The Colosseum remains a major landmark of Rome. When built the structure was over 150 feet high, 1,929 feet around, and the largest amphitheater in the Empire. Gladiatorial games, wild animal hunts, and sea battles were seen by 50,000 spectators. The gladiatorial games ended in the fourth century. In 525 A.D. the last wild animal hunts in the Colosseum were performed by a son-in-law of Theodoric the Great.
The Roman emperor Vespasian began construction of the Colosseum in 72 A.D. His son, the emperor Titus, completed and dedicated the great Flavian Amphitheater in 80 A.D.
The Colosseum's exterior was made of limestone. The interior was made of brick, porous limestone, and marble. The great arena was made of wood, covered with cloth and sand. Below the arena floor were underground walkways, stalls, and pens for the combatants and wild animals. A 16.5 foot wall surrounded the arena to protect spectators from the wild animals.
Colosseum seating was based upon Roman classes. The emperor and his retinue were seated on a podium just above the protective wall. The remaining seating area or cavea was divided into three ranks: the lowest rank for the knights; the second rank for wealthy citizens; and the top for general spectators.
The best representations of the Colosseum appear on contemporary Roman coins. These include a sestertius celebrating Titus' dedication in 80 A.D. (See DM 228 The Gladiators). In 223 A.D. Severus Alexander issued several coins commemorating the Colosseum's reopening after lightening damage. In 240 A.D. Gordian III issued a large commemorative coin celebrating the restoration begun by Elagabalius in 238 A.D.
This historical set includes three coins. The first, is a gold aureus struck by Vespasian. The obverse shows Vespasian facing right. The reverse shows Pax facing left holding an olive branch and a caduceus. (Van Meter 18/4). The second gold coin shows the emperor Titus facing right. The reverse shows Venus with back to viewer, standing right holding a helmet and transverse spear and resting on a column. (Sear 2489)
The third large coin, is a replica of a medallion of the Colosseum. The obverse shows Gordian III bare headed facing left with a spear and shield. The reverse shows the Colosseum. The inside shows a man on an elephant opposing a wild animal. Also shown is the 16.5 foot wall; the triangular dais of the Roman emperor; and three ranks of spectators. Around the top of the Colosseum is the wood frame of the roof.
On the extreme left of the Colosseum is the 98 foot statue of the Colossus Solis next to the Meta Sudans fountain. On the right side of the Colosseum is a two story portico.
While stands the Colosseum, Rome shall stand.
When falls the Colosseum, Rome shall fall.
And when Rome falls –
so shall the world. -Shakespeare