The Colosseum - Seven Wonders of the Medieval Mind

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The Colosseum or Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre, is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering. The Colosseum is one of the seven wonders of the Medieval Mind and one of the seven wonders of the world.

Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started between 70 and 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian's reign. Originally capable of seating around 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. It remained in use for nearly 500 years with the last recorded games being held there as late as the 6th century.

As well as the traditional gladiatorial games, many other public spectacles were held there, such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on classical mythology. The building eventually ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such varied purposes as housing, workshops, and quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry and a Christian shrine.

Unlike earlier amphitheatres that were built into hillsides, the colosseum is an entirely free- standing structure. It is elliptical in plan and is 189 metres long, and 156 metres wide, with a base area of 6 acres. The height of the outer wall is 48 metres. The perimetre originally measured 545 metres. The central arena is an oval long and wide, surrounded by a wall high, above which rose tiers of seating.

The outer wall is estimated to have required over 100,000 cubic metres of travertine stone which were set without mortar held together by 300 tons of iron clamps. However, it has suffered extensive damage over the centuries, with large segments having collapsed following earthquakes. The north side of the perimetre wall is still standing; the distinctive triangular brick wedges at each end are modern additions, having been constructed in the early 19th century to shore up the wall.

The remainder of the present day exterior of the Colosseum is in fact the original interior wall.

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