Roman amphitheaters

I’ve been on a Roman Empire kick after an unintentional succession of visits to a few Roman amphitheaters in the past three weeks. I think I’ve gotten used to seeing a big church and plaza as the geographical and emotional hub of European towns, and it tickled me to be met with a grandiose sporting and entertainment facility instead. My curiosity is mostly fed by an incredible podcast series called The History of Rome but I also wanted to collect photos in the same place.

Here’s the Amphitheatre in Nîmes, in the south of France. It’s a short walk from the main railway station and having only seen the ruins in Rome, I was taken back by how clean and sturdy it is… this isn’t a ruin!

Arena of Nîmes

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According to their website, construction started in year 100 AD and took 39 years to complete. The initial purpose to house the gladiatorial games were phased out around the 4th century, as Christianity became the state religion and the violent nature of the past-time fell out of fashion.

I would later find out it’s the best-preserved Roman arena in France, having started restorations in 1853… and that it’s still very much active as an entertainment venue. I was telling someone at a party about this visit and they told me they’d gone to a Radio Head concert and how it was the most amazing thing ever 😮

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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Here’s the arena in nearby Arles, where we had the chance to go inside and explore.

Arles Amphitheatre

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Arles Amphitheatre

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It has tiered seating, much like the stadiums and halls as we know them today.

Arles Amphitheatre

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Arles Amphitheatre

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Today, the building is used for concerts and bullfighting, as was confirmed in this local newspaper, as I munched on a croissant the following day.

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Behind the door for the bulls and corridas…

Arles Amphitheatre

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These arenas hosted various games for over 400 years. Giving a thought to the scrap and build that happens in Olympic host cities… well, they don’t make them like they used to, do they?

Les Arènes, by Vincent van Gogh in 1888.
Les Arènes, by Vincent van Gogh in 1888.

And the granddaddy of them all, the Colosseum in Rome. The biggest amphitheater in the Roman world, it was built to house 55,000 spectators — more than double the capacity of Arles’s (20,000 spectators).

Immediately noticeable is that the ground “floor” is gone, exposing the underground maze of hallways where gladiators and animals waited for cues or were flooded to re-create naval battle scenes.

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Two thirds of it is gone, and the area is full of tourists and selfie sticks, but it’s still a magnificent sight, both under the harsh Roman sun and the quieter touch of dusk.

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Explore Tomomi Sasaki’s photos on Flickr. Tomomi Sasaki has uploaded 6006 photos to Flickr.

Untitled | Tomomi Sasaki | Flickr

Explore Tomomi Sasaki’s photos on Flickr. Tomomi Sasaki has uploaded 6006 photos to Flickr.