In small provincial towns, the amphitheater was often the only source of entertainment in the city. And in these corners of Italy, every attempt was made to build one even vaguely resembling the eminence of a Roman amphitheater. They invariably failed. Even thousands of years later, these ancient amphitheaters are amongst the biggest tourist attractions in the country, and can be found all over amidst the ruins of the great Empire.
The earliest gladiator contests were held in the Roman Forum, or in the Circus Maximus when no chariot races were scheduled. But, in 29 BC, the construction of the first Roman amphitheater was completed. The structure was specifically developed for large shows and came into fruition as the idea of two normal theaters combined together. These structures were perfect for the wildly popular gladiatorial matches of the day. These exhibitions were historically derived from customs associated with Etruscan funeral ceremonies, but as the Roman Empire grew in power they threw off the shackles of the past, and any connection to these ancient rituals were soon forgotten.
Of course, the first ancient Roman amphitheater was the most famous of them all: the Colosseum. Located in the heart of Ancient Rome, its ruins are forever symbolic of the might of the Empire. Brutality and heroism were on full display in this blood splattered arena, as humans and animals fought to the bitter end. But the amphitheater symbolized something different to those that witnessed these games - it was representative of the victory of culture over lawlessness, of civilization over savagery. These were times of swift justice, too, and the most dangerous criminals were habitually executed upon the amphitheater floor, either by wild beasts or by other criminals in fights to the death. Prisoners of war often met their end upon the same floor. One of the essential tourist attractions in Rome, it opens every day at 9 am - a good time to go if you want to avoid the hectic crowds bee lining for the most visited attraction in the country.
It's likely that many other ancient Roman amphitheaters existed during the height of the empire, but most offer little more than the vaguest clues to their history. There was at least one stone amphitheater that of Statilius Taurus, and another wooden example built by Nero. Vestiges of a small amphitheater have been found near the Colosseum, a miniature version of the Colosseum used by gladiators as a training facility, but neither of these is open to the public.
The only other ancient Roman amphitheater that has any remains to speak of is the Amphitheatrum Castrense, and that is only because portions of its structure were commandeered to help build the Aurelian walls - fortifications formed so rapidly to protect against the threat of barbarian hordes that they consisted largely of preexisting buildings. Completed overshadowed by the Colosseum and considering the many other things to see in the city, this lesser amphitheater is hardly one of the top tourist attractions in Rome. In fact, tourists cannot even step inside without first applying with pastor of the adjacent church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, another reason this second Roman amphitheater is often ignored.