Roman ColosseumThe Colosseum - By the first century A.D., Rome had become so wealthy and the gladiator games so popular, that the Romans decided to build an arena in their capital on the grandest of scales. Officially known as the Flavian Amphitheatre because it was built during the reign of emperors Vespasian and Titus of the Flavian Dynasty, and upgraded during the reign of Domitian (another Flavian), it could seat at least 50,000 fans and maybe as many as 80,000. That would make it as large as many modern-day stadiums and the largest of the ancient world. The first amphitheatres were built by the Greeks to stage their plays and festivals. They were open-ended circular stadiums, usually built into the side of a hill in order to utilize its slope to create tiered seating. The Romans modified their amphitheatres by closing them into a complete circle, or in the case of the Colosseum, an ellipse. They also liked their entertainment a little more violent as the Romans staged fights rather than plays. In addition to the gladiator games, the Colosseum was used for fights among wild beasts (against each other and against humans), for executing criminals and in perhaps the most impressive display, it could be flooded and used to stage mock naval battles. It actually was used to put on plays as well, which seems tame compared to its other uses.


It was funded mostly by the spoils of the Jewish-Roman War (see above), and built on top of Nero's Domus Aurea in an effort to erase any reminder of his excessive lifestyle. It was four stories high and contained a maze of sub-level catacombs from which the prisoners and animals would emerge during the games. It's footprint covered an area of six acres. From a logistical standpoint, the Colosseum was quite sophisticated. It had 76 public entrances and four private ones which allowed for rapid entering and exiting. One of the private entrances was exclusively for the emperor and his entourage, and the other three were for the upper class of Rome. Each entrance was numbered as were the stairs leading to the stands. Audience members received a clay shard with a number on it directing them where to go. To keep the games exciting, a number of training grounds were built near the Colosseum in order to have a ready supply of gladiators handy for combat.