The Colosseum is in Rome, Italy
It was built nearly 2000 years ago
The ancient Romans built it
It was an arena where 50 000 people could watch men and animals fight.
Today it is a popular tourist attraction
The Colosseum is about 2000 years old
About 2000 years ago, in the days of ancient Rome, the oval shaped Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre or public entertainment arena in the world, seating 50 000 spectators all with numbered tickets.
It took 10 years to build. Each of the four storeys had windows, arches and columns. There were 76 entrances on the ground floor. Once people entered, they walked up ramps to their seats. Seats varied according to how rich people were. Women and the poor stood or sat on wooden benches on the 4th floor. The Emperor and the gladiators who were to compete there had their own special entrances.
When it was first built, the arena could be filled with water and mock naval battles enacted. However, this was not good for the floor or the foundations, and the water was drained away. Gladiatorial contests replaced the mock battles. These were fierce combats to the death involving men and wild animals.
One of the engineering marvels of the Colosseum was the coloured awning that could be spread overhead in hot weather.
Most shows in the Colosseum lasted all day. The morning events were comedies or animal shows, and the gladiator events were in the afternoon. Thousands of men and animals were killed during the time these contests were held.
The Colosseum's opening ceremony was in A.D 80, and lasted 100 days. Gladiator contests were stopped by the Emperor Honorius in A.D 404, although animal combats continued for another hundred years.
Wild animals at the Colosseum
Wild cats such as lions and leopards were captured by the thousand for animal contests. Often gladiators had to fight wild animals such as lions or leopards. The animals were starved for three days before the contest. The animal was pushed from a dark room into the blinding sunshine of the arena. If the animal killed the gladiator, it was then killed in another show by a man trained to kill wild animals.
Some animals were trained to do tricks in animal shows, but the vast majority died in the arena. It is estimated that over a million wild animals were killed in contests at the Colosseum. By the time the animal shows were stopped, entire species of animals had disappeared from their native habitats.
Visiting the Colosseum today
Today, the remains of the Colosseum is a popular place for a visit by tourists to Rome. The wooden flooring of the arena is now gone, and today tourists can see the rooms under the flooring where the gladiators and wild animals were kept, waiting for their contests.
Did you know?
Barbary Lions once roamed all across northern Africa, and were captured by the thousand for the Colosseum contests. It was thought that the last one was killed in 1920 and is now an extinct species. But several lions have been found that seem to be at least part Barbary.