The Colosseum or Coliseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is a giant amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome. Originally capable of seating 50,000 spectators, it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. It was built on a site just east of the Roman Forum, with construction starting between 70 and 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian. The amphitheatre, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire, was completed in 80 under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian's reign.
The Colosseum remained in use for nearly 500 years with the last recorded games being held there as late as the 6th century — well after the traditional date of the fall of Rome in 476. As well as the traditional gladiatorial games, many other public spectacles were held there, such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building eventually ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such varied purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry and a Christian shrine.
Although it is now in a severely ruined condition due to damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum has long been seen as an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome and is one of the finest surviving examples of Roman architecture. It is one of modern Rome's most popular tourist attractions and still has close connections with the Catholic Church, whose Pope leads a torchlit procession to the amphitheatre each Good Friday.