The interior of the famous amphitheater in Rome. The emperor Vespasian began construction in 72 CE on the site of his predecessor Nero’s former residence. Vespasian’s son Titus inaugurated it in 80 CE. As a military commander, Titus was known for his ruthless and sadistic cruelty, assassinating his enemies and annihilating anyone who got in his way. His forces in Judea sacked and plundered the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE; the arch commemorating this event still stands in the Forum. To counter this reputation Titus spent lavishly on bread and circuses. The festival and gladiatorial games that inaugurated the Colosseum lasted 100 days, thereby guaranteeing his popularity with the populace.
Although it’s certainly a colossal structure that held 55,000 spectators, the name Colosseum actually refers to the colossus, an enormous statue of Nero that formerly stood on its site.
The amphitheater probably looks quite different today, as an extensive restoration project has been underway since 1995. During the renovation, archaeologists discovered a plaque describing how construction of the Colosseum was funded with the loot plundered in Titus’ sacking of the Temple in Jerusalem.