ColosseumThe Colosseum, or Flavian Amphitheatre, is the largest structure left to us by Roman antiquity, and has provided the model for sports areas right down to modern times; the football stadia of the present day have basically the same form as this monument created by the architects of the Flavian Emperors, Vespasian and Titus. The object of the Emperors in raising the Colosseum was to satisfy the appetite of the Roman populace for circenses (games), and there is no doubt that they achieved their aim.A bronze cross in the arena commemorates the Christian martyrs who were believed to have died here during the Roman Imperial period. There is some doubt, however, whether large numbers of Christians in fact met their death in the Colosseum. The structure of the Colosseum is so well preserved that it still creates a powerful impression of its original form, but it bears very evident marks of the damage and destruction it has suffered down the centuries - by fire, earthquake, neglect and dilapidation under the Christian Empire (when the games were abandoned), its conversion into a fortress of the Frangipane family, the pillaging of its marble, travertine and brick for the construction of palaces and the constant thunder of modern traffic. The building of the Colosseum was begun by Vespasian in A.D. 72 on the site of a colossal statue of Nero (hence the name Colosseum) which stood within the precincts of Nero's Domus Aurea. Vespasian's son Titus enlarged the structure by adding the fourth storey, and it was inaugurated in the year 80 with a series of splendid games. The Colosseum was oval in form (though it appears to be almost circular), 186m/610ft long by 156m/510ft across, with an arena 78 x 46m/260x150ft which could be used for theatrical performances, festivals, circus shows or games. It stood 57m/190ft high and could accommodate some 50,000 spectators - the Imperial court and high officials on the lowest level, the aristocratic families of Rome on the second level, the populace on the third and fourth. Around the exterior, built of travertine, are pilasters - of the Doric order on the ground floor, Ionic on the next tier and Corinthian on the third. The interior structure was contrived with immense skill, the rows of seating and the internal passages and staircases being arranged so as to allow the 50,000 spectators to get to their places or leave the theatre within a few minutes. On the top storey there were originally 240 masts set round the walls to support an awning over the audience. Unfortunately the sumptuous decoration of the interior has been totally destroyed.Underneath the arena were changing rooms and training rooms for gladiators, cages for wild beasts and store-rooms, the walls of which are now visible since the collapse of the arena floor.
Address: Piazza del Colosseo, I-00186 Rome, Italy