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The building of the

Roman Colosseum (c. 70-80 AD)

QUICK FACTS

NAME: Colosseum, Flavian Amphitheater (Ampitheatrum Flavium)

BUILT: c. 70 -80 AD by Vespasian, Titus, Domitian

LOCATION: Rome, Italy

CAPACITY: 50.000 - 80.000 spectators

PURPOSE: Gladiator contests, public spectacles

CREDITS: UNESCO World Heritage; New 7 Wonders of the World

Measuring 620 by 513 feet, the Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater was begun by Vespasian. Located between the Esquiline and Caelian Hills, it was the first amphitheater to be built in the Roman soil. Its grandeur and enormous size, as well as its efficient and practical organization for controlling the large crowds and producing spectacles, make it one of the great architectural monuments achieved by the ancient Romans.

The massive stone amphitheater known as the Flavian was begun by Vespasian, inaugurated by Titus in 80 A.D and completed by Domitian. In A.D. 80, Vespasian's son Titus opened the Colosseum–officially known as the "Flavian Amphitheater".

Origin of the Colosseum

After the death of Nero, the Roman emperor in A.D. 68, his excesses and misrule resulted in the series of civil wars; history archive has it that four emperors took the throne in the uproarious year after his death.

The fourth emperor, Vespasian, ended up ruling for ten years (A.D. 69-79). Vespasian and his sons Titus (79-81) and Domitian (81-96) known as Flavian emperors, attempted to address the excesses of the Roman court, promote public welfare and reinstate Senate authority.

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During A.D 70-72, Vespasian returned the lush land to the Roman people, where Nero had built a massive palace for himself after a great fire burnt down Rome in A.D. 64. “On the site of the Golden Palace, would be built a new amphitheater where the public could enjoy gladiatorial combats and other kinds of games and entertainments” -Vespasian decreed.

The Roman Colosseum is Located just east between the Caelian and Esquiline Hills of the Roman Forum. After a decade of constructing the gigantic building–Titus officially dedicated the Colosseum in A.D. 80 with a festival including 100 days of games and entertainments. A famous ruler, the people’s choice, Titus had earned his people’s allegiance and devotion with his handling and recovery efforts after the infamous reign of Vesuvius in A.D. 79, which destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The Colosseum was completed under the reign of Titus brother and successor, Domitian.

A grand amphitheatre - Colosseum

The building of 1st century A.D. gladiators is a vast ellipse with tiers of seating for more than 50,000 spectators around a central elliptical coliseum. Below the wooden arena floor, lies the complex set of passageways and rooms for wild beasts and other provisions for staging the spectacles. Eighty walls radiate from the amphitheater and support undercrofts for passageways, tiers of seats and the stairways. The outer edge circumferential arcades connect each level and the stairs between levels.

The three rows of arcades are faced by entablatures and three-quarter columns, the first story is the Doric, the second is the Ionic, and the third is the Corinthian. Above them is an attic story with small window openings in alternate bays and Corinthian pilasters. At the top sockets and brackets lies the Mast from which the velarium, a canopy for shade, was hanged.

The construction utilized a careful combination of composites such as travertine for the piers, concrete for the foundations, brick-faced concrete was used for the upper levels, and most of the vaults, arcades, and tufa were used to fill between piers for the walls of the lower two levels.

Facts about the Roman Colosseum

• The amphitheater, Colosseum was actively used four centuries, until the gradual change in public tastes and the struggles of the Western Roman Empire put an end to gladiatorial combats and entertainments by the 6th century A.D.

• The combination of natural disasters, weather, vandalism, and neglect had destroyed nearly two-thirds of the original Colosseum, including its decorative elements and marble seats in the 20th century.

• Reconstruction began in the 1990s and had progressed over the years, as the Colosseum continues to be a center of attraction for tourists.