. 

These corridors are a two-story underground maze with tunnels, cages, and chambers to inhabit gladiators and ferocious beasts awaiting their turn in the show.

Within these spaces’ confines were rooms without windows and air circulation, with the only lights from the continuous burning lamps. 

The spaces and rooms within its confines had no windows and air circulation, with only lights from the continuous burning lamps. 

The pervasive smell of animal droppings, blood and death would have been everywhere. 

It was like living in hell both above and below the Colosseum, where the line between life and death was as thin as a gladiator’s sword. 

The Colosseum underground was not open to the public until 26 June 2021, which you can only see from above before. 

Walk through these tunnels and imagine the noise echoing from the crowd’s screams, the animals’ roars, and the terrifying shouts from the gruesome executions and tortures in the arena.

Colosseum underground special access tickets are required to explore the secrets that lie beneath the arena. Don’t miss out on this exclusive experience. 

Colosseum Underground Tickets 

Colosseum Trap Doors 

Colosseum Trap Doors
Image: Petersomervell.wordpress.com

The trap doors in the Colosseum are part of the underground Arena.

A total of 36 trap doors were constructed, and these trapdoors could only be opened from below for the dramatic entrance of the animals to the arena. 

The trapdoors were designed to cage wild animals like wolves, bears, tigers, and lions who were meant to fight war criminals and gladiators.

Subsequently, manually driven elevators transported prisoners, animals, and gladiators into the arena.

There were about 28 elevators in total. Frightened, hungry animals would spring out and face either gladiators, victims, or gladiator victims.

And if they were reticent to fight, men called bestiaries would poke them to fight.

Recently, archaeologists have rebuilt this complex system, reviving the innovative apparatus used in the brutal games of the Roman Empire. 

The reconstruction happened because of the ancient texts and clues in the Colosseum.

The examined holes craved for wooden posts, bronze fittings and still visible rope marks to understand how the ancient built them. 

The Cavea was divided into four tiers, each divided into sections (known as Maeniana) by low walls and curved passages (called Praecinctiones).

It is further segregated into wedges (called the Cunei) accessible through stairs and aisles from the Vomitoria. 

The rows or gradus of seats were numbered, allowing for precise identification of the seat by its gradus, cuneus and specific number. 

The Colosseum’s seating hierarchy reflected the occupant’s social status in Roman society. 

Emperor Augustus carefully regulated the partition of various classes during all the public spectacles. 

The King and Vestal Virgins occupied the arena’s premier seats at the North and South ends.

The first tier (Podium, meaning place of honor) was like a flat platform or terrace measuring 15 feet wide. 

It was reserved for the significant people of Rome- The Emperor, the important priests, the Vestal Virgins and the members of the Roman government, including Rome’s Senators.

Tier 2 (Maenianum premium) was reserved for the noble class known as knights or Equites, consisting of fourteen rows of marble or stone seats.

Meanwhile, the general public and plebeians filled the 3rd and 4th levels. The 3rd tier was further divided into two sections-

Maenianum secundum imum – the better, lower seats for the wealthy plebeians.

Maenianum secundum summum – the upper seats for the poor plebeians.

With a standard Colosseum ticket, you can access Tier 1 and Tier 2, experiencing the view Roman spectators once enjoyed.

The Gladiator’s Gate 

The gladiators’ entrance is on the east side of the Colosseum, used to enter the arena for the fight.

The gate lies above the Hypogeum on the arena floor, where animals were caged for combat.

Previously, this gate was off-limits to the public.

But nowadays, you can enter through the gate onto the stands,  step in the shoes of ancient gladiators, and feel the electrifying atmosphere as if the entire arena is cheering you on.

The Colosseum Seating Arrangements 

The Colosseum Seating Arrangements 
Image: unsplash.com/@Gettyimages

As per ancient records, it was believed that the Colosseum had the capacity to accommodate up to 87,000 people. However, current estimations suggest a number closer to 50,000.

Since the Colosseum game was open to the general public, and the entrance was free, people still needed a ticket to get into it. 

The Colosseum was open to the general public, and entrance was free. However, people still needed a ticket to get into it. 

These tickets provided directions to the entrance and their seats in the Colosseum.

Above each arch of the colosseum, a number was a craved indicating the number on the matching entry ticket for access. 

The Colosseum’s design was so innovative that it allowed fifty thousand hustling people to enter swiftly, show their entry tickets, and be seated within just 15 minutes.

The seating area of the Colosseum, or the auditorium, was called the Cavea surrounding the central arena. 

The Colosseum Belvedere

The Colosseum Belvedere
Image: Getyourguide.com

To catch an incredible view of Rome from a great height, visit tier 4 and tier 5, also known as Colosseum Belvedere.

Perched at 40 meters (147 ft), it provides panoramic views of the inside of the Arena and the Colosseum.

The 4th tier (Maenianum summum in ligneis) which included steep wooden seating.

These seats were arranged in a gallery that encircled the uppermost wall of the amphitheater. This addition was made during Domitian’s rule. 

This section was designated for common women. Slaves, however, were strictly prohibited from entering the Colosseum. 

There was also a standing room available in the top tier and aisles. 

Certain groups, including actors, gravediggers, and former gladiators, were explicitly barred from the Colosseum.

These tiers can only be accessed through the Colosseum Arena guided tour.

The Imperial Box

The Imperial Box
Image: Pinterest.com

Out of 80 entrances, 76 were used by the common people, while three were reserved for the noblemen, and one led to the emperor’s box for the King, his family and councilmen. 

The Imperial Box, also called the ‘cubiculum,’ was a special area in the Colosseum allocated for the emperor. 

It was elevated above the podium on a platform and was accessed via a tunnel leading to the Imperial Palace. 

This area provides the best view of the arena and has a cross laid by the Pope in 2000 in honor of the Christians martyred there.

The box had four columns, each topped with a victory statue, supporting a canopy or awning over it.

This vantage point was where the emperor would watch the games.

Inside Colosseum, Photos  

Frequently Asked Questions About What’s Inside The Colosseum

How to see the Colosseum underground?

To visit the underground Colosseum, you must book a guided tour.
The underground, known as the Hypogeum, is where all the behind-the-scenes action happens during the games. 

It’s an active archaeological site featuring cages, armories, narrow passageways, and trap doors.

Can you see the Colosseum from outside?

Yes, you can see the Colosseum from outside. 

It’s a stop-you-in-your-tracks experience just looking at the six-acre, 150-foot-tall structure.

Additionally, you can book a hop-on hop-off tour that will guide you through Rome’s most renowned attractions, including the Colosseum.

However, going inside is recommended to appreciate the Colosseum’s grandeur and historical significance fully.

Can you go inside the Colosseum Rome?

Yes, you can go inside the Colosseum. There are several levels to explore: the underground, first level, second level, and third level (top tier). 
Arena and Underground (Hypogem) is the core of all the action production on the amphitheater floor.  

Each level requires a different entry ticket.

What is the best way to see the Colosseum?

The best way to see the Colosseum is to plan and book your ticket online

This allows you to skip the line at the entrance and choose your time slot. 

Visiting early in the morning is also recommended before large crowds form. 

If you’re willing to spend a little more, a nighttime tour is probably the most interesting way to visit.

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