By Sarah Lago
In 80 AD a massive construction project was completed under the rule of Emperor Titus. A large amphitheater was erected in Rome called the Flavian Amphitheater, or the Colosseum as it is known today. Within this structure around 50,000 people could be seated in the spectators’ seats to watch everything from dramas and mock sea battles to gladiator fights and public executions until it closed in 523 AD.
At first glance one may think that the name “Colosseum” came from the fact that the amphitheater is so massive, but that’s incorrect. The name actually came from the colossal bronze statue of Nero (the final emperor of the Flavian dynasty) that stood outside of the amphitheater. This statue was changed to resemble the sun god, Helios, after Nero’s death, and was taken down until the Middle Ages.
The uses for the Colosseum are what make it an important structure in Rome’s history. Aside from the entertainment, after closure of the Colosseum it was used as building material for Roman homes, a short-lived wool factory (1590 AD), and a location for botanists to collect various types of plant life (337 recorded species).
Raiding of the structure’s stones lasted from around 526 to 1749 AD when Pope Benedict XIV stopped the looting and set up the Stations of the Cross within the arena. Popes that succeeded Benedict XIV had put many restorations of the Colosseum that are still continuing today.
Overall, the Colosseum is not only a popular attraction in Rome, but has a vast history involving several different uses and building projects.