The Coliseum

The Coliseum also known as the  Flavian Amphitheatre is an oval amphitheatre in the heart of the city of Rome.  Commissioned by the Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD as a gift to the Roman people, it was built on the site of Nero's golden house and paid for by booty from the Jewish wars.  It was built of Concrete and marble and still remains the largest amphitheatre ever built.

It was officially opened by Emperor Titus  in 80 AD to a 100 days of games including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights. It could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and in its prime would rival any modern day football stadium or arena.

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Decline

The coliseum was to see four centuries of constant use but with the rise of Christianity the games became unpopular and were banned in 438 AD by the emperor Valentinian III although women gladiators had been banned around 200 AD.

Even by that time, the arena had suffered damaged due to natural phenomena such as lightning and earthquakes. In the centuries to come, the Colosseum was abandoned completely, and used as a quarry for numerous building projects, including that of St. Peter's, Palazzo Venezia and defense fortifications along the Tiber River.

Revival and Today

Things began to change in the 18th century when a succession of popes decided that the coliseum should be preserved in the memory of the early christian martyrs and deemed it as a holy site from which nothing could be looted.  By the 20th century, a combination of weather, natural disasters, neglect and vandalism had destroyed nearly two-thirds of the original Colosseum, including all of the arena’s marble seats and its decorative elements. Restoration efforts began in the 1990s, and have proceeded over the years, as the Colosseum continues to be a leading attraction for tourists from all over the world.

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