Colosseum at night

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Colosseum (or the Coliseum) is one of the Rome’s best-known monuments, the most popular tourist attraction in the city. It is a ruin of originally the Flavian Amphitheatre (Amphitheatrum Flavium), the largest that had ever been built in the Roman Empire. The Colosseum is depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.

The construction of the Colosseum started between 70 and 72 AD under the reign of Vespasian and was finished in 80 AD under Titus. Both of them belonged to Flavian dynasty, hence Flavian Amphitheatre (the name Colosseum has long been believed to be derived from a statue Colossus of Nero nearby. By the year 1000 the name "Colosseum" had been coined to refer to the amphitheatre. The statue itself was largely forgotten). During the Domitian reign there were some modifications done on the construction. The Colosseum was destroyed by earthquakes and stone-robbers.

The Colosseum has an elliptical structure, 189 metres long and 156 wide. The height of the outer wall is 48 metres. The central arena is an oval surrounded by a wall above which rose tiers of seating. The outer wall was made of travertine stone held together only by iron clamps. The north side of the perimeter wall is still standing. It comprises three stories of superimposed arcades surmounted by a podium on which stands a tall attic, both of which are pierced by windows interspersed at regular intervals. The arcades are framed by half-columns of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, while the attic is decorated with Corinthian pilasters. Each of the arches in the second- and third-floor arcades framed statues (probably figures from Classical mythology).

The amphitheatre was ringed by eighty entrances at ground level. People were seated in a tiered arrangement. There were special boxes provided at the north and south ends respectively for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins, providing the best views of the arena. The arena comprised a wooden floor covered by sand, covering an elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum (still clearly visible today).

The original purpose of the Colosseum was to be the place for gladiatorial games and other public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The Colosseum could hold 50,000 spectators and it was in use for nearly five centuries. In later periods it was used for many different purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry and a Christian shrine.

The Colosseum today is now a major tourist attraction in Rome. There is now a museum dedicated to Eros located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building. Part of the arena floor has been re-floored. It has also been the site of Roman Catholic ceremonies in the 20th and 21st centuries.
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