When Was the Colosseum Built?
The great Flavian Amphitheatre, or Colosseum, was built between A.D. 69 and 81 by the Emperors Vespasian and Titus on the site of an artificial lake in the grounds of Nero’s palace, the Golden House.
The name Colosseum was bestowed on it, because of its colossal size, sometime after the 8th Century. The Colosseum had been completed up to the third story by the time of Vespasian’s death in 79. The top level was finished by his son, Titus, in 80, and the inaugural games were held in A.D. 80 or 81.
Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheatre. Commemorative coinage was issued celebrating the inauguration. The building was remodelled further under Vespasian’s younger son, the newly designated Emperor Domitian, who constructed the hypogeum, a series of underground tunnels used to house animals and slaves. He also added a gallery to the top of the Colosseum to increase its seating capacity.
In its full magnificence the Colosseum must have one of the most imposing building in the Roman Empire, a gigantic oval measuring 620 feet by 513 feet with a height of 160 feet. Round the actual arena-287 feet by 180 feet-tiers of marble seats provided accommodation to 50,000 spectators.
The building was constructed to house gigantic spectacles organized by the authorities for the entertainment-and distraction-of the public. It became a scene of much bloodshed. Here were staged gladiatorial combats (fights to the death between men) and contests between wild beasts or between men and animals. And here, too, many of the early Christians met martyrdom with a courage that helped greatly to spread their faith.
The highest tiers of seats and the fourth storey were rebuilt in the 3rd Century, and the building was seriously damaged by lightning and earthquakes during Roman times and the middle Ages. For hundreds of years this symbol of Roman power was used as a quarry. But even today its ruins form one of the most famous buildings in the world.
Although partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is still an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and also has links to the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum. The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.