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When the Coliseum falls, Rome will fall; but when Rome falls, the world will end.

The celebrated prophecy of this English monk reflects how the medieval world admired, that which, even today, is considered to be the symbol of the Roman empire. Originally named 'Anfiteatro Flavio' (the name'Coliseum' was a Barbarian addition), it was commissioned by Vespasian in 72 A.D. and inaugurated by Titus in 80 A.D. Additions were made a few years later by Domitian. Elliptical in shape, it measures 188 meters by 156 meters, with a height of 56 meters. Its 76 entrances made it possible for 5000 people per minute, to enter or exit. With a capacity of 50,000, in the case of an emergency, the entire amphitheatre could be evacuated in a matter of 10 minutes.

Built from brick and concrete, the exteriors were faced in travertine and the interiors, in marble. Set on three levels of arcades, each one in a distinct style, from bottom to top: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The arcade is topped by a wall, imbedded with half Corinthian columns and window openings, followed by another arcade topped with cornices that at one time held the pillars which supported the huge 'Velario' or series of awnings, which protected the spectators from the sun. The 'cavea' (spectators)bleachers were set on three different levels: the 'podium' with the imperial box, which was reserved for the nobles; the 'ordine del mezzo', for Roman citizens and people of a certain standing; and the 'summa', which was for the rest of the populous. Gladiatorial combat was outlawed in 404 A.D., however, ferocious animal fights continued until the 6th century. The structure, having undergone damage numerous times by earthquakes (1231, 1255, 1349), became little more than a rubble heap, with its materials repeatedly being used for the building of fortresses, churches and palaces. Finally, it was saved by Pope Benedict XIV, when, in 1750, he declaired: "This is a holy place, where Christian martyrs' blood was shed.."

Piazza del Colosseo
Hours: 9:00- one hour before sunset; closed Christmas day, New Year's Day
Entrance fee charged, ticket office closes one hour before closing
Tel.: 06 39967700
The ticket price also includes the Palatine Museum

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