The Colosseum, or Coliseum, is an Ancient Roman amphitheatre in Rome, Italy. It was the largest Roman amphitheatre ever constructed. It is one of the most iconic and popular landmarks in the world.
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Construction of the building began around 70AD under the orders of the Roman emperor Vespasian, and completed under his son Titus in 80AD. It was funded by spoils from the Jewish temple in the seige of Jerusalem. Many of those who worked on the construction were Jewish prisoners.
The venue had its inaugural games in 81AD, and was used regularly for gladiatorial combat until around the 5th century. It needed to be repaired around 217AD after a large fire, apparently caused by lighting, damaged the interior. Up until the 6th century AD, the building was still used for animal hunting contests.
Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was converted into commercial and residential properties and rented out. This continued for several hundred years until the powerful Frangipani family took possession of it and turned it into a castle in the 13th century.
In 1349, a large earthquake caused the structure to partially collapse. A lot of the stone and other materials fell down to the ground, where locals took them to use for their own construction purposes.
Many tried to come up with new uses for the building, to no avail. In 1749, the Pope declared it a sacred site of Christian martyrdom, and subsequent popes throughout the 19th century organised large scale restoration and excavation projects.
While many contemporary buildings of the same kind were built into the side of hills, the Colosseum is unusual in being a completely free standing structure. It has a diameter of around 600 feet, and is just shy of 160 foot highs at the outermost wall.
The building was constructed almost entirely of travertine limestone, which was held together by metal clamps without mortar. These clamps were stolen over the years, accelerating it’s collapse. Triangular wedges were added in the 19th century to keep the walls from falling down.
There are eighty entrances to allow for the large crowds of spectators (around 50,000 or perhaps more) to quickly and safely enter and exit. The outside walls consist of repeated arcades of columns exhibiting all three of the traditional classical orders: Doric, Corinthian and Ionic. The uppermost portion in an attac ringed with windows.
The original floor of the theatre, now gone, covered an elaborate system of underground passages to allow animals and performers to move around the stage without having to pass through the crowd. The passages also provided a place for the emperor to surreptitiously enter and exit the arena.