(Colosseu, Coliseum) In the first century AD, the Amphitheatrum Flavium, a.k.a. Colosseum or Coliseum (though in antiquity Romans referred to it as to Amphitheatrum Caesareum or hunting theater), was erected as a gift to the Roman citizens. Vespasian started construction of the Coliseum in 72 AD in the grounds of Emperor Nero's (37-68 AD) private residence, Domus Aurea, and his son Titus inaugurated it in 80 AD. Over 160 ft high with eighty entrances, the Coliseum could hold upwards of 50,000 spectators. Public events such as gladiator fights, mock naval battles and wild animal hunts were held at the Coliseum. From the fourth story of the Coliseum wooden masts supported a linen awning that protected spectators from the sun. The Coliseum boasted seats of marble for the upper class, and benches of wood for the lower. Inaugural games lasted for 100 days and nights, during which some 5,000 animals were slaughtered. Trajan once held games that lasted for 117 days, during which some 9,000 gladiators fought to the death. Fighters wereslaves, prisoners or volunteers. Spectators saw persecuted Christians killed by lions. After 404 AD gladiatorial battles were no longer held, but animals such as lions, elephants, snakes and panthers continued to be massacred in the name of sport until the 6th century. With the fall of the Empire, the Coliseum was abandoned and gradually became overgrown. During the middle ages, stones from the Coliseum were removed for new buildings. Today, in Rome, the Coliseum is one of its most famous landmarks and tourist attractions. Although it survives only as a ruin, it still rates as one of the finest examples of Roman architecture and engineering.