Picture Courtesy of David Iliff
The Roman Colosseum, also in ancient times known as Flavian Amphitheater, is a huge amphitheater found in the middle of Rome. It is the largest structure of its kind built by the mighty Empire. It is one of the greatest works of Rome's architecture ever built. It was originally capable of holding more than fifty-thousand people.
Building on the Colosseum began under Vespasian around 72 A.D. The location chosen for the massive Roman structure was on an area that was taken over by Emperor Nero in order to build himself a gigantic palace. Referred to as the "golden house of Nero" (1911 Encyclopedia Britannica), it blocked many important roads and occupied a site that was once heavily populated. According to the Encyclopedia, it was partly to make restitution for Nero's enormous theft of land that Vespasian and Titus destroyed the Golden House and built the Colosseum.
During the celebration of the amphitheater's completion, more than ten thousand animals were killed within its walls. The Roman Colosseum, among its many great events, hosted large-scale spectacular games that included fights between wild animals and the killing of prisoners by animals and other executions. Amazingly, mock naval battles (via flooding the arena and bringing in ships) occurred in the structure up until 81 A.D.
Additionally, combats between gladiators (munera), sponsored by private individuals and not the empire, were also held in the Colosseum. It has been estimated that upwards of several hundred thousand people died within the walls of this massive structure.
One of the most popular types of shows put on by Rome featured animal hunting. Because of the expanse and power of the Empire, Rome was able to transport such animals as lions, tigers, rhinos, hippos, wild bears and many other exotic creatures into the city. Movable sets that included buildings were many times used as a backdrop for a battle. Stadium events were many times held on a grand scale, For example, after Trajan (who expanded the power of Rome to its greatest extent through territorial conquests) was victorious over Dacia, he celebrated by sponsoring contests that involved more than ten thousand animals and several thousand gladiators over a period of roughly 4 months.
The name of the Colosseum is believed to have originated name from a giant statue (colossus) of Emperor Nero that was located nearby. The building itself measured 157 feet (47.8 meters) high, 617 feet (188 meters) long, and it was as wide as 511 feet (155.7 meters). The floor of the structure was 228 feet (69.4 meters) by 177 feet (53.9 meters).
A variety of different sections existed within the Colosseum. Level 1 (known as the podium) was for high-level politicians of the state and for the Emperor. The second level was designated for the ruling classes that were not actual senators. The next level up had a section for those who were rich and another for those who were poor. A special section was reserved at the top of the Colosseum for females only. Recent discoveries at the site showed drainpipes that connected the building to Rome's famous sewer system.
The overall cooling of the Roman Colosseum utilized the innovation idea of a canvas roof that covered the majority of the stadium. This roof, slanted toward the ground, was able to catch the wind and provide cooling to the spectators.