The Colosseum also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built. The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72, and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name. The Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, having an average audience of some 65,000; it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine. Although partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is still an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and also has links to the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.
The Roman Colosseum is the most famous monument to have survived from the classical world. It was built nearly two thousand years ago for the purpose of hosting violent gladiator games. Thousands of men and animals fought for their lives in the sandy arena. A few gladiators and warriors found glory there. Some even found fame and riches but many more died an anonymous death, providing entertainment for eager Roman spectators. The powerful associations and images evoked by the Roman Colosseum express both the majesty and might of the Roman empire. It dominates the space it occupies, towering above the surrounding Roman streets and buildings and remains one of Rome’s top visited tourist attractions. It is a symbol of the imperial might and architectural ingenuity of the Roman empire that dominated the ancient Mediterranean world for centuries. The story of the amphitheater and its gladiator games from their origins through the zenith of their development and into the decline and eventual fall provides a unique insight into the evolution and fall of the Roman empire itself.
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