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The Colosseum (the greatest amphitheatre of ancient times) was built in Rome, Italy, about 1920 years ago. Construction began under the rule of Emperor Vespasian in 72 and was completed by his son, Titus, in 80, with later improvements by Domitian. It is said that 9,000 wild animals were killed in the one hundred days of celebration which inaugurated the amphitheatre opening. It is considered an architectural and engineering wonder, and remains as a standing proof of both the grandeur and the cruelty of the Roman world. The Colosseum measures 48 metres high, 188 metres long, and 156 metres wide. There are 80 arches on each of the first three levels, totaling 240. The wooden arena floor was 86 metres by 54 metres, and covered by sand. Its elliptical shape kept the players from retreating to a corner, and allowed the spectators to be closer to the action than a circle would allow. Over 100,000 cubic meters of travertine stone was used in its construction. Seating (cavea) was divided into different sections. The podium (first level) was for the Roman senators and the emperor's private, cushioned, marble box was also located on this level. Above the podium was the maenianum primum, for the other Roman aristocrats who were not in the senate. The third level, the maenianum secundum, was divided into three sections. The lower part (the immum) was for wealthy citizens, while the upper part (the summum) was for poor citizens. A third, wooden section (the maenianum secundum in legneis) was a wooden structure with standing room only, and was for lower-class women. The Colosseum was damaged by fire after a lightning strike in 217 and was out of service until 238 when it was restored. Gladiatorial games continued until Christianity gradually stopped it. Earthquakes in 442, 508, 847 and 1349 severly damaged. After the splendour of imperial times, the Colosseum was abandoned, and in turn it became a fortress for the medieval clans of the city, a source of building materials, a place of Christian worship. The marble that originally covered the fa├žade was reused in constructions or burned to make quicklime. In 1749, in a very early example of historic preservation, Pope Benedict XIV forbade the use of the Colosseum as a quarry. He declared it sanctified by the blood of the Christian martyrs who were thought to have perished there. Today it is a used for events and shows like in 2000 when Italian protestors against the death penalty gathered in front of the Colosseum.

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