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The Colosseum or coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.

Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started between 70 and 72 A.D. under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 A.D. under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian’s reign.

I wonder what is the basic sentence of “Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum”.

The basic sentence is "the emperor Vespasian occupied a site just east of the Roman Forum.", right?

I don’t know what is the subject of “Occupying”.

Is it possible to say "Occupyied a site just east of the Roman Forum" and the subject is "its constructions".?

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You can break the sentence into two parts (the longer part can be broken down further, but that would be irrelevant to your question):

  • Its construction started between 70 and 72 A.D. under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 A.D. under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian’s reign.
  • Its construction occupied a site just east of the Roman Forum.

So, yes, as a clause it has "[I]ts construction" as its subject.

This ("Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum") is an example use of present participles.

However, do not use the past participle construction, i.e. "Occupied a site just east of the Roman Forum" in this case, because it will be read as "It construction was occupied a site ...", which is incorrect.

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The bold phrase in your context is an appositive, (a noun or a noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it). In your example the appositive comes before the noun, pronoun (in your case) which renames, that is its.

The pronoun Its replaces the noun Coliseum.

So, your example can be rephrased this way:

The Coliseum’s construction, occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, started between 70 and 72 A.D. under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 A.D. under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian’s reign.

I hope this makes easier for you to find out the subject.

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  • Though explaining it with the concept of appositives might be helpful, I'm afraid I wouldn't agree with the idea that "occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum" is an appositive. Your source also says that an appositive is "a noun or a noun phrase [...]". May 3, 2014 at 11:05
  • @Damkerng, please read the final source's example too. May 3, 2014 at 11:24
  • That example is still a noun phrase, isn't it? However, do you really think that "occupying a site ..." is a noun phrase too? May 3, 2014 at 11:27
  • @DamkerngT., yes, if it can play the role of a noun. May 3, 2014 at 11:33

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