The Colosseum

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Tel. +39 06 39967700

Opening hours Opens 8.30am, closes between 16:30 & 19:15 according to the time of year. Closed Christmas day, January 1st, and May 1st.

Ticket prices €12 standard, €7.00 reduced rate. €2 booking fee for advance purchase.

The Colosseum (or Coliseum, if you're American), is one of the most famous landmarks in the world, and an internationally recognised symbol of Rome. Built between 70 and 80 AD, it takes its name from an ancient statue, the Colossus of Nero, which stood nearby. Its historical importance and sheer scale make it worth a visit, but expect huge crowds.

Visiting the Colosseum

The Colosseum in Rome The Colosseum

It's easy to find the Colosseum. For a start, it's huge (although it was apparently too small for Ridley Scott, who designed a bigger one for his film Gladiator). If you're at the Forum, you can probably already see it, so just head east along Via dei Fori Imperiali (or Via Sacra if you're inside the Forum) until you reach it. The nearest metro stop is, unsurprisingly, Colosseo on Linea B, which will take you right to the base of the landmark.

Tickets for the Colosseum also allow access to the Palatine Hill and the Forum (which have been combined into one location). The ticket is valid for one entry to each site: you may want to visit the Colosseum one day, and devote the next morning to exploring the Palatine and the Forum.

Entry to the Colosseum now involves going through airport-style security gates, which can lead to some lengthy delays.

History of the Colosseum

"While stands the Colosseum, Rome shall stand. When falls the Colosseum, Rome shall fall, and when Rome falls the World."

The Venerable Bede, translated by Byron

The Colosseum was begun in 70 AD by the Emperor Vespasian, apparently with his share of the money seized following the siege of Jerusalem. It was built on the site of Nero's private lake, a handy way for Vespasian to distance himself from his predecessor's unpopular excesses. It was officially known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, after Vespasian's family name.

Following its completion under Titus, Vespasian's son, the Colosseum began its 500-year career as the venue for gladiatorial fights and animal hunts. After falling into disuse, the Colosseum spent some time derelict, as well as being used variously as a private castle and the home of a religious order. Much of the stone was taken to be used in other buildings, and there is no evidence that Christians were martyred (or thrown to the lions) here, although this didn't prevent Pope Benedict XIV from declaring it a sacred site in 1749.

Misinformed though it may have been, Benedict's intervention prevented further damage to the site, and his successors made several repairs to the structure. Today, like many of Rome's historical sights, the Colosseum is at risk of damage from the high volume of visitors it receives, combined with underinvestment.