Roman Culture/Game Venues
The Colosseum, also known as the Amphitheatrum Flavium, was the largest amphitheater built within the Roman Empire. Construction started in 72 CE under orders from the emperor Vespasian. It was completed in 80 CE under the emperor Titus. It was capable of seating up to 50,000 people, a number that rivals modern day sports stadiums.
The building was created for the purpose of public entertainment, showcasing events funded for the people by wealthy citizens. Most famously, it was used for gladiatorial combat. They had a strong religious element, but were also demonstrations of power and family prestige, and were immensely popular with the population. Another popular event was the wild animal hunts. Gladiators would be pitted against ferocious, exotic animals such as hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, large cats, and bears. Ancient writers refer to events that involved flooding the arena floor and staging mock naval battles (naumachia) within the Colosseum. It is unknown at this time about the logistics of how the Colosseum would be filled with water for these events. The Colosseum would also host recreations of natural scenes, with authentic plants and animals. These sylvan scenes would also often depict scenes out of Roman mythology.
The name "Colosseum" is derived from a nearby bronze statue of the emperor Nero, done in a style after famous Colossus of Rhodes. The Colosseum was located east of the famous Roman Forum. Unlike Greek amphitheaters that were built into hillsides, the Colosseum is a free standing structure. The entrances and exits were each numbered, and provided an orderly way for spectators to reach their seats. Much like our stadiums of today, seating was tiered. At the north and south ends of the arena, there were reserved box seats for the emperor and the Vestal virgins. These seats had the best view of the arena. Around the same level were the sections reserved for senators. Above them were seats for the noble class known as the equites. Beyond that were the sections reserved for the plebeians, divided by income.
EDITED: by Ariel Turpin on 12/14/2011 Checked for formatting, spelling, grammar, and plagiarism.