The Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre or Colosseo, is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built and is considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering ever.
The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in 72 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius).
The Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, having an average audience of some 65,000; it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.
Although partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is still an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and has also links to the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.
The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin. The Colosseum today is now a major tourist attraction in Rome with thousands of tourists each year paying to view the interior arena. There is now a museum dedicated to Eros located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building. Part of the arena floor has been re-floored. Beneath the Colosseum, a network of subterranean passageways once used to transport wild animals and gladiators to the arena opened to the public in summer 2010.
The Colosseum is also the site of Roman Catholic ceremonies in the 20th and 21st centuries. For instance, Pope Benedict XVI led the Stations of the Cross called the Scriptural Way of the Cross (which calls for more meditation) at the Colosseum on Good Fridays.