C H R O N O L O G Y - Timeline of the Valley of the Colosseum

NEW!! the MAPS of the area during the centuries: click HERE


Before men inhabit the site of Rome, the valley where now is the Colosseum collected the waters from the hills, that created a pond.

Republican Rome 508-44 BC

The Romans drain the valley in early republican times and build houses, public buildings and temples. The area of the ancestral lake becomes the juncture of four regions of ancient Rome.

The Great Fire of Rome under Nero AD 64

On July 19, 64 AD a fire starts in the city, quickly spreads and burns for six days. According to Tacitus, upon hearing the news, Nero organizes a relief effort paid from his own funds. After the fire Nero opens his palaces to the homeless and arranges for food to be delivered to the survivors.
In the area cleared by fire Nero builds his new palace, known as the Domus Aurea: a huge space (size debated between 40 and 120 acres) with buildings, parks, fake fishing villages etc. See the whole story in this brief documentary about Nero's palace, or in this long one. At the bottom of the valley Nero has a great rectangular pond built, surrounded by a portico.

Start of construction 71-72

After the death of Nero and one year of turmoil, the new emperor Vespasian gives back to the Romans much of Nero's Domus Aurea, and starts the construction of a public building - an amphitheatre - right in the spot where Nero's lake was, at the bottom of the valley.

Titus inaugurates the Colosseum 80

Vespasian dies in 79, and cannot see the inauguration of the amphitheatre by his son Titus

Finishing off 80-81

Domitian, Titus' brother, completes the building up to the third floor and excavates the hypogeum under the arena, a series of underground spaces used to prepare the shows of the amphitheatre.

Emperor Antoninus Pius has the building repaired 2nd century

The first repairs are carried out by Antoninus Pius (86-161) after a fire that destroyed 350 houses in the city

Struck by lightning 217

On the day of the Vulcanalia, August 2, another fire devastates most of the amphitheatre and of the surrounding area. The amphitheatre burns for days. The repairs by emperor Macrinus are extensive: practically the buiding is reconstructed, as only the skeleton of the former Flavian structure is left

Alexander Severus rebuilds the Colosseum 222

This time it will take more than 30 years to rebuild the Colosseum. In 222, during the reign of Alexander Severus, the amphitheatre was again inaugurated, i.e. dedicated to the gods.

A coin by Gordian III shows the restored Colosseum 240

After 20 more years the repairs are actually finished under the reign of Gordian III. Another coin commemorates the event. We see the Colosseum, the Meta Sudans on the left, a building on the right, a lion and a bull fighting in the arena, the spectators and the emperor in his box

Lightning strikes again, Decius repairs 250

According to some sources the Colosseum was again struck by a lightning and damaged during the reign of Decius

A tremendous earthquake hits the Eastern Empire and Rome 262

African and Eastern provinces are devastated by a catastrophic earthquake; the following year a plague epidemic spreads in Rome

Last gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum 404

Emperor Theodosius established Christian orthodoxy, bans paganism and starts persecuting the old faith. Pagan holidays and customs are abolished

The Visigoths sack Rome - The amphitheatre is used as a cemetery 410

During the Visigoth war the amphitheatre was abandoned and its surroundings became a burial site, as the sieges did not allow to bury the dead outside the walls. After the war these little cemeteries were "reclaimed" by burying them under 2 metres of earth. One of them was rediscovered only in 1895.

The spoliation of the Colosseum begins V Century

Since the early V century the Romans start to recycle the materials of the damaged amphitheatre: travertine, marble slabs, tuff blocks, the lead of the piping etc. This spoliation started during the reign of king Theodoric the Great (454 – 526) and it was systematic: unused or damaged parts of the building were dismantled and reused.

Repairs after the Visigoth sack 420

Under co-rulers Honorius and Theodosius II (the one portrayed in the coin) Praefectus Urbi Iunius Valerius Bellicius pays the cost of the restoration works

Earthquake! 429

Under Theodosius and Valentinian III (see his coin) another earthquake hits Rome and more repairs are done

Abominandus Earthquake! 443

After a disastrous earthquake Praefectus Urbi Rufius Cecina Felix Lampadius has restoration works done on the arena, on the podium and on the terraces, at his own expense! Read the interesting story of the Lampadius inscription (photo by Giovanni Lattanzi from )

The Vandals sack Rome 455

The city is again sacked, this time for fifteen days, by the Vandals of Genseric

Restoration works by Messius Phoebus Severus 470

This inscription commemorates these works, but we have no other information about it

More restoration works 484? 508?

The last restoration works recorded, paid for by Praefectus Urbi Decius Marius Venantius Basilius. The date is uncertain. On this occasion a road was created crossing the amphitheatre, after having filled up the arena

Last Venatio 523

The last staged hunt is performed in the amphitheatre

Centuries of neglect VI-IX century

The valley starts filling up with earth; a road is built through the arena and the pillaging of material starts. The Colosseum is now property of the church of Santa Maria Nova.

Great development of Colosseum residences IX-XIII century

A map of the medieval paths through the amphitheatre. The priests of S. Maria Nova sell and rent houses and spaces in the monument, now called Amphitheatrum Colisei. A continuous row of houses is built against the N facade.

The Frangipane occupy the Colosseum 1084

The Normans of Robert the Guiscard sack Rome. The city falls into the hands of families in constant war. One of these families, the Frangipane, makes his residence in the Colosseum.

Earthquake - The Big One 1349

Poet Francesco Petrarca witnesses the extensive damage to the city

Avignon Papacy 1309-1377

The Pope moves to Avignon and the economy of the city dwindles. Population is reduced to 17.000

A religious brotherhood obtains the property of the Colosseum (and of its materials) 1382

The Arciconfraternita del SS. Salvatore ad Sancta Sanctorum gets one third of the Colosseum (the rest is of the Church and of the Roman Senate). Their sign is still affixed on the Colosseum. The Arciconfraternita also gets the concession to sell the materials. The Colosseum is practically privatized

The looting worsens XV-XVIII century

For centuries thousands of cartloads of stones are taken away from the amphitheatre to build palaces and churches

Pope Benedict XIV protects the Colosseum - Restoration starts 1750

At last a papal edict forbids the Colosseum to be violated. Restoration works start in several areas of the monument

The Via Crucis at the Colosseum 1752

The Arciconfraternita degli Amanti di Gesù e Maria (Brotherhood of the Lovers of Jesus and Mary) starts holding holy processions in the Colosseum: the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross). Visitors found the procession very spectacular

The French enter Rome and declare the Republic 1798

According to a project by the French occupants the Colosseum was to become part of a huge archaeological park including the whole centre of Rome.

Works on the amphitheatre 1800-1853

In these years are built the two abutments of bricks to reinforce the sides of the facade: in 1820 the "Stern" abutment on the NW side and in 1826 the other, more photographed one. In 1828 Antonio Nibby manages to empty all the surface drains, and in 1830 Luis Joseph Duc makes a first complete survey of the monument with modern means. More arches are reconstructed, and tie rods are installed to secure the facade

The new Italian State is born 1870

In 1874 the works to finally free the arena and reach the bottom start again. In the arena are found capitols, pieces of columns, inscriptions and debris. The stations of the cross in the arena were finally removed, notwithstanding the fierce opposition of the Catholic Church. Works to install drains and gas pipes led to more discoveries: the paved area around the amphitheatre on the N side, the boundary stones and a road.

Backdrop for parades 1930

Mussolini uses the Colosseum to hold fascist rallies. The area is deeply transformed by the cutting of the Velia and the opening of Via dell'Impero

The Metro works cut the foundations 1940

The metro line passes between the Colosseum and the arch of Constantine

The Colosseum stars in Roman Holiday 1953

In the 1953 romantic comedy by William Wyler, Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn tour the monuments of Rome on a Vespa

Bruce Lee fights in the Colosseum 1972

In the martial arts action comedy "The Way of the Dragon", a.k.a. "The Return of the Dragon", Bruce Lee travels from Hong Kong to Rome and defies his enemy, a young Chuck Norris, in the Colosseum

Thousands of tourists visit the Colosseum everyday

The Colosseum is the most visited monument in Italy. Click here for tips on a visit. See the latest news here