About Ludus Magnus
The Ludus Magnus was ancient Rome’s largest and most prestigious gladiator training school, located right alongside the famous Roman Colosseum.
Originally built between 81-96AD by Emperor Domitian, it was used as a training school for the gladiators who were to fight in the Colosseum. It was later rebuilt by Emperor Trajan between 98-117 AD, and it is from this period that the visible ruins we can see today are attributed.
Often forgotten and overshadowed, both literally and figuratively, by the impressive Colosseum, the Ludus Magnus has a rich history. Discovered in 1937, the complex was originally made up of a central training arena, a few stands for limited spectators and barracks & storage rooms for equipment. There was also a tunnel that would have run between the underground chambers of the amphitheatre and the training centre, making travel between the two speedy for the next round of gladiators.
Still visible today are the foundations of the spectator stands, gladiator barracks and one side of the arena itself. Visitors can view the cells gladiators would have been held in and the water fountains they would have drunk from before and after they trained, one of these four has been restored in the northwest corner.
The ruins of the Ludus Magnus are easily accessible from Via San Giovanni, which runs parallel to Via Labicana, the wide roman road that runs from the Colosseum down to Basilica di San Clemente, making this a perfect stop on a walking tour of Rome’s best sights.
Visitors can peer down into the ruins from the pavement of Via San Giovanni where informative signs will describe what they are viewing, or they can enjoy a drink at one of the many cafes that line the other side of the complex, giving fantastic views onto the remains of the school.
It is not possible to enter the complex, but it is possible to walk around all four sides and due to its sunken nature, meaning the entirety of the restored ruins is visible from any point. With the Colosseum rising behind, this is the perfect point to learn about the history of gladiator combat and the intense physical training they undertook; understandably it is a popular stop on many of the walking tours of Rome and given its proximity to the Colosseum it is not to be missed.
Contributed by Isabelle Moore