The Colosseum is famous all over the world and, together with the She-wolf, is a symbol of Rome. Its name comes from the golden bronze colossus which Nero wanted to be built as his portrait: the real name of the monument is Flavius amphitheatre.
It was built during the reign of Vespasiano and it was unveiled in 80 A.D. by Tito; the front is 50 mt [164 feet] high, the internal elliptical arena is 86x54 mt [282x177 feet]; the amphitheatre could lodge 50.000 spectators, it was covered with a huge curtain (velarium) to protect people from the sun.
A lot of spectators watched fighting among gladiators (munera): those called Reziari used to fight with nets and tridents, Sanniti with a short sword, Traci with shield and gladius; moreover there were fights with wild beasts (venationes) and christian martyrs till Costantino made Christianity the empire's official religion in 313 A.D.. Apparently the arena was even flooded to simulate sea-battles.
The Colosseum has been restructured many times, because of fires, earthquakes and floods, up to Teodorico's reign, in the VI century, when it was no longer used.
In the late empire it was used for hunting, while in the Middle Ages it was transformed into one of Frangipane's family fortresses, and was even used as a source for materials and irrimediably despoiled: a lot of quarries had been closed and to make up for the lack of marble in the Middle Ages they used to take it from ancient monuments; the holes wich can still be seen on the stonework come from the plundering of the iron hooks which linked the stone blocks.
The Pope Benedetto XIV made the amphitheatre a holy place to commemorate christian martyrs who died here, and in 1700 the Colosseum was the site of the Via Crucis which still takes places there today.
The first works of restoration took place in 1800, when the Colosseum was covered by vegetation and the Roman ruins' charm was an attraction to a lot of tourists who came to Italy for the "grand tour". Even the basement underneath the arena came to light: in this area, in the past, all the necessary services for the games were stored and it was even supplied with a goods-lift.