The Colosseum, as shown on a brass sestertius of Titus

Brass sestertius of Titus

The Colosseum on a Roman coin issued by Titus in AD80

The Colosseum, Rome

The Colosseum, Rome

Diameter: 31.000 mm
Weight: 23.360 g

CM 1844.4-25.712 (BMC Titus 190)

In Rome, by the late first century AD, gladiatorial combat took place in the huge stone amphitheatre, the Colosseum. Its ancient name was the Flavian Amphitheatre, after the Flavian dynasty founded by the emperor Vespasian (reigned 69-79). It was planned during Vespasian's reign, but dedicated and opened by his son, Titus, in AD 80.

The Colosseum is a marvel of ancient engineering. With an estimated capacity of about 50,000 seats arranged in three tiers, the oval-shaped structure measures 188 by 156 metres (205 by 170 yards) and is 52 metres (170 feet) high. The interior was executed entirely in marble, and the entrances were adorned with reliefs, painting and stucco work. In its fully developed form the arena itself had a wooden floor, beneath which were located a complex of rooms, cages for wild animals, and even lifts to bring the combatants up into the arena.

The Colosseum took around eight to ten years to complete. The inaugural games lasted a hundred days, and it is said that no fewer than 5,000 animals were killed in an animal fight on a single day. Gladiatorial casualties were higher than ever known before. The people could take part in a free lottery: the emperors' servants threw hollow wooden balls into the audience, containing vouchers for clothes, food, cattle and even slaves.