A photo of the Colosseum taken from the Palatine Hill on a beautiful spring day. The Colosseum, so named for the colossal statue of Nero that once stood nearby; the site is now marked by a square on the pavement just outside the entrance, is otherwise known as the Flavian Amphitheater. This world-famous structure has been around for quite a while; it was built by the Flavian dynasty emperors. It replaced an earlier and much smaller one located elsewhere. The site was once part of Nero's Golden House, or more correctly, the artificial lake on the property, which was drained and "reclaimed" for the "people's use" by the emperor Vespasian, who commissioned the facility; work began in 72 AD and it took about ten years to complete. The aged emperor didn't live to see the inaugural games, the honor of which was left to his son and successor, Titus. The games lasted 100 days, but the structure wasn't officially completed until the reign of Domitian. The famous labyrinth structure beneath the floor wasn't completed until even later, however; there is some mention of naval battles which wouldn't have been possible given the network now in place.
The Colosseum was in use for its original purpose for almost 500 years. The last gladiatorial show took place in 404 AD, but it has been used for various other purposes since, including a fortress, an open air church, a housing unit and even a factory. It looks very different than in ancient times. Little remains of the amphitheater other than the superstructure. Much of the building materials used in its construction and decoration (particularly the valuable travertine stone that faced the concrete skeleton and the metal clamps that held it together, the only remnants of which are the numerous holes in the fašade) were stripped in the Middle Ages and were used to build other structures in the city. Indeed, much of the marble that comprised ancient Rome's proud public structures is now in use for various other structures. The amphitheater once featured a canvas awning, or velarium, to protect spectators from the scorching summer sun. This screen, which was operated by sailors who manned the ropes (the remains of the rigging anchors can still be seen at the base of the structure) was possibly embroidered with gold stars, which would have been an amazing sight. There were once marble statues in all the arches, and columns adorned its exterior, the fragments of which are strewn throughout the structure and are in storage nearby.
The Colosseum was damaged by several earthquakes over the years and it has since had to be renovated to prevent further collapse. It is often seen as a symbol of decadent Rome, of which only fragments remain, but it is also a proud symbol of the Eternal city, still impressive after many centuries of decay.