Colchester Archaeology Talks: Searching for the Colosseum’s backstage team

They called it the Flavian Amphitheatre. We call it the Colosseum. In 80AD the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire was inaugurated with 100 days of Games. But the Games didn’t just happen. They were made. The backstage team of the Colosseum are never mentioned, yet a 50-70,000 seat amphitheatre could not possibly have staged Games on the scale we read about in historical sources without a large and complex team behind the scenes. How does an author of historical fiction go about recreating the invisible team at the heart of the most famous building left to us by Imperial Rome?

Join us online for a fundraising talk in aid of the Colchester Archaeological Trust with Melissa Addey, author of From the Ashes, first in a new series of four novels focused on the backstage team of the Colosseum. From initial ideas and research trips through to working with experts in the era to perfect minor details, as well as the reasons behind her fictional choices, Melissa will explore the history behind the storytelling. All ticket proceeds go to supporting the Colchester Archaeological Trust.

BUY TICKETS HERE for Melissa’s online talk at 7.30pm, Thursday 15 April 2021.

The money raised from this series of talks will allow the Trust to develop future self-sustaining income streams to support its valuable work.

From the Ashes is the first book in the Colosseum series, a quartet of novels following the fictional backstage team of the Flavian Amphitheatre facing dangers and rewards through the elements of fire, water, earth and air. It is available as an eBook and in paperback via Amazon, CLICK HERE.

Melissa Addey has a PhD in Creative Writing and was the Leverhulme Trust Writer in Residence at the British Library. She writes historical fiction set in 11th century Morocco, 18th century China and 1st century Rome. She lives in London with her husband and two children. CLICK HERE to read more about Melissa and explore her books,

Have your say…

We are delighted that the future of Colchester’s Roman Circus, a unique archaeological monument in Britain, is being considered in Colchester Borough Council’s ‘Roman Circus Management Plan’.

The buried archaeological remains of a Roman Circus (chariot racing track) were identified during archaeological investigations in advance of the redevelopment of the former Colchester Garrison in 2004/5. Chariot racing was the oldest and most popular sport in the Roman world and the Colchester Circus is the only example in the country and it is one of only six locations in the northwest provinces of the Roman Empire where circuses have been securely identified. The Roman Circus was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 2007.

The purpose of the Management Plan is to set out an overarching strategy for the management of the Roman Circus and to define the roles and responsibilities of the Council and other stakeholders. The Plan sets out a framework for the conservation, enhancement, interpretation, presentation and celebration of the Colchester Roman Circus for the next five years. The Plan is intended to be a dynamic document and the actions may be adapted in response to changes in management context over the life of the plan. It is proposed that each year an action plan is developed that outlines the actions that are to be delivered over the forthcoming year by the relevant partners. It is intended to adopt the Roman Circus Management Plan as a Supplementary Planning Guidance document.

Please have a read through and share your views on plans for the management of Colchester’s Roman Circus over the next five years… 👇· Colchester Borough Council

Colchester Archaeology Talks: Roman Life – Chariot Racing

Chariot racing was the greatest spectator sport of the Roman period. With its racing teams, star drivers and celebrity horses, it provided sports fans with all the elements necessary to engage and excite. The fanatical support of a team colour is just of the legacies. Emperors also came to realise that the races served a political role – especially in Rome. The provision of games kept the populace ‘on side’, acting as a safety valve on social unrest.

BUY TICKETS HERE for Richard’s online talk at 7.30pm, Thursday 25 March 2021.

The ‘Roman Life’ series of talks from Richard Bale explores different aspects of living in Roman times using archaeological and historical evidence. Each talk seeks to reveal the hows and whys of a topic, so that we can understand both the similarities and differences with our Roman ancestors.

Colchester Archaeology Talks: Roman Life – Gladiators

Romans both admired and despised those who were unfortunate enough to become gladiators. Despite being considered to be at the lowest level of society, images of gladiators were used decoratively in homes and mementoes were produced of favourite fighters e.g. the Colchester Vase. This talk will explore what it meant to be a gladiator, their training, and the dichotomy around this briefest of career paths.

BUY TICKETS HERE for Richard’s online talk at 7.30pm, Thursday 25 February 2021.

The ‘Roman Life’ series of talks from Richard Bale explores different aspects of living in Roman times using archaeological and historical evidence. Each talk seeks to reveal the hows and whys of a topic, so that we can understand both the similarities and differences with our Roman ancestors.

Race to the Roman Circus…


Due to all of Essex moving to Tier 4 COVID-19 restrictions from Boxing Day (26 December 2020) museum venues must remain closed until further notice.


11am – 3pm

As the recent lockdowns have prevented some visitors from seeing our amazing ‘Colchester’s Street of Tombs’ exhibition, we will be keeping it running for a limited time so no one misses out.

The entrance fee to the Visitor Centre will be £3, or £6 including a guided tour of the Roman Circus archaeological remains. Under 11’s go FREE.

Are you a ‘Friend’ of Colchester Archaeological Trust or member of The Association for Roman Archaeology? If so, show your membership card when you arrive for FREE admittance to the Visitor Centre!

Association for Roman Archaeology

The Friends of The Colchester Archaeological Trust

More exciting news… The Roman Circus Café in the Visitor Centre is open too serving homemade cakes, light refreshments and hot/cold drinks. Outside undercover seating and take-away service available.

As COVID-prevention measures are still in place we will continue to limit the number of visitors inside the building (masks to be worn, unless exempt) and use the NHS Test and Trace forms and QR code app.

We look forward to welcoming you… but please remember that we are closed on Mondays.

NHS Test and Trace

Recording Customer Details – How we use your information

To support NHS Test and Trace, we have decided to collect and keep a limited record of staff, customers and visitors who come onto our premises for the purpose of contact tracing.

By maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors, and sharing these with NHS Test and Trace where requested, we can help to identify people who may have been exposed to the Coronavirus.

As a customer/visitor of the Colchester Archaeological Trust you will be asked to provide some basic information and contact details.

The following information will be collected:

  • The names of all customers or visitors, or if it is a group of people, the name of one member of the group.
  • A contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people.
  • Date of visit, arrival and departure time.
  • If you only interact with one member of staff during your visit, the name of the assigned staff member will be recorded alongside your information.

NHS Test and Trace have asked us to retain this information for 21 days from the date of your visit, to enable contact tracing to be carried out by NHS Test and Trace during that period. We will only share information with NHS Test and Trace if it is specifically requested by them. For example, if another customer at the venue reported symptoms and subsequently tested positive, NHS Test and Trace can request the log of customer details for a particular time period. We may require you to pre-book appointments for visits or to complete a form on arrival.

Under government guidance, the information we collect may include information which we would not ordinarily collect from you and which we therefore collect only for the purpose of contact tracing. Information of this type will not be used for other purposes, and NHS Test and Trace will not disclose this information to any third party unless required to do so by law. In addition, where the information is only collected for the purpose of contact tracing it will be destroyed by us 21 days after the date of your visit.

Your information will always be stored and used in compliance with the relevant data protection legislation.

The use of your information is covered by the General Data Protection Regulations Article 6 (1) (f) – legitimate interests of the venue/establishment. The legitimate interest in this case is the interest of the venue/establishment in co-operating with NHS Test and Trace in order to help maintain a safe operating environment and to help fight any local outbreak of coronavirus.

If you do not wish your contact information to be passed to NHS Test and Trace if requested, please speak to the Visitor Centre Manager.

By law, you have a number of rights as a data subject, such as the right to access information held about you. If you are unhappy or wish to complain about how your information is used, you should contact a member of staff in the first instance to resolve your issue. If you are still not satisfied, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Their website address is

Sell out lectures!

Due to the spectacular success of the Colchester Archaeology Talks, unless your seats have already been reserved, from 14th February 2020 tickets for the three remaining talks must be bought in advance.

Please pop into the Roman Circus Visitor Centre, Monday to Friday 11 am to 3 pm, to buy your tickets (cash or cheque).

Alternatively, post a cheque to ‘CAT TALKS’ at the Visitor Centre, made payable to Colchester Archaeological Trust, indicating which talk/s you would like tickets for.

Seating is limited to 100, so don’t wait!

Half-Term Roman Circus Experience

Wednesday. 30 October 3019, 11am – 1pm.

Know a little person who’s learning about the Romans this year?


Find out how the people of Roman Colchester liked to have fun watching the chariot races.

Join the Roman lady, Antonia, at Colchester’s Roman Circus.

Find out fascinating facts about the Britain’s only-known Roman chariot-racing track and explore the archaeological remains of the starting gates.

Try some Roman-style food and complete our Roman Circus Quiz.


£5 per child
£3.50 per ‘Roman’ Child (a good excuse to dress up!)
No charge for accompanying adults.