Many of Piranesi’s Roman city views focused on individual ancient monuments and reveal the artist’s intense interest in ruins as archaeological objects. The last of Piranesi’s four treatments of the Colosseum—one of his most remarkable vedute—demonstrates this approach. He reveals the overall plan and the interior as if seen from the air, exposing the masses of masonry that supported the seating. Piranesi communicates the enormity of the structure by filling the entire plate and populating the center of the image with tiny human figures. Scrolls in the lower corners work with corresponding letters throughout the composition to provide information on ancient seating arrangements. The amphitheater could seat 50,000 people who were grouped by social rank, with the emperor, Vestal Virgins, and senators in the front, behind them the knights and plebeians, and, at the very top, in wooden bleachers, slaves and non-citizens.
While deep shadows engulf much of the monument, light illuminates the center of the amphitheater and the central crucifix erected by Pope Benedict XIV (1740–1758) in 1750. The pope also added tabernacles representing the Stations of the Cross at the edge of the arena. While the amphitheater had been dedicated to the cult of Christian martyrs in the 17th century, there is no evidence that any Christians were martyred there.