/kol'euh see"euhm/, n.1. an ancient amphitheater in Rome, begun A.D. c70 by Vespasian, having the form of an oval 617 by 512 ft. (188 by 156 m).2. (l.c.) coliseum.[ < L, n. use of neut. of colosseus gigantic < Gk kolossiaîos, equiv. to koloss(ós) COLOSSUS + -iaios adj. suffix]
* * *The name Colosseum was applied some time after the 8th century because of its immense size and capacity, holding some 50,000 people. Unlike earlier amphitheaters, which were nearly all dug into hillsides for extra support, the Colosseum is a freestanding oval colonnaded structure of stone and concrete. It was the scene of combats between gladiators, contests of men with animals, and even mock naval engagements. The Colosseum was damaged by lightning and earthquakes in medieval times and, even more severely, by vandals. A restoration project was undertaken in the 1990s, and in 2000 the Colosseum staged a series of plays that marked the first time in more than 1,500 years that live performances had been held there.
* * *original name Flavian Amphitheatregiant amphitheatre built in Rome under the Flavian emperors (Flavian dynasty). Construction of the Colosseum was begun sometime between AD 70 and 72 during the reign of Vespasian; the structure was officially dedicated in AD 80 by Titus in a ceremony that included 100 days of games. Later, in AD 82, Domitian completed the work by adding the uppermost story. Unlike earlier amphitheatres, which were nearly all dug into convenient hillsides for extra support, the Colosseum is a freestanding structure of stone and concrete, measuring 620 by 513 feet (190 by 155 metres) overall. Three of the arena's stories are encircled by arcades framed by decorative half-columns in the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders (order); the structure's rising arrangement of columns became the basis of the Renaissance codification known as the assemblage of orders.The amphitheatre seated some 50,000 spectators. It was the scene of thousands of hand-to-hand combats between gladiators, of contests between men and animals, and of many larger combats, including mock naval engagements. However, it is uncertain whether the arena was the site of the martyrdom of early Christians.The Colosseum was damaged by lightning and earthquakes in medieval times and, even more severely, by vandalism; all the marble seats and decorative materials disappeared. A restoration project was undertaken in the 1990s. Changing exhibitions relating to the culture of ancient Rome are regularly mounted.
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