The Ludus Magnus is located in the valley between the Colle Oppio and Celio Hills in Rome. The part that can still be seen is located between the present Via Labicana and the Via di San Giovanni in Laterano. The Ludus Magnus was the most important one of the four gladiator schools that existed in Rome.
Ludus Magnus Rome
History and description
The first excavations took place in 1937, but it was not until 1960 that the complex was completely dug up. the ruins had been found by chance during the construction of a new building.
The reason the Ludus Magnus was built in this exact spot was because it had to be next to the Colosseum. The two buildings were connected by a hallway, which led from the underground area of the Colosseum to the south-west corner of the Ludus Magnus.
The Ludus Magnus consisted of at least two floors. The gladiators practiced their arts in a central elliptical space. It was circled by the steps of a small cavea, which even had a VIP box. Around the cavea was a quadriportico with columns of travertine marble. Each side of the quadriportico was approximately 100 meters. There was a water basin in each corner, though only the one in the north-west corner is visible. Beyond this were the gladiators’ quarters, all in all around 130 cells. Some of these spaces were used as storage space for the gladiators’ equipment.
The cells on the northern side have been excavated. The emperor Commodus, who moonlighted as a gladiator himself sometimes, used to sleep in one of them.
The oldest part of the Ludus Magnus (a number of structures underneath the arena itself) was constructed in the times of the Republic and of the Emperor Augustus. Domitian created the actual Ludus, with the rectangular courtyard, the taverns, the portico and the cavea.
Between the 2nd and 4th centuries a series of renovations took place. Trajan had the entire complex, including the arena, heightened. Later restorations took place under Odoacre.
There was a monumental entrance on the Via Labicana, which was probably only accessible for important visitors.
The brickwork structures that are visible were originally covered by marble slabs.
Other gladiator schools were the Ludus Dacicus, the Ludus Gallicus, and the Ludus Matutinus. The latter specialized in teaching the men to fight wild animals.
Address, opening hours and admission
The Ludus Magnus is located at the corner of the Via Labicana and the Piazza del Colosseo. Rione: Monti. Metro: Colosseo (line B). Tram: 3, 8. Bus: 75, 85, 87, 118, C3, N2, N10 (stop: Celio Vibenna). Opening hours: Visits are organized by so-called “Cultural Associations” and are fairly sparse. For information about specific dates you can call (+39)060608. Booking by phone is obligatory. Admission: 4 Euros + whatever the Cultural Association will charge you for the tour. Rome residents: The visit is free on the first Sunday of the month. You will have to pay for the tour though.
Note that if you want to make a booking for April, May and June, the earliest date you can do this is December 16th. For July, August and September you can start booking on March 15th and for October, November and December you can start on June 16th.
It is possible to look down on the building from the Via Labicana and the Via di San Giovanni in Laterano. The space underneath the cavea cannot be visited.