The Colosseum in Italy’s capital Rome is one of those globally known sights and attractions that are inseparably connected to the city they are in. For Rome, the Colosseum is both a landmark and a hallmark as well as a reference to the Empire that once covered vast parts of Europe and that was centered in this city.

In the Roman Empire, amphitheaters were common, with more than 200 having been built. Most of those predated the one in Rome, which was built between the years 72 and 80 AD in the era of the Flavian rulers Vespasian and Titus, but none was as large or bore as much significance. To this day, it remains the largest amphitheatre ever built in the world. This is of course all the more stunning as today’s technology and materials make it much easier to build large structures like this. Built only by manual labor, the Colosseum consists of volcanic rock, limestone and an early version of cement.

Where we see an impressive example of ancient architecture today, contemporary visitors witnessed bloody spectacles on a regular basis. The Colosseum hosted gladiator shows as well as so-called venatios, animal hunts. For those, exotic animals from all corners of the Empire were brought in and either pitted against one another or killed in various ways. Lions, panthers, tigers and bears were used, but also ostriches, giraffes and other creatures that were considered exotic. Many other events were held at the building. In the early years of its existence, it even hosted simulated sea battles. The space beneath the arena floor could initially be flooded so that replica vessels could be used to reenact historic sea battles. These water pools were later removed in favor of more elaborate stage technology including large backdrop scenes and a multitude of winches.

The Colosseum today shows the signs of time. In the Middle Ages the building was no longer in use. Local rulers would sometimes take stones from the structure for their own projects and in some places, people made their home in the arcades and hallways. The damaged outer ring however is the result of severe earthquakes in 847 and 1349.

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