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Here, before 50, spectators, gladiators would salute the emperor and cry Ave, imperator, morituri te salutant "Hail, emperor, men soon to die salute thee". Senators had marble seats up front and the Vestal Virgins took the ringside position, while the plebs sat in wooden tiers at the back, then the masses above on the top tier.
Over all was the amazing velarium, an ingenious system of sail-like awnings rigged on ropes and maneuvered by sailors from the imperial fleet, who would unfurl them to protect the arena's occupants from sun or rain.
From the second floor, you can get a bird's-eye view of the hypogeum: the subterranean passageways that were the architectural engine rooms that made the slaughter above proceed like clockwork visitable via prebooked tour. In a scene prefiguring something from Dante's Inferno, hundreds of beasts would wait to be eventually launched via a series of slave-powered hoists and lifts into the bloodthirsty sand of the arena above. Designed by order of the Flavian emperor Vespasian in AD 72, the arena has a circumference of yards and was faced with travertine from nearby Tivoli.
Its construction was a remarkable feat of engineering, for it stands on marshy terrain reclaimed by draining an artificial lake on the grounds of Nero's Domus Aurea.
Originally known as the Flavian amphitheater, it came to be called the Colosseo because the Colossus of Nero, a foot-tall gilded bronze statue of the emperor, once stood nearby. Legend has it that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand; and when Rome falls, so will the world…not that the prophecy deterred Renaissance princes and even a pope from using the Colosseum as a quarry.