The Ludus Magnus - otherwise known as the Gladiator School - was built by the Emperor Domitian (81-96AD) and lies just to the east (left in the lead photo) of the Flavian amphitheatre, although it is far better known as the Colosseum. In its day, the Ludus Magnus was Rome's foremost academy for training gladiators. Fragments of the now famous Severian map of Rome - engraved on marble slabs - had revealed the existence of the Ludus Magnus as far back as 1562, but it was not until its chance discovery in 1937 that Rome's Gladiator School once again saw the light of day!
The main entrance of the Gladiator School was off the Via Labicana - as it still is today. It led into a colonnaded courtyard surrounded by the gladiators' quarters.
At the centre of the Ludus Magnus, built on two levels, there was an ellipsoidal arena in which the gladiators practised. It was circumscribed by the steps of a small cavea, probably reserved for a limited number of spectators. The cavea had a four-sided portico (of about 100m per side) with travertine columns. It led to a number of outside rooms, to be used by the gladiators and as services for the performances. Only a few ruins in Travertine remain of the colonnade which was raised in the place where the columns were probably located originally. Seating was provided, however this was only for a very limited number of select spectators.
Gladiator School at its southwestern corner.
Between the second and forth centuries the Gladiator School underwent numerous alterations, especially at the hands of Trajan (98-117AD). However, it was the abolition of gladiatorial contests in the 6th century that eventually led to its closure.
A large part of the brickwork structures were originally covered by marble slabs that were later removed.
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