The Flavium Amphitheatrum, better known as the Colosseum is a remarkable testimony of Ancient Rome as well as the capital’s most celebrated attraction. Visited annually by over 6 million tourists, the Colosseum became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980 and in 2006 it was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
Emblem of Rome, the Colosseum is the largest and best preserved amphitheatre in the world, impressive in size and capacity so much so experts believe it seated over 50,000 spectators! This robust structure that literally withstood the test of time is a mix of travertine, tuff and brick-faced concrete; construction began under Emperor Vespasian around 72 AD and was completed under the rule of his heir Titus in 80 AD, although further changes were applied under the reign of Domitian. All three Emperors belonged to the Flavian Dynasty from which the amphitheater inherits its original Latin name. The word Colosseum, on the other hand, most likely comes from the “Colossus of Nero”, a massive 33 meter tall bronze statue of Emperor Nero, once located at the entrance of the famous Domus Aurea (remains of the statue’s base can still be found near the amphitheatre).
It is common knowledge that the amphitheatre was initially used for entertainment purposes holding diverse public events such as gladiator competitions, dramas, mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, exhibition of exotic animals and so much more. Seats were divided into 5 individual horizontal sections called maeniana according to a class-based criteria thus reflecting the complex social stratification of the time. A velarium (canvas awnings) was installed to cover the seating area providing shade for the audience, entrance was free and provisions were distributed to the famished crowds. Needless to say Emperors exploited the games to gain the favor of their people. The last shows were held during the VI century; with the fall of the Roman Empire the Colosseum too fell into desuetude.
National landmark, the Colosseum is a bucket list classic. Start exploring with our live webcam in Rome!
Did you know that the inauguration of the Colosseum was marked with a astonishing 100 days of games? Talk about a celebration! Much has changed since Ancient Rome and the Colosseum has long left behind its past as a place of unspeakable violence. In recent years, since 1999 specifically, the city’s main landmark has become a visible symbol of the global campaign for the abolition of the death penalty. Every time a death sentence is commuted or a country decides on the eradication of capital punishment the amphitheatre is illuminated.