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

Sam Tambago (9 months ago)
Nice preservation of historical landmark; good job to the tourism department of Arles!
Jaume Balaguer Blasi (9 months ago)
A delightful surprise in a city which is not so commonly visited
Benjamin Hirsch (11 months ago)
Impressive Roman arena
Uli K (11 months ago)
Reopened! Must see! 9-19 in the summer. Best get ticket Liberté, then use one of the half hour tours, if you speak some French. Cécile was a good guide. Just the right amount of info. Stay longer and read the signs if you like. Great views from top. Or see it from outside at night.
Yair Bar Zohar (2 years ago)
It is the most popular site in the Earl, which has been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Some say that Earl's Amphitheater, built in 90 AD, is prettier than the Colosseum of Rome. At the time, it could seat some 20,000 spectators, who would enjoy carriage rides and other shows. To date, various amphitheater performances are held at the amphitheater, including the Bullfight Festival in mid-September and April. The amphitheater also appears in Van Gogh's painting from 1888, which describes how the crowd cheers for bullfighting in the arena.
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