The Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre.
The Colosseum is probably the most famous landmark in Rome. Built in the 1st century AD, this great arena could seat 45,000 spectators and was the largest Roman amphitheatre in the world.
It hosted gladiatorial combats, spectacles with wild beasts and possibly the execution of early Christians. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Colosseum was believed to be a place of martyrdom and was therefore regarded as a sacred place.
Construction on the Colosseum began under Emperor Vespasian (69-79) and was completed under his son Titus (79-81) in 80 AD. It was built on the site of an artificial lake created by Nero in this valley between Rome's many hills, in front of his Domus Aurea palace.
The arena was then known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, after the family name of the emperors who built it. The name " Colosseum " was not used until 7th century, and derives from the colossal statue of Nero that once stood here. After Nero's death, the statue was transformed into a representation of Helios, the sun god. It remained standing until the Middle Ages, when it was probably melted down for its bronze.
The amphitheatre was used for gladiatorial combats, mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The inaugural festival of the Flavian Amphitheatre, which was the largest amphitheatre in the world, lasted 100 days, during which over 5,000 wild beasts were killed in the arena.
The arena was restored in about 230 AD by Emperor Alexander Severus (222-35). The statistics of those who met their deaths at the Colosseum during another festival, held in 240 AD, are staggering: 2,000 gladiators; 70 lions; 40 wild horses; 30 elephants; 30 leopards; 20 wild asses; 19 giraffes; 10 elks; 10 hyenas; 10 tigers; 1 hippopotamus; and 1 rhinoceros.
The Flavian Amphitheatre was damaged by fire and earthquake several times but was continually restored until the end of the 5th century. Gladiatorial combats were outlawed by the Christian emperor Honorius in 407 and fights with wild beasts were banned in 523. After this, the arena went out of use.
In the 13th century, the Colosseum was fortified and occupied by the Frangipani family and the suburb around it became a prosperous area of Rome. However, the area later fell prey to malaria and was abandoned.
Looting of the stone continued on-and-off until the 18th century, when Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) declared the Colosseum sanctified by the blood of early Christian martyrs and added Stations of the Cross to the arena. After this it was restored and excavated, a work that continues to the present day.
Visiting the Roman Colosseum is tops on the list of must see Ancient Rome Sites, but the ticket lines can be long and nobody wants to spend their vacation waiting in line. My advice is to buy a combination ticket for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum at the nearby entrance to the Palatine Hill. The combination ticket is good for two days so you don't have to get to all three sites in one day.