Flavian Amphitheater aka The Colosseum The Colosseum is probably the most famous landmark in Rome. Built in the 1st century AD, this great arena could seat around 50,000 spectators and was the largest Roman amphitheater in the world. It hosted gladiatorial combats, spectacles with wild beasts and possibly the execution of early Christians. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Colosseum was believed to be a place of martyrdom and was therefore regarded as a sacred place.
The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Leon Gerome (1883).
Construction on the Colosseum began under Emperor Vespasian (69-79) and was completed under his son Titus (79-81) in 80 AD. It was built on the site of an artificial lake created by Nero in this valley between Rome's many hills, in front of his DomusAurea palace.
The name "Colosseum" was not used until 7th century, and derives from the colossal statue of Nero that once stood here. After Nero's death, the statue was transformed into a representation of Helios, the sun god. It remained standing until the Middle Ages, when it was probably melted down for its bronze.
The seating, supported by concrete vaults, was in three tiers, with standing room above it. The arena was cut off by a fence and a high platform carrying marble chairs for guilds and officials, including boxes for the emperor and magistrates
Interior of the Colosseum, Rome. Thomas Cole, 1832.
The arena was floored in timber, covering cages for beasts, mechanical elevators, and drains Audiences held tickets corresponding to the 76 numbered arcades, from where an elaborate system of staircases serviced all parts of the auditorium
-arena itself consisted of wooden floor covered by sand which covered elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum-arena comes from the Latin word HARENA = SAND
Hypogeum two-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began
The Flavian Amphitheatre was damaged by fire and earthquake several times but was continually restored until the end of the 5th century. Gladiatorial combats were outlawed by the Christian emperor Honorius in 407 and fights with wild beasts were banned in 523. After this, the arena went out of use.
Pollice Verso("Thumbs Down") by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1
Why is the inside of the Colosseum so damaged? Earthquakes, fires, human mistreatment The cathedrals of St. Peter and St. John Lateran, the Palazzo Venezia and the Tiber's river defences, for example, all exploited the Colosseum as a convenient quarry. The marble seating area which used to line the inside of the Colosseum was quarried. The marble was then melted down into quicklime to use for the facades of the buildings listed above.