The Colosseum  

Rome’s Greatest Legacy
No more than a suggestion of its former glory, the shell of the great Amphitheatrum Flavium, as it was known at its inauguration, still conjures imagined screams and thunderous clashes of steel. On the wind, one can almost hear the thunderous response of 50 thousand Roman onlookers.

Not the first of its kind, it was certainly the most grand of the Roman amphitheaters. Emperor Vespasian ordered the construction, after Nero’s amphitheater returned to the public in order to win support. An artificial lake on his personal grounds was drained to make room for the structure.

The first three levels of the stands were designed in Doric, Corinthian, and Ionic styles for variety. The floor of the Colosseum sat atop a maze of tunnels used to stage the gladiators, prisoners, and exotic animals. The floor could also be flooded to provide mock water battles.

In 80 AD, Vespasian’s son, Titus, finished construction of the amphitheater and launched the most magnificent marketing campaign of the middle ages: a hundred days of gladiatorial games. The Roman people were rapt.

Exotic animals arrived from the far corners of the empire—lions, bears, and hippopotami. Buildings rose nearby to house prisoners and gladiators, and to hold officials who planned the games. The games were so popular they became central to Roman politics. The public demanded new and exciting performances in order to win support of government officials. The costs of staging the battles and events soared and eventually laws were instituted to control the finances and procedures.

Though the wood flooring is gone and much of the marble facing was lost in earthquakes or looted to build temples and buildings, the Colosseum remains an icon of Roman inspiration and cruelty, and a symbol of their innovative engineering.
The Colosseum
Piazza del Colosseo
Rome, Italy
Rating 94.56 
Rank [category] 5 
Rank [overall] 20 
"I could only imagine the public spectacles that were carried out here."

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