This review is from: The Colosseum (Paperback)
In a very easy to understand English that doesn't require an intellectual education, Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard write a history of the Colosseum in Rome ( buildings of this kind were found all over the Roman Empire ). The colosseum was built around 50 AD. Hopkins and Beard discuss the use of the colosseum from it's origin until today. They explain ( among other things ) the way that different social classes were seated. The senators were seated in the front row, alongside the Emperor, behind them were the other aristocrats, Roman citizens and finally slaves and foreigners on the wooden seats instead of marble seats.
An interesting question is what kind of games were performed. There were not only Gladiator fights but also animal hunting ( as exotic as elephants, giraffes, and tigers among other ferocious beasts ). An other problem Hopkins/Beard discuss, is how many Gladiators died in a season and if it's true that Christians were meat for tigers, lions, jaguars, bears, and such, all of this because they remained loyal to their religion. It's not easy to understand why the Romans did this. In Imperial Rome there were a lot of religions (Jewish, Egyptian - Isis cult - and several cults of the East.). All their followers lived in peace while staying loyal to their religion. So why the Christians?
Veterans and talented Gladiators were worth a lot of money ( moreover their training was expensive and time consuming ). This leads to the idea that on more than one occasion Gladiators fought with wooden weapons and performed a sort of choreography, a bit like stuntmen in modern movies. It was very close to real fighting and made the public sit on the edge of their seat. Hopkins and Beard found no evidence that Christians were thrown in the arena to be devoured by wild animals. It's significant that Christians themselves didn't mention the Colosseum as a place of martyrdom like many other places were.
In later centuries the colosseum was used as a stone quarry, a place for building houses, excavating antiquities and so on. In the last chapter Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard give all kinds of advice to tourists who want to visit the Colosseum. At the end of the day you'll know that the Colosseum is more than a place where Gladiators fought.