The plan to update the Roman Colosseum

Filled to bursting: The Colosseum was large enough to hold 50,000 spectators. © Getty

Should old buildings be changed? Officials in Italy have plans to build a new, hi-tech floor in the Colosseum. It will give visitors the chance to stand where gladiators once fought.

What’s happening

The year is 120 AD. There are thousands of people in the stadium in the middle of Rome.

The crowd looks down to the floor in the middle. Flamma the gladiator is fighting even better than usual. Swords clash. There is a struggle. Suddenly, his enemy is down. Flamma wins again. The crowd roars.

Find out more

The Italian government have begun plans to build a new floor for the Colosseum.

The idea is to give visitors a chance to experience the building exactly as a gladiator did.

The Colosseum was built by the Romans in 80 AD. It was an outdoor theatre used for public events. Sometimes this was a play or a public event. But most commonly, it was used for gladiator fights.

Archaeologists removed the old floor in the 1800s to show the tunnels below where fighters and animals were kept before battles.

The new floor will cover these. But it will be able to move so that tourists can see the tunnels as well.

Not everyone is keen on the idea. Some say it is better to leave ancient monuments alone.

Should old buildings be updated?

Some say…

Yes! Historical objects and places are much more interesting when they come to life. Visitors love walking around Pompeii and thinking about life there. Updating the Colosseum will have the same effect. The new floor will let us stand where gladiators stood. We will feel how big and scary it was. It will help us understand history much better.

Others think…

No! Nobody goes to an ancient building expecting it to be perfect. They visit because it was built by the Romans. If we replace the floor, that will not be true any more. The Colosseum has survived for 2,000 years. It might be a bit crumbly but that’s part of its charm. We do not have a right to change this.

You Decide

  1. Would you rather visit an ancient monument as much as you liked, or travel back in time to experience it for one day?

Activities

  1. You have been given the job of coming up with a plan to modernise an ancient building in your country. Choose a building and then draw your idea. Present it to the rest of your class.

Some People Say...

“While the Colosseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Colosseum falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, the world shall fall.”

Venerable Bede (c.673 – 735 AD), English Benedictine monk

What do you think?

Word Watch

Stadium
A large outdoor building with rows of seats for spectators at sports or public events.
Rome
The city at the centre of the ancient Roman Empire.
Flamma
A Syrian gladiator. He was offered freedom four times but liked fighting so much that he did not give up.
Gladiator
Professional fighters in Ancient Rome. They were usually slaves or criminals. If they fought well enough, they could earn freedom. Gladiators fought against other people and wild animals.
Archaeologists
Someone whose job it is to understand what people of the past were like and how they lived. They dig up old buildings and objects to find out more about ancient peoples.
Tunnels
The basement under the Colosseum is called the Hypogeum. It has two levels and is full of corridors that gladiators used to get in and out.
Monuments
A monument is a building that is meant to remember a person or event. A statue is a monument.
Pompeii
A Roman town in Italy. It was buried under ash after a nearby volcano erupted. The ash preserved the town so well that today people can walk through the streets and into some buildings.

Subjects

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