- Heinz-Jürgen Beste
The construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre was financed by the Emperor Vespasian in 71–72 ce with the riches from the conquest of Jerusalem and carried out by his son Titus, who inaugurated the building in 80 ce. Domitian (81–96) completed the amphitheatre district, which extended from the Velian Hill to the present Basilica of San Clemente, and included the four barracks (ludi), the infirmary (samiarium), the weapons store (armamentarium), the mortuary (spoliarium), and the barracks of the sailors of the fleet of Misenum (Castra Misenatium) whose task it was to operate the velum, the awning that shaded the spectators from the sun. The building became known as the Colosseum from a colossal statue that stood near it. The amphitheatre was in use as such until 523 ce, when it is recorded that it was the scene of the last animal hunt, organized by Anicius Maximus at the beginning of his consulate.
The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the Roman world, an oval 187.75 × 155.60 m (205.32 × 170.16 yds). The sand covered arena measures 77.50 × 45.60 m (84.75 × 49.68 yds.). The tiered seating (cavea) ran around the perimeter, holding between 40,000 and 55,000 spectators and divided into five horizontal sectors (maeniana) separated by aisles.
The travertine facade rose 48.5 m (53 yds.) in three superimposed tiers of arcades and an attic storey. Each tier of arcades was decorated by the addition of applied Classical orders of engaged semicolumns: Tuscan (Doric columns with bases) Ionic, and Corinthian. The lofty attic storey had applied Corinthian pilasters.
- Roman Material Culture
Updated in this version
Article rewritten and expanded to reflect current scholarship.