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The Colosseum offers an unrivalled insight into life in ancient Rome. This stadium, which seated 50,000 people, dominates the historic centre. Crowds came to watch brutal gladiatorial contests, naval battles and the slaughter of wild animals.
Rome's Colosseum enjoyed an overhaul for the year 2000, with part of the long-gone floor being reinstalled to allow events to take place.
Construction work on the elliptical stadium began in around 72AD under the orders of Emperor Vespasian and was completed eight years later. Vespasian's son Titus ordered 100 days of games to commemorate the opening of Rome's Colosseum (film buffs will note that this fact was slotted into the script for Ridley Scott's Gladiator). The building itself was erected on the former site of Nero's villa and takes its name not from its own sheer size but from the massive statue of Nero which stood alongside.
Rome's Colosseum is built from soft tufa brick with a marble exterior. The original design incorporated three storeys, the fourth added later in 230AD. A close look at the three older tiers reveals the traditional trick of classical Roman architecture - Doric columns are used for the lowest level, Ionic for the second and Corinthian on the third. The eye travels up from the heavier Doric base to the more intricate styles above, giving an impression of lightness unusual in such a huge building.
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