Colosseum Arena

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about Colosseum Arena
The arena measured 287 ft long and 180 ft wide. The Latin word arena means "sand" which was used as the primary surface where gladiators battled, to absorb their blood. The arena was a wooden floor covered with a 15cm layer of sand. The sand was constantly renewed as it was covered with the blood and entrails of slaughtered animals, criminals and gladiators.

Description of the Colosseum Arena
The Colosseum arena measured 287 ft long and 180 ft wide (83 metres by 48 metres). The arena was a wooden floor which was covered in sand. There were 36 trap doors in Arena allowing for elaborate special effects. Via these trap doors scenery, gladiators and exotic wild animals would instantly appear in the arena without prior warning.

Beneath the Colosseum Arena
The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum(meaning underground). The hypogeum consisted of two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery. For hoisting the largest animals such as elephants and hippopotamus the Roman engineers created mechanical devices called hegmata which were strong hinged platforms which could also be hoisted up to the arena.

Beneath the Colosseum

Purpose of the Colosseum Arena
The arena in the Roman Colosseum was used for staging various spectacular and bloody events including gladiator fights, wild animal displays, theatrical entertainment, executions, religious ceremonies, mock sea battles and re-playing famous Roman victories. The Roman engineers structured the arena so it could become flooded to display mock battles, however, just after the Colosseum was built the hypogeum was added which then made this type of entertainment impossible.

  Water Battles at the Colosseum

Colosseum Arena - Safety Measures
The Colosseum Arena was really dangerous. Wild, exotic animals such as lions, tigers and elephants ran loose in the arena and it would have been a monumental disaster if any of the spectators had been killed by accident. The following safety measures were put in place to avoid such disasters

  • The Arena: The arena was the area of the Colosseum where the events were held which was separated from the seating areas by a massive wall, faced with marble. A large ditch (euripi) providing even more protection.

    • The massive marble wall measured 15ft high and had rollers on the top in order to prevent any possibility of savage animals climbing over and reaching the important people sitting on the podium

    • There was also a ditch, containing a series of niches, providing additional protection

      • There are some theories that archers were positioned in the niches ready to kill any beasts that might cause a threat to the audience

    • Nets were also attached to the wall as an added safety precaution

Colosseum Arena - The Gate of Life and the Gate of Death
Entry to the Colosseum Arena was made through the Gate of Life called the Porta Sanavivaria. Successful exits following combat was also taken through this gate. Injured gladiators then made their way to the Saniarium was where the wounded gladiators were taken for medical attention. The people and animals, who were killed without mercy in the arena, were dragged out through the Gate of Death which led to the Spoliarium where the corpses of the gladiators were stripped of their armor and weapons. These gates were connected to tunnels which led to buildings outside the Colosseum which formed part of the complex.

Colosseum Entrances and Exits
Tunnels under the Colosseum

Roman Colosseum Home

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