Rome’s Colosseum Will Get a New Retractable Floor by 2023 — Just as It Had in Ancient Times

Rome wasn’t built in a day. But one of its most renowned attractions could be returned to its first-century glory in just two years — or at least, part of one of its most famous attractions could be. In our time, the Colosseum has long been a major Roman tourist destination–one that lacks even a proper floor. Visitors today see right through to its underground hypogeum, an impressive mechanical labyrinth used to convey gladiators into the arena, as well as a variety of other performers, willing and unwilling, human and otherwise. “Eyewitnesses describe how animals appeared suddenly from below, as if by magic, sometimes apparently launched high into the air,” writes Smithsonian‘s Tom Mueller.

“The hypogeum allowed the organizers of the games to create surprises and build suspense,” the German Archaeological Institute in Rome’s Heinz-Jürgen Beste tells Mueller. “A hunter in the arena wouldn’t know where the next lion would appear, or whether two or three lions might emerge instead of just one.”

Now, the Italian government has announced plans to return the element of surprise to the Colosseum with a restoration of its elaborate “retractable floor.” This has drawn the attention of media concerned with history and travel, but also the world of architecture and design. With €10 million already pledged by the state, the worldwide call is out for architectural proposals, due by February 1 of this year for a tentative completion date of 2023.

The Colosseum, which once seated 50,000 spectators, hasn’t put on a battle since the fifth century. The hypogeum’s long exposure to the elements means that any architectural firm eager to take on this project will have its work cut out for it. Few restorations could demand the striking of a trickier balance between historical faithfulness and modern functionality. Whatever design gets selected, its trap doors and hidden elevators will be employed for rather different entertainments than, say, the death matches between slaves and beasts to which so many ancient Romans thrilled. The Italian government intends to use the Colosseum’s new floor to put on theater productions and concerts – which should turn it into an even more popular attraction when we can all once again go to the theater, concerts, and indeed Italy.

via Smithsonian

Related Content:

Rome Reborn: Take a Virtual Tour of Ancient Rome, Circa 320 C.E.

High-Resolution Walking Tours of Italy’s Most Historic Places: The Colosseum, Pompeii, St. Peter’s Basilica & More

Building the Colosseum: The Icon of Rome

Magnificent Ancient Roman Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Verona, Italy

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


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  • David says:

    Please tell me instead of sentencing people to death by chair or injection they use this now.. I bet crime will go down greatly if you knew you had a chance of being eaten in public by lions..

  • David says:

    Please tell me instead of sentencing people to death by chair or injection they use this now.. I bet crime will go down greatly if you knew you had a chance of being eaten in public by lions..

    How do you guys keep telling me there is a duplicate comment detected when I am the first one to comment.. You guys are weird man.

  • David says:

    Well now I feel dumb.. I guess you guy’s posted it twice.. 🤔👍🏼

  • Serene says:

    What for?? A new floor celebrating all the pain, misery and death that was intentionally caused in that place?? Disgusting.

  • Vishnu Ramcharitar says:

    THAT ROMAN COLLSIUM IS FULL OF BLOODSHED OF MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS AND OTHERS THAT DIE AT THE HANDS OF ROMAN’S THIS PLACE SHOULD NEVER BE REBUILD ITS A MARK OF HATRED ATROCITIES GENOCIDE EVIL WICKEDNESS VISIOU MURDERERS DEMONIC I NEVER WANT TO HEAR OR TO SEE THAT PLACE IT HISTORY IS THE SAME A THE GERMAN FUROR HITLER BUILDING THAT PLACE IS LIKE BUILDING HITLER MUSOLINI STATUE AND PUT IT IN EACH EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ITS REMINDED ME OF HATRED SATANIC INHUMAN BEHAVIOR ENDLESS MURDERS OF CHRISTIANS AND OTHERS THOSE ROMANS THAT WANT TO REBUILD THAT COLLISUM THEY HEART ARE FULL OF DARKNESS EVIL IT IS SHAMEFUL UNETHICAL

  • Kevin says:

    It never matters what you make the penalty. People don’t weigh the possibility of being caught and convicted. They never have.

  • Kevin says:

    When I read the story I thought it was pretty cool architecturally speaking. You have a point though. This is pretty tone deaf.

  • Shawn says:

    Absolutely agree. Very distasteful. And surely the Vatican is in charge of the restoration in some of not most of it. Goes to show Satan is still using Babylon the Great to showcase it’s atrocities in plain view. It wasn’t enough for the prostitute to change His commands and have today’s “Christians” fooled into thinking they worship God ( Sunday Service, Christmas, Easter, Cross, patron saint and Mary reverence ). They seem it necessary to revamp the place where the true Christians course to follow the commands Christ taught by his example instead of following the change. ( New Covenant Sabbath and Passover)

    Dan 7:25, Rev 13, 17 and 18

  • William Klock says:

    This to me is interesting as heck to know how they built and removed the floor and is hopefully historical accurate. And to show the engineering of way back then we could hardly do something like this today. I mean the flooding and removal of the water just love the ideas they had! And no past judgment of the way of life back then here. that’s the way it was pretty wild but love the idea and one day I will go there bucket list no doubt!!!!

  • Esmeralda Crespo says:

    How would you kno! Were you there? Because theh wrote said it did? Then dig a hole put your head in it bc your world of CAPITAL LETTERS TYPING ISNT DOING NOTHING! GO AWAY STOP READING THIS OR NEWS TAKE A XANEX DIE!

  • Kathy says:

    I read article due to floor as i kept on reading then the comments whoa, esmeralda has issues. Lol
    Let’s all pray she gets better..
    As for the pope and Christians this was the place that did all this stuff? Really? Murdered killed dismembered humans now it going to come back to life to do it again?? I wouldn’t be surprised if that the place that beheads people after christ comes back. Bought up the religion of christianity…

  • Lotetta says:

    Rome is the last Gentile power who According to scripture is put down but not totally, and comes back in last days.How interesting that their means of persecuting Christians is is being refurbished, just in time for the end stage of the game. There is persecution worldwide on Christians and it is ramping up. But one day I believe soon, at least 2000 later than his ascension,Jesus is coming to rule and reigns on earth as He does in Heaven. Even so come Lord Jesus come

  • Myrna De Jesus says:

    That is actually the way Ricky Gervais recently stated he’d like to go.

  • Matt Thompson says:

    I expect there will be a 150% increase in Wilhelm screams during football (soccer) matches when this is completed, or I will be very, very disappointed.

  • Myrna De Jesús says:

    (He wants to be fed to lions).

  • Thebeast says:

    Hmmmm, why not make it an interactive holographic engineering model and show what could happen… pg shows in morning, R in afternoon, X at night…
    Or virtual reality goggles you wear and just walk around in a predetermined (and safe) path around the existing grounds. You can walk the hallways that once were. Sit in the spectator watching the event with 300 other people (6 feet apart because…. Pandemic)

    Rebuild seems pointless to me… Why not make replicas of it instead? Mega replicas….

  • Wilfredo N/A Lopez says:

    Incredible,recreating a scenario of torture, enslavement and death. This is all for profit and it is simply a disgrace.. Roman’s take this place of historic pain, and terror and keep it.
    I bet this will not be a place to visit for touristic profit.

  • George E Kell says:

    Wonder if the US had it in the 700 billion dollar stimulus funding monies we gave to other countries. At least they held back 200 billion of the 900 billion to give the little people 600 dollars. But it’s all play money, no worry’s.

  • Angela says:

    Agreed.

  • R McCoy says:

    I agree…just leave history where it began. What it wrong with this or any government wanting to bring back the memories of so many horrific death’s.

  • Richard P says:

    Wouldnt the vibration of a retractable floor risk damaging the structure?

  • robin Vierra says:

    It’s part of history and if you start tearing down things just because you don’t like what happen there. That’s what’s wrong with this world now.Everyone who don’t like history want’s to rewrite it.Remember if you don’t remember your history you will repeat it

  • David Parks says:

    Thank You so very much!

  • Ryan stewart says:

    I like seeing things like this exist, but my thing is, why is it being rebuilt?..and what is suppose to go inside of it?..I hope not a museum?

  • Whuddaeff says:

    Derp you feeling derp call when I’m done here in about half in you can call or email you feeling any in

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