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4 Legendary Roman Amphitheatres That Are Still Standing

24 Feb 2015 by admin

Almost two thousand years ago, the Roman emperors ruled over the world and in order to show their grandeur, they built amphitheatres resembling to stadiums to offer the public a place where they could find entertainment.

These huge complexes were large, circular or oval and hosted events such as gladiator combats, wild beast shows, races and executions, all these to keep the people satisfied and happy.

All over the Roman Empire from Syria to Spain and from England to Tunisia, all towns with a population larger than a few thousand had their own amphitheatres.

The biggest Roman amphitheatres could host approximately 20,000, while the renowned Colosseum in Rome, the largest Roman amphitheater, could host around 50,000 people.

At a simple count, it was found that the Roman Empire included 230 amphitheaters. Many of these are still standing, and a few of them still host regular events like music concerts.

Verona Arena

Verona Arena can be found in Piazza Bra, in Verona, Italy, where it hosts opera performances due to its great acoustics, thus attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to Verona, every year, for the Festival Season. .
It was built in the first century and as all Roman amphitheaters, Verona Arena held gladiator fights and fierce exotic animals shows.

It measures 140 meters in length and 110 meters in width, and it features 64 entrances and a capacity to hold 30 thousand people.
The three stories of arches of the original facade were almost completely destroyed during a terrifying earthquake in the 12th century, remaining only the outer ring with two stories of arches.

During the 1850s was made the first attempt to restore the arena’s function as a theater, when there were organized a few opera performances.

In 1913, the Verona opera festival was inaugurated, a special event that also celebrated the 100th birth of Giuseppe Verdi, with the occasion of which the visitors fell in love with the place and remained with the desire of returning there.

Today, the arena hosts rock and pop concerts, which bring here artists like Pink Floyd, Alicia Keys, Deep Purple, Dire Straits, Rod Stewart, Sting or Björk.

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Pula Arena

This arena located in Pula, Croatia, was built between 27 BC and 68 AD and it’s one of the 6 largest Roman amphitheaters that are still functional and the only one that has four side towers  and all three Roman architectural orders untouched.

The arena has a capacity of 23,000 seats, being 132 meters long and 105 meters wide. Because of the fact that the entire structure was built on a slope, one part of the exterior wall is three-storeyed, while the other one has two stories.

Pula Arena held gladiator fights and was functional until the 5th century, when the emperor Honorius prohibited these kind of combats. But only in 681 the combat between convicts (those sentenced to death) and wild animals was forbidden.

Occasional tournaments by the Knights of Malta and medieval fairs were hosted by the amphitheater in the Middle Ages.

Starting with 1932, the arena was modernized for modern theatre and for hosting military ceremonies and public meetings. Today, it hosts music concerts, film festivals and even hockey games. Having a capacity of 5,000 seats, it can easily hold these kind of events.

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Arles Amphitheatre

This two-tiered Roman amphitheater is located in southern French town of Arles. It was built in 90 AD and it has a capacity of 20,000 spectators. Its main purpose was to hosts  chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles. Today, people come here to see bullfighting, as well as plays and concerts during summer.

This Roman amphitheater measures 136 meters by 109 meters, with an oval arena surrounded by terraces, and equipped with arcades on two levels, bleachers, a system of galleries, drainage system in most of the corridors of access and staircases for quick exit.

After the fall of the Empire that happed in the 5th century, Arles Amphitheater was turned into shelter for the population in the form of a fortress with four towers. It was practically transformed into a town, since inside it were built more than 200 houses, two chapels and a public square in its center. This situation lasted until the late 18th century.

Between 1826 and 1830, the houses were demolished in order to provide this place its original use.

Since 1830 until today, the amphitheater has been hosting bullfights.

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Arena of Nîmes

The Arena of Nîmes can be found in the French city of Nîmes and it features now a capacity of around 16,000 spectators, while in the old times it had a capacity of 24,000. It has an external facade that is 21 meter-high embellished by 120 arches that are divided over two levels.

The arena was built around 70 AD especially for gladiator fights and animal hunts. After the extinction of the Roman empire, this place was turned into a castle fortress completed by a moat in order to serve as a shelter for the population in case of an attack. The 12th century was the period during which the arena became the seat of the viscounty of Nimes and home to a chateau.

Later, in the 18th century, it became a real tow with 700 people living within its walls. Only in 1786, the arena began to be restored to finally be remodeled in 1863 in order to serve as a bullring.

Today, the Arena of Nîmes hosts bullfighting shows during the renowned Ferias festival, and also concerts during summer.

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