The Medieval Life of the Colosseum


Archaeologist working on Rome’s Colosseum have discovered that the ancient landmark continued to be used throughout the Middle Ages, but not as a gladiatorial arena. Instead, it was used homes, workshops and even stables.


The archaeological work, carried out by the University of Roman Tre and the American University of Rome, show that between the 9th century and the mid-14th century the site was rented out by ecclesiastical authorities into a series of apartments. Some were used as residential areas, others as shops or warehouses. Meanwhile, the main arena area was never re-developed, but rather “was used as a sort of hallway, common area,” according to Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani, a professor of medieval archaeology and director of the dig.

Rossella Rea, the director of the Colosseum, told the Telegraph that “Thanks to these excavations we’ve been able to identify an area of housing from the late medieval period. The Colosseum was used as an amphitheatre from around AD80 until about 523AD. It was then inhabited from the end of the ninth century until the 14th century.”

An earthquake in 1349, which caused part of the Colosseum to collapse, seems to have put an end to the arrangement. The site was gradually stripped of much of its stone and metalwork over the following centuries, and it was not until 1749 that Pope Benedict XIV consecrated the building allowing the remainder of the building to be preserved.

Among the artefacts found in the Colosseum was medieval cooking pottery, a piece of ivory shaped into a monkey that may have been a chess piece, and a terracotta sewer pipe that was installed in the 12th century.

More archaeological work will be carried out next year. The Colosseum is also undergoing a £20 million cleaning and restoration project.

16th century image of the Colosseum

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