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The Colosseum and Roman Emperors: Power, Politics, and Control

The Colosseum and Roman Emperors: Power, Politics, and Control


As one of the most iconic structures in Rome, the Colosseum stands as a testament to the power, politics, and control exerted by the emperors of ancient Rome. In this article, we will explore the role of the emperors in the construction of the Colosseum, as well as their patronage of the games held within its walls.

Emperors and Their Role in the Colosseum’s Construction:

The construction of the Colosseum was initiated by Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD and completed by his successors, Titus and Domitian. These emperors played a pivotal role in the realization of this magnificent amphitheater that would come to be known as the Colosseum.
Vespasian, a shrewd and pragmatic ruler, recognized the need for a grand spectacle to solidify his position as the new emperor. He seized upon the site of Nero’s lavish palace, the Domus Aurea, which had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Vespasian’s decision to build the Colosseum on this site was a symbolic act, reclaiming the space from the despised Nero and repurposing it for public entertainment.
Titus, Vespasian’s son and successor, continued his father’s legacy by overseeing the completion of the Colosseum. Under his rule, the construction was expedited, and the grand opening of the amphitheater in 80 AD was marked by an extravagant 100-day inaugural celebration. This event showcased the power and magnificence of the Roman Empire, solidifying Titus’s popularity among the people.
Domitian, the last emperor of the Flavian dynasty, made further enhancements to the Colosseum, introducing underground chambers and elaborate mechanisms to facilitate the staging of grand spectacles. His reign saw the Colosseum reach its zenith, becoming a symbol of imperial power and control.

Emperors as Patrons of the Games:

The emperors’ patronage of the games held within the Colosseum was a strategic tool employed to maintain control over the populace. The gladiatorial contests, wild animal hunts, and naval battles, known as naumachiae, were all part of the grand spectacles that entertained the Roman citizens and solidified their loyalty to the emperors.
The games served as a means for the emperors to display their wealth and power, while also distracting the masses from political issues and potential unrest. The Colosseum became the stage for these spectacles, providing a venue for emperors to assert their dominance and showcase their grandeur.
The games were not only a display of physical prowess but also a means of political propaganda. Emperors would often sponsor specific gladiators, who were seen as representatives of the emperor’s power and strength. These gladiators would fight in the arena, embodying the emperor’s might and control over life and death.
The Colosseum and the games held within its walls were also used as a tool for social control. The seating arrangements in the amphitheater were strictly regulated, with the emperor and his entourage occupying the best seats, while the lower classes were relegated to the upper tiers. This segregation reinforced the social hierarchy and emphasized the emperor’s authority.


The Colosseum stands as a testament to the power, politics, and control exerted by the Roman emperors. Through their role in the construction of the Colosseum and their patronage of the games held within it, the emperors solidified their authority and showcased their grandeur. The amphitheater served as a symbol of the Roman Empire’s might, a tool of political propaganda, and a means of social control. Today, the Colosseum remains a captivating reminder of the legacy of the Roman emperors and the enduring fascination with their power.
We hope you enjoyed this exploration of the Colosseum and its connection to the Roman emperors. If you’re planning a trip to Rome, be sure to include a visit to this iconic structure and immerse yourself in the rich history it represents. Stay tuned for more exciting articles on Rome and its treasures!