The Splendor of the Roman Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum is the most famous Classical structure of Rome and one that virtually every visitor comes to admire. The structure is easily recognizable with its distinct design and architecture. When the elliptical stadium was first built, over 2,000 years ago, it was the first permanent amphitheatre of its time. It was marveled at for its grand size and structure and remains a template for the stadia that we see today.
A huge ellipse with tiered seating, the Colosseum was able to seat 50,000 viewers with standing room for an additional 10,000. There were 80 exits that allowed for efficient entry and exit of the large masses of people attending events. Gladiator events were most common, but the stadium was also used for other games or to watch criminals being attacked by wild animals.
No battle was neglected; at times the arena was filled with water to present naval battles. Entertainment at the Colosseum lasted for an impressive 450 years until the Roman Empire started weakening. The emperor Honorius ended the gladiatorial duels in 404 CE and animal shows ended by the sixth century. There are several theories to explain why the activities had ceased, but most likely it was due to lack of funding as games were expensive to produce.
The Colosseum was abandoned by the tenth century and soon became a home to houses and shops that were built within. Pieces of tufa, or stone, from the stadium were hacked off and used to build these new structures.
During the Renaissance, when Rome became more vibrant again, more stone was removed and used to build the new palazzis and numerous buildings around Rome. This constant breaking down of the walls and removal of stone is the reason that only half of the outer ring remains today. It wasn’t until restoration began in the eighteenth century that halted the destruction of the building and the focus moved to preserving the site’s remains.