Colosseum Entrances and Exits

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about Colosseum Entrances and Exits
The famous amphitheatre was designed to take a capacity of between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. It was imperative to ensure that the massive crowds who flocked to the Colosseum were seated quickly and efficiently. The design of the great Flavian Amphitheatre took this major requirement into account.

It should also be remembered that fabulous and exotic wild animals such as mighty elephants and tall giraffes also had to be easily ushered into the great amphitheatre. The size and number of the Colosseum entrances and exits were of great importance.

Colosseum Entrances and Exits - The Overall Design
The oval shaped Colosseum is 47 m (157 ft) high and is a three-storied arcade surmounted by a fourth story pierced with window-like openings. Each of the three tiered stories originally had 80 arches - the columns were on the first level were of the Doric design, the second Ionic and the third Corinthian. The Colosseum amphitheatre was therefore ringed by eighty entrance gates at ground level which formed the entrances and exits for the spectators.

The Number of Colosseum Entrances and Exits
There were 76 entrance gate arches, which were used by the general public, plus four special un-numbered gates which were the Grand Entrances. The public entrances were numbered providing easy access to the allocated seats. The walls leading from the numbered entrances to the seats were plastered and painted white and red. The special, un-numbered gates, were used by the emperors, wealthy patricians, senators, visiting dignitaries and the Vestal Virgins. The walls leading from these entrances were decorated with paintings and stuccoes.

Colosseum Entrances and Exits - The Vomitoria
The entrance arches gave admission to a corridor, running uninterruptedly around the building leading to staircases and passages to the seats. The passages were called the vomitorium (plural: vomitoria) and these were situated below or behind the tiers of seats in the amphitheatre through which the crowds could "spew out" at the end of a performance.

Colosseum Entrances and Exits - The Grand Entrances
The four special un-numbered gates were located at points North, South, East and West of the Colosseum. At the long axis ends of the arena were two entrances which were west and east of the arena - see above plan. All of the four axial entrances were richly decorated with painted stucco reliefs of which fragments still survive.

  • North Entrance: The Magistrates entered at the entrance arch at the north short axis, which still exists today between public gates XXXVIII (Gate 38) and XXXIX (Gate 39). This entrance gate accessed the magistrates seating area

  • South Entrance: The ceremonial entrance for the Emperor, Senate and Vestals, was situated at the southern short axis of the facility between arches I (Gate 1) on the right and LXXVI (Gate 76) to the left. This entrance gate accessed the important seating area

  • The Gate of Death - West Entrance / Exit: The western entrance / exit gate was located between arches LVII (Gate 57) and LVIII (Gate 58). This entrance had direct access to the arena which was entered via the gate known as "Libitinarian" Gate - the Gate of Death. This name derives from Libitina who was the goddess of funerals. Dead gladiators and animals were carried away through this exit. This arena gate was connected to a tunnel which led to the Spoliarium, a room beneath or close to the arena, where the bodies of the gladiators were stripped and the weapons and armor given to the dead gladiatorís lanista.

  • The Gate of Life - East Entrance/ Exit: The eastern entrance / exit gate was located between arches XIX (Gate 19) and XX (Gate 20). This entrance had direct access to the arena which was entered via the gate known as the Gate of Life (Porta Sanavivaria) for the procession of gladiators who paraded before the Emperor and the spectators prior to the beginning of the "games" and exited after a successful combat. This was connected to a tunnel from the Ludus Magnus gladiator school, located 60 meters (180 feet) to the east

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