Colosseum

coliseum. Bede's eighth-century name for the Flavian Amphitheater in Rome. Built from a.d. 72 to 82 under the Flavian emperors, its axes are 188 meters and 156 meters. It is 48.5 meters high. Seated in three tiers, about 50,000 spectators viewed animal hunts (venationes), combats of hundreds of animals at once, gladiatorial fights, and seafights (naumachiae), with the arena flooded. The tradition that Christians were martyred there remains a possibility but has no ancient basis, dating from Benedict XIV's consecration of the structure to the martyrs in 1750. His dedicatory cross was removed in 1874, replaced in 1927. It was frequently damaged by lightning and otherwise; restorations and additions spanned the period from Nerva to Theodoric the Ostrogoth (d.526). It served as a fortress in medieval times, and its Renaissance use as a travertine quarry-Palazzo Farnese was built from its stones-ceased under Benedict XIV. Its efficient passageways, protective canopy for spectators, aromatic refreshment of the air, and subterranean elevators to the arena are remarkable.