Arles Amphitheatre

Arles, France

The two-tiered Roman amphitheatre is probably the most prominent tourist attraction in the city of Arles, which thrived in Roman times. Built in 90 AD, the amphitheatre was capable of seating over 20,000 spectators, and was built to provide entertainment in the form of chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles. Today, it draws large crowds for bullfighting as well as plays and concerts in summer.

The building measures 136 m in length and 109 m wide, and features 120 arches. It has an oval arena surrounded by terraces, arcades on two levels (60 in all), bleachers, a system of galleries, drainage system in many corridors of access and staircases for a quick exit from the crowd. It was obviously inspired by the Colosseum in Rome (in 72-80), being built slightly later (in 90).

With the fall of the Empire in the 5th century, the amphitheatre became a shelter for the population and was transformed into a fortress with four towers (the southern tower is not restored). The structure encircled more than 200 houses, becoming a real town, with its public square built in the centre of the arena and two chapels, one in the centre of the building, and another one at the base of the west tower.

This new residential role continued until the late 18th century, and in 1825 through the initiative of the writer Prosper Mérimée, the change to national historical monument began. In 1826, expropriation began of the houses built within the building, which ended by 1830 when the first event was organized in the arena - a race of the bulls to celebrate the taking of Algiers.

Arles Amphitheatre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with other Roman buildings of the city, as part of the Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments group.

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Details

Founded: 90 AD
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in France
Historical period: Roman Gaul (France)

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Scott Hayes (41 days ago)
A little mixed feelings on this. At its heart this is a 2000yr old coliseum built for gladiator contests. The architecture is fascinating and worth exploring. It is still used today for non-kill bullfights so it has been fitted with martial seating which distracts from the historical structure. Still worth visiting a is the nearby Roman Amphitheater.
Mark Woods (2 months ago)
The Arles Amphitheater is well preserved and still in use. The present usage has impacted the historical venue but be sure to walk the entries. Realizing that the amphitheater was converted to include housing for many years and then restored adds to the historical appreciation.
Navid Anayati (3 months ago)
The Amphitheatre in Arles is interesting to visit to understand how the ancient Romans enjoyed 'games'. Call it the Colosseum of southern France to make it easy, it actually looks very different. One of the main attractions of this town.
georginamgo (3 months ago)
Second time we go. We'll preserved interesting Roman arena, although not too much to see. Interesting views from the top floor. Explanations are really in need of improvement to make the visit more interesting. Only one cashier in the high season, help! Toilets are ok
Theotime Huet (6 months ago)
A sophisticated place to develop french culture, especially with the particular print of roman era, due to the conquest of the Gaule by Julius Caesar. Amphitheater, forum and buildings enrich the beautiful city that is Arles.
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