Lejre was the capital of an Iron Age kingdom sometimes referred to as the Lejre Kingdom. According to early legends, this was ruled by kings of the Skjöldung dynasty, predecessors of the kings of medieval Denmark. Legends of the kings of Lejre are known from a number of medieval sources, including the twelfth-century Gesta Danorum written by Saxo Grammaticus and the anonymous twelfth-century Chronicon Lethrense, or Chronicle of Lejre. As the home of the Skjölding dynasty mentioned in Beowulf, Lejre has long been thought to have been the real-world counterpart to Heorot, the fabulous royal hall where the first part of the action of that Anglo-Saxon poem takes place. Among other works of the medieval imagination that tell of adventures at Lejre, the best known is the fourteenth-century Icelandic Saga of King Hrolf Kraki.
Archeological excavations undertaken since the 1980s have produced dramatic confirmation that medieval legends of Lejre, though largely fabulous, have a basis in history. Research teams have uncovered the remains of an extensive Iron Age and Viking Age settlement complex just outside the hamlet of Gammel Lejre. Discovered here were the post-holes for a series of large rectangular buildings measuring fifty to sixty meters in length or more. These must have been the halls of powerful magnates or kings. Outbuildings and other structures whose remains were unearthed in this same area indicate that Lejre was also a center for crafts, commerce, and religious observances. The relative absence of weapon finds suggests that the site was more important as a social and economic center than as a military base. A noteworthy loose find that has recently turned up is a tiny silver Viking Age figurine known as Odin from Lejre. This is thought to depict the god Odin enthroned in majesty between ravens.
Other sites of archaeological interest in the vicinity, long admired by visitors even when their nature was not well understood, are a Viking-Age cemetery that includes several ship settings, a great Iron Age cremation mound, a number of tumuli that are mostly of Bronze Age date, and several Neolithic chamber graves, including one that in modern times has been known as Harald Hildetandshøy. As for the Iron Age archaeological settlement complex unearthed since the 1980s, its two related parts span the period from about 550 to about 1000 AD, thus confirming the significance of this 'land of legends' over a period of almost half a millennium, up to the time when Denmark was converted to Christianity and a new royal capital was established at what is now the cathedral city of Roskilde.
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.