In the footsteps of gladiators beneath the Colosseum

The Colosseum in Rome is one of the must-see buildings in the world.  Now, for the first time, visitors are to be allowed into the bowels of the building, to see the tunnels where much of the organisation of Rome’s spectaculars took place.

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.  The Roman Colosseum was used for staging various massive and spectacular events including gladiator fights, wild animal displays, theatrical entertainment, executions, religious ceremonies, mock sea battles and re-playing famous Roman victories. All of these complex shows adhered to critical timings most of which were produced by the slaves working beneath the Colosseum.

As well, there are many tunnels under the Colosseum which originally connected many nearby buildings.  These included the gladiator schools; the Saniarium, where wounded gladiators were taken for medical attention; and the Spoliarium, where the dead bodies of unsuccessful gladiators were stripped of their armour.

The first-ever opening to the public of the underground dens and passageways follows careful restoration work. When above ground, tourists will also be able to visit the ancient arena’s third tier, which has been closed since the 1970s.

The Colosseum receives about 5 million visitors a year, and now that visitors can actually see how many of the spectacles were staged, the number of visitors should increase to even more.

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