This infamous arena is one of the most recognisable sites in the world. Its size and grand design is truly astounding, especially when you consider that its 87,000 capacity would place it among the world's largest stadiums today, some 2,000 years after its construction.
Despite occasional high-profile concerts given in or near the Colosseum, its design does not allow for large crowds to use it as an arena venue because of structural degradation over time. Despite this, tourists flock to the site in large numbers. This popularity has attracted sponsorhip paying for a major restoration programme which is currently ongoing and is expected to be completed in 2013.
Another interesting point of note is that the Colosseum has recently become an international symbol of the campaign against capital punishment. The focal point of a number of protests over time, look out for golden illumination during the evening hours. Every time a death row prisoner is pardoned or the death penalty is abolished anywhere in the world, the standard white night-time lighting changes to gold to celebrate the event.
The construction of the Colosseum started in c. 70AD on a flat plane surrounded by three out of Ancient Rome's famous seven hills. A great fire in 64AD had desroyed a busy part of Rome which left a large area close to the city centre unused.
Amazingly, the entire structure was completed in a mere 10 years with the first games held by the Emperor Titus in 80AD. Games and various contests were held at the arena until late in the 6th century despite the Colosseum needing continuous repairs following damage from fires and an earthquake.
The next 600 years the Colosseum was used for everything from housing, shopping arcades and trade depots to being a functioning cemetery. During this period much of the space underneath the stands was converted for these various uses.
From 1200 to around 1350, the Colosseum served as a Fort to the Frangipani, one of Rome's most influential families. A major earthquake in 1349 caused much of the southern wall to collapse and other parts of the Colosseum to suffer damage which prompted its sale to a religious order which occupied it for over 500 years.
Over time, the building became delapidated as much of the stone that collapsed as well as large parts that didn't including most of the supporting structures predominantly made of metal were taken out of the arena. Stone and marble was used to construct a number of other buildings around Rome while metal was predominantly used in arms manufacture. The building was even consecrated as a church by Pope Benedict XIV.
The interior's present look was largely down to 20th century alterations under Benito Mussolini. Following some repairwork in the 19th and early 20th century, part of the arena's floor was excavated to reveal the underlying structure. Most recently, some renovation work took place between 1993 and 2000 to strengthen the structure and preserve it for the future.
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Piazza del Colosseo 1