Events at the Colosseum

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about Events at the Colosseum
Although the Roman Colosseum is primarily associated with the gladiatorial combats and the execution of Christians there were many other events displayed at this infamous monument to Ancient Rome.

Diversity of Events at the Colosseum
The festivals of games held at the Roman Colosseum could last for 100 continuous days.

People arrived at the Colosseum at about 8am and did not leave until sunset. They had come to be entertained. They had come to see fabulous spectacles. They had come to revel in the might and the power of Rome. Romans loved to be reminded of the great victories they had achieved in battle. Events at the Colosseum had to be planned in infinite details. Costumes, armor, weapons and scenery all had to be in place. Tickets to the Colosseumhad been distributed in advance of the games. Political careers and the popularity of the Emperors depended on the success of the games. The more spectacular the games meant the more popular the sponsors were. The Romans loved to be surprised. Novelty in the arena of the Roman Colosseum was valued. Different, exotic animals were on display supplying the novelty that the Romans craved and yet another reminder of the distance lands that had been conquered by Rome.

Order of Events - Parades and Processions at the Colosseum
The order of events on the opening day of a festival of 'games' at the Colosseum starting with the parades and processions:

  • The Opening Parade (Processions at the Colosseum)
  • The entry of the the Vestal Virgins and the most important priests, politicians, soldiers and senators of Rome
  • The entry of the Emperor
  • The Religious ceremonies and sacrifices (for information see Sacrifices at the Roman Colosseum)
  • The Games would begin and the Entry of the Gladiators would take place late afternoon

Order of Events at the Colosseum
The order of events ran to roughly the same format:

  • The display of exotic and wild animals took place in the morning

  • Animal Hunts - These shows were called called venationes and the animal hunters were called venatores and replicated hunting scenes

    • Emperors joined in these events, shooting animals using a bow and arrows, from the safety of their Imperial Box

  • The Bestiarii - gladiators trained to fight with mighty wild beasts such as tigers and leopards they were trained animal-handlers and killers. Fantastic scenery, trees, hillocks and exotic plants added to the reality

    • Criminals were also sentenced to fight wild beasts but without any skills, weapons or armor

  • Meridiani - lightly armed gladiators who fought in the middle of the day, after the wild beast fights

  • Horseracing

  • The Andabatae - these were hapless criminals who provided comic relief to the audience. They wore helmets without an openings for the eyes. They fought blindfold, manoeuvred closer and closer together by attendants, slashing blindly at each other

  • At noon the executions were scheduled - the tortures and varieties of executions amused the crowd

  • Late afternoon the most important events of the day - the gladiatorial combats

  • The Gladiator fights started with the Praegenarii  who were the 'opening act' gladiators who fought with a whip, club and shield

  • These preliminaries would then be followed by the proper Gladiatorial fights

  • Various matched pairings of gladiators followed

  • Sometimes battles were re-enacted

Other events took place creating various diversions for the crowd and allowing for changes of scenery and events to be organised

List of Events at the Colosseum
The following list of  Events at the Colosseum is certainly not exhaustive but will provide an insight into the spectacles enjoyed by the Ancient Romans at this theatre of death.

  • Wild animal hunts - experienced archers and experts with spears
  • Various trained animal acts, such as those seen at circuses
  • Speciality acts featuring dwarves and clownish acts
  • Acrobats and Gymnasts
  • High wire acts and balancing acts
  • Music and dancers
  • Wild animal Fights - beasts fought other beasts and men
  • Tortures and Executions
  • Wrestling
  • Vicious boxing acts ( pugilatus)
  • Pancratium - combination of wrestling, boxing and martial arts
  • Gladiatorial combats
    • Andabatae (Sight Restricted Gladiators)
    • Bestiarii (Beast Fighters)
    • Dimachaeri (Gladiators With Two Swords)
    • Eques(Horseback And Sword Gladiators)
    • Gallus (Gladiators With A Lance)
    • Essedari (War-Chariot Fighters)
    • Hoplomachi (Armed Fighters)
    • Laquerarii (Lasso Fighters)
    • Murmillones (Gladius and Shield Gladiators)
    • Naumachiarii ( Combatants in Sea-fights)
    • Provocatores (Challengers Protected by a Breastplate)
    • Retiarii (Net Fighters)
    • Rudiarius (Free Gladiators)
    • Sagittarius (Mounted Bowman)
    • Samnites: (Large Shields and Plumed Helmets)
    • Secutores (Two Small Eye-Holes in Helmet)
    • Scissores (Carvers - Short Swords)
    • Thracian, or Thrax (Curved Sword)
    • Velites (Spear Fighters)
  • Female gladiators were featured as speciality acts

Changes to Events at the Colosseum
The 'games' started as diversions featuring hunting scenes and the like. However as the years past the taste of the Romans became more jaded and lewd. Acts featuring the rape of women by trained animals such as dogs and asses were included in the list of events.

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