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Freestanding, open-air round or oval structure with a central arena and tiers of concentric seats. The amphitheater originated in ancient Italy (Etruria and Campania) and reflects the entertainment forms popular there, including gladiatorial games and contests of animals with one another or of men with animals. The earliest extant amphitheater is one built at Pompeii (c. 80 BC). Examples survive throughout the former provinces of the Roman empire, the most famous being Rome's Colosseum.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on amphitheater, visit Britannica.com.