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(ăm`fəthē'ətər, ăm`pə–), open structure used for the exhibition of gladiatorial contests, struggles of wild beasts, sham sea battles, and similar spectacles. There is no Greek prototype of amphitheaters, which were primarily Roman and were built in many cities throughout the empire. More or less well-preserved examples are at Rome (see ColosseumColosseum
or Coliseum
, Ital. Colosseo, common name of the Flavian Amphitheater in Rome, near the southeast end of the Forum, between the Palatine and Esquiline hills. Begun by Vespasian, c.A.D. 75, and completed by his son Titus in A.D.
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), Verona, and Capua in Italy; at Nîmes and Arles in France; at Cirencester in England; and at sites in Sicily, Greece, and North Africa. The typical amphitheater was elliptical in shape, with seats, supported on vaults of masonry, rising in many tiers around an arena at the center; corridors and stairs facilitated the circulation of great throngs. The arena itself was usually built over the quarters for gladiators, wild animals, and storage. Until the erection of the Colosseum (A.D. 80), practically all amphitheaters were of wood, the notable exception being that of stone built at Pompeii c.70 B.C. The word amphitheater is now applied to modern structures which may bear little resemblance to their ancient prototypes.


A circular, semicircular, or elliptical auditorium in which a central arena is surrounded by rising tiers of seats; originally for the exhibition of combat or other public events.


A structure or large room containing oval, circular, or semicircular tiers of seats facing an open space.
A valley or gulch having an oval or circular floor and formed by glacial action.

amphitheater, amphitheater

1. A circular, semicircular, or elliptical auditorium in which a central arena is surrounded by rising tiers of seats.
2. (Brit.) The first section of seats in the gallery of a theater.
3. Any outdoor theater, esp. of the classical Greek type.


(US), amphitheater
1. a building, usually circular or oval, in which tiers of seats rise from a central open arena, as in those of ancient Rome
2. any level circular area of ground surrounded by higher ground
a. the first tier of seats in the gallery of a theatre
b. any similarly designated seating area in a theatre
References in periodicals archive ?
There it is, placed in terraces upon seven hills, in a wonderful, harmonius sequence stretching from the dark groves of cypresses and the blueish waters of the foreground of the panorama, clear and visible even in the smallest details, to the mountains and their veils of fog in the background of the painting, each detail on its own and yet harmoniously integrated into the whole, from the wavering tops of the trees, from the lush green of the gardens to the amphitheatrical rows of houses and the skyscraping minarets, a city as built by ghosts, a location as chosen by a messenger from Paradise.
With its circular triple-tiered structure, amphitheatrical appearance, and hierarchical deployment of the three classical orders, the obvious antique model was the Colosseum in Rome.
Schnapp, a cultural historian and professor of comparative and Italian literatures at Stanford University, draws on a wealth of never before published or translated archival sources to describe Ciocca's visionary ball-bearing factory in Soviet Russia, his roadways that facilitated the Agnelli's expanding FIAT automobile industry, his blueprints for Mussolini's "Third Rome" or EUR (Esposizione Universale Romana), his free standing "fast houses," and the amazing 1937 amphitheatrical space for 20,000 public spectators.