Who Helped Finance the Roman Colosseum?

In Archaeology, Blogs by Chris Katulka8 Comments


We’ve all seen the famous Roman Colosseum either in a photograph, movie, or in person.

The larger-than-life amphitheater in Rome is visited by more than 4.5 million tourists a year who are anxious to envisage themselves as Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator. I know I did when I stepped foot in the two thousand year old amphitheater in the spring of 2001.

The construction of the Colosseum started around 72 AD while Vespasian was emperor, it was semi-completed in 80 AD when Titus, his son, was ruling the massive Roman Empire.  The Colosseum was originally named the Amphitheatrum Flavium after both Vespasian and Titus whose family name was Flavius.

Just prior to the construction of the Colosseum, the newly crowned Emperor Vespasian commissioned his son, Titus, to squelch the Jewish rebellion that was growing in Judea c.68/69 AD. By 70 AD Titus marched confidently into Jerusalem with the Roman Twelfth Legion. This Roman force conquered Jerusalem and slaughtered 1.1 million people according to Josephus, and destroyed much of the city and Temple along with it.

We know for certain Roman soldiers carried away much of the sacred Temple treasures, it’s documented in writings and even carved in stone. A massive arch, called the Arch of Titus, built in 82 AD, is donned with carvings of Titus’ many victories and stands just outside the Colosseum. One of the largest carvings on the inside of the arch depicts the Roman soldiers carrying away Temple treasures, one treasure in particular is the Menorah.

Historians know for certain that Roman Empire was in poor financial condition because of Emperor Nero’s (Vespasian’s predecessor) ridiculously lavish spending and the devastating fire that destroyed much of Rome in 64 BC.

So how did Vespasian and Titus afford to build the Colosseum?

As you enter the Colosseum from the main entrance on the west side a large inscription is chiseled into the archway above. Archeologist have been examining this archway inscription, scrutinizing the embedded holes that once held a raised text. Many argue the marks in the archway inscription says,

“The Emperor Titus Caesar Vespasian Augustus ordered the new amphitheatre to be made from the (proceeds from the sale of the) booty.”

The mention of the word “booty” (MANVBIS in Latin) was what gave scholars the clue on who helped finance the amphitheater. As mentioned earlier, sitting just outside the Colosseum is the Arch of Titus showing the spoils or “booty” from Titus’ sack of Jerusalem.

The sheer proximity of the Arch of Titus and date when building began led many archeologists and scholars to believe the gold and sacred Temple treasures from Jerusalem were brought to Rome, then sold, and the proceeds from the sale of those artifacts helped fund the Colosseum that is still standing today. Quite interesting!

About the Author
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Chris Katulka

Chris Katulka is the director of North American Ministries for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, the host of The Friends of Israel Today radio program, a Bible teacher, and writer for Israel My Glory magazine. He is also the author of Israel Always: Experiencing God’s Pursuit of You Through His Chosen People. If you would like to support Chris, please click here.

Comments 8

  1. Yes . Very very sad. People need to realize what Titus Arch stands for ! The horrible, ugly truth behind a beautiful peace of architecture.

    1. Yes, it is time for Rome to make reparations to the Jewish nation of Israel for the destruction
      and looting of the Great Temple of Jerusalem, and of the destruction of Jerusalem itself, and killing one million of its inhabitants in 70 AD.

  2. I’ve been to Rome and seen the colosseum. Now I know where the funds come from. Thanks. Can you provide historical records or references? Thanks Chris

    1. Also, you should know slaves, often from war, built the coliseum, got the resources, fought in it sometimes dying, often without a proper burial!!!

  3. Pingback: The World Since the Fall of Rome and Constantinople, Part One: Building the Beasts of the Earth and Sea, 62 AD – 1453 AD – THE CONSERVATIVE HISTORICAL REVIEW

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