Two thousand years ago, when the mighty Roman emperors ruled over a significant part of the world, they built large public stadium-like entertainment complexes called amphitheatres.
The Ancient Romans built large amphitheaters all over the Roman empire. About 230 Roman amphitheaters are found all over the area that was under Roman regime. The amphitheaters were used for different events such as gladiator combats, chariot races, executions and more. It’s amazing that some of them are still used today for concerts, operas, bullfights and more – some 2,000 years after they were built!
Today there are many amphitheaters around the world, particularly in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. They remain in radically different states of preservation – some, like Nimes Arena, were incorporated into other structures such as fortresses and survived in excellent condition, while others are but an oval sketching in the ground.
15. Amphitheater of El Djem, Tunisia
The Roman amphitheater of El Djem in Tunisia is the third largest arena in the world, after Rome’s Colosseum and the ruined theater of Capua. El Djem was formerly the Roman town of Thysdrus, one of the most important towns in North Africa after Carthage. The amphitheater was built in the early 3rd century AD capable of seating 35,000 spectators. The structure remained in a good state until the 17th century when stones from the arena were used for building the nearby village of El Djem and transported to the Great Mosque in Kairouan. More recently and less destructive it was used for filming some of the scenes from the Oscar winning film Gladiator. It is now a popular tourist destination in Tunisia.
14. Pozzuoli Amphitheater, Italy
The Amphitheater in Pozzuoli is one of the largest Roman amphitheaters in Italy capable of hosting over 20,000 spectators. Its construction begun under the reign of emperor Vespasian who also initiated the construction of the Colosseum in Rome. Unlike the Colosseum not much remains of the upper ranges of seats but the subterranean areas are very well preserved, including the cages for keeping animals and parts of the mechanisms for lifting them to the arena floor. In the late antique period the arena was abandoned and partly buried under ash following an eruption of the volcano Solfatarain.
13. Ancient Amphitheatre in Bodrum, Turkey
The Bodrum Amphitheatre is another structure accredited to the reign of King Mausolus, although it wasn’t fully completed until the Roman era. The theatre is another witness to the great past of Bodrum, and it is one of the best preserved structures of ancient Halikarnassus. Originally, it was built around 4th C BC during the reign of King Mausolos, in 2nd C AD, during the Roman period, it was enlarged and enriched.
It became an open air museum after the excavations in 1973. The Bodrum Amphitheatre lies on the road to Gumbet and is used for concerts and shows during the high season, and is also used as part of the September Festival. It is well preserved and definitely worth a visit.
12. Uthina Amphitheater, Tunisia
Uthina (or Oudna) was a Roman colony in Tunisia. It was on the main route to Carthage from the south and west of the country. The city appears to have fallen into ruin after the Arab conquest in the 7th century. Still being excavated, the ruins are little visited. The archaeological park includes a Roman amphitheater which could host about 16,000 visitors. The lower half of the amphitheater is dug into the hill while the arcs are above the ground. The seats are not original and were only reconstructed recently.
11. Tipaza Amphitheatre, Algeria
This Amphitheater belongs to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in the ancient city of Tipasa, which is a modern Algeria region. Built in the late 2nd century or early 3rd century AD, the city and its amphitheatre are suited for those who like their ruins authentically dilapidated.
10. Caerleon Amphitheatre, Wales, UK
Famed in the Middle Ages as ‘King Arthur’s Round Table’, the amphitheatre at Caerleon was built to serve the Roman legionary fortress of Isca around AD 90.
9. Pula Arena, Croatia
The only remaining Roman amphitheatre to feature 4 side towers, Pula Arena took from 27 BC to 68 AD to construct. Pula Arena is a structure in which gladiator fights were held. It was built in the 1st century, during the period of the rule of Emperor Vespasian, at the same time as the Coliseum in Rome.
8. Aquincum, Budapest, Hungary
Aquincum- erstwhile Budapest, was the Hungarian capital during Roman times. The ruins of this city give a fair idea of the thriving life the city once held within its walls.
Aquincum had two amphitheaters- the Aquincum Civil Amphitheatre and the Aquincum Military Amphitheatre. The latter being the greater of the two obviously played a more important role in the cultural life of the citizens of Aquincum.
When you are in the beautiful town of Budapest, visit the ruins of these amphitheaters along with other architectural ruins, to get a feel of how advanced Roman architecture was, even back then.
7. Arles Amphitheatre, France
Unlike most amphitheatres, it hosted both gladiator matches and chariot races. Arles is a good example of the adaptation of an ancient city to medieval European civilization. It has some impressive Roman monuments, of which the earliest – the arena, the Roman theatre and the cryptoporticus (subterranean galleries) – date back to the 1st century B.C
6. Arena of Nîmes, France
The Amphitheatre of Nîmes is a perfect illustration of the degree of perfection attained by Roman engineers in designing and constructing this type of extremely complex building. It demonstrates perfect symmetry: oval-shaped, it measures 133 metres long and 101 metres wide, with an arena of 68 by 38 metres.
5. Trier Amphitheatre, Germany
Beyond the medieval city wall lies the Roman Amphitheater. Cruel games with animal and gladiator combats were conducted here popular public entertainment. When you enter the premises you walk through the ruins of the entrance gate. This was used as a quarry in the Middle Ages. The arena itself is surrounded by a protecting wall with openings for animal cages.The arena, built in the 2nd century A.D. for cruel games with gladiators and animals, had a seating capacity of about 20,000.
4. Amphitheatre of Leptis Magna, Libya
Leptis Magna was a prominent Roman city in North Africa. Its amphitheatre, completed in AD 56, could hold around 16,000 people. In the morning it would host fights between animals, followed by executions at noon and gladiator fights in the afternoon hours.
3. Amphitheatre of Pompeii, Italy
Built in 70BC, Pompeii’s amphitheatre is the oldest and most complete pre-Colosseum style amphitheatre in the Roman world. Situated in the south eastern corner of the city, Pompeii’s amphitheatre dates to 70BC. It survived the eruption of Vesuvius almost intact, making it the world’s oldest surviving Roman amphitheatre. It also offers fascinating insight into the design of amphitheatres and their importance to Roman society.
2. Verona Arena, Italy
The Verona Arena in Italy is the world’s third-largest amphitheater to survive from Roman antiquity. It’s outer ring of white and pink limestone was almost completely destroyed during a major earthquake in 1117 but the inner part is still amazingly well preserved. The Arena in Verona was built in 30 AD and could host 30,000 spectators. The Roman amphitheater has been used continuously throughout the centuries to host shows and games: gladiator fights during Roman times, jousts and tournaments in the Middle Ages and from the 18th century until the present day the arena is the setting for Verona’s spectacular opera performances.
1. Colosseum, Italy
The Roman Colosseum or Coliseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian. It was completed by his son, Titus, in 80, with later improvements by Domitian. The true king of all ancient amphitheaters is still an impressive and imposing sight, it once held an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 spectators.