First came the Gladiators then a few centuries later came the Colosseum, just in time for the first Christians and their persecutions.
The name “Gladiator” came from the typical Roman sword called the “Gladius“, a type of Roman sword. The actual ritual of men fighting to the death was inherited from the Etruscans who used it as part of the burial ceremony as an offering of warriors in honour of the deceased. Roman funerals also adopted this practice.
The original name of the “Colosseum” was actually the “Flavian Amphitheatre” which literally means “the double theatre built by the Flavians (dynasty)”. The name Colosseum or Coliseum was adopted much later. It stems from the name “Colossus” meaning something huge or gigantic. Although we would instantly be tempted to assume that it was the theatre which was colossal there is much to suggest that actually the name made reference to a huge bronze statue of emperor Nero which was placed nearby.
I think we are all more or less aware as to where the name “Christian” comes from. Perhaps not quite as many Christians died in the Colosseum as the Christian historians might have led us to think but certainly many did die there. The subject of Christian persecution is lengthy and better dealt with in this page about Christian persecution in the Roman Empire.
The Colosseum: | Amphitheatres in Ancient Rome| Structure of the Colosseum | The games at the Colosseum | Capital punishment | Organisation of the animal shows | Shows with Wild Beasts | Naval war games Naumachiae | Why the Colosseum? | Gladiators and Christians | Rise and Fall of the Gladiators | Pictures of the Colosseum |