Roman amphitheatres were first conceived by the Roman empire and were used as a arena for large events. The events which took place in these vast stadiums varied from epic gladiator battles to gruesome executions.
Gladiators were swordsman who entertained the crowds who came to watch. There battles would involve violent meetings with wild animals, including tigers, and convicted criminals.
Many great films of past years have given us a glimpse into how it may have been to attend these events in the past, but surely none of them compare to its reality.
There were around 230 amphitheatres built during the Roman era and there are still great examples of Roman amphitheatres in European cities. Below are some of the best.
Colosseum – Rome
The Colosseum in Rome, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is probably the most recognised and prestigious amphitheatres in Europe. It is also the largest amphitheatre ever built. Rumours are that it could hold a capacity of between 50,000 to 80,000. The arena covered an area of 83 metres by 48 metres. Unfortunately, due to natural causes such as earthquakes this incredible structure has been damaged but it still stands proud. Located right in the centre of Rome it is the cities most popular tourist attraction.
The Verona arena was built during the first century and could hold a capacity of around 30,000 people. Spectators from all around used to visit this arena due to the incredible shows that took place. Like the colosseum, earthquakes have taken its toll on the arena and the outer ring has been all but destroyed. Despite this, the interior ring is still well sustained. The Verona Arena continues to be in use today, although not for battles. Large opera and music performances take place and the amphitheatre makes for an incredible setting.
The Amphitheatre, Pompeii by Carole Raddato – Source: WikiCommons
The ancient city of Pompeii, located near to the city of Naples, is home to the oldest stone built Roman amphitheatre in the world. All the amphitheatres prior to the one in Pompeii had been built from wood. In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and Pompeii was completed buried under volcanic ash. Due to the ash created by the natural disaster parts of the city including the amphitheatre have been preserved. One of the most notable events that happened in the arena was when a large brawl took place between spectators in 59 AD. This led to a 10 year ban on future events.
The Pula arena is amongst the most preserved amphitheatres in the world and the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia. It is believed to have been able to hold a capacity of over 20,000 spectators. Nowadays, the arena is used for concerts and other performances during the summer months. Many famous musicians have played here and continue to do so.
The Arles Amphitheatre is in the city which bears its name located in the south of France. This popular tourist attraction is situated right in the heart of this beautiful city. During the Roman era 20,000 spectators could enjoy chariot racing and gladiatorial battles. After the collapse of the Roman empire it was put to use once more becoming a shelter for the cities population. Today you can still enjoy concerts and even bullfighting in the summer months.
Arena of Nimes
Located in the city of Nimes this ancient amphitheatre dates back to 70 AD. It was one of the largest arenas in the region of which today is France. Like Arles, when the Roman empire fell it became a fortified wall for the city of which 700 people lived within. Still in use today the Arena of Nimes is used for bullfights and other events.
The Tarragona Amphitheatre is located in the north-east of Spain, just down the coast from Barcelona. During its heyday it could hold up to 15,000 spectators. Both battles and executions were the main uses of this amphitheatre. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and visited by many tourists each year.
Pozzuoli Flavian Amphitheatre
Amfiteatr Flawiuszy w Pozzuoli by Wojtek-Rajpold – Source: WikiCommons
The Pozzuoli Flavian Amphitheatre is located just outside the city of Naples. It is also the third largest in Italy and could hold a capacity of 50,000. Incredibly much of the interior is still intact and is an glorious example of Roman architecture. You can still see the location at which cages were raised to the arena floor. Like Pompeii, a volcanic eruption partially covered the amphitheatre in ash leading to it being abandoned.
Plovdiv Roman Stadium
The Roman Stadium in Plovdiv is amongst the largest Roman structure still standing in the Balkans. This vast stadium could hold an impressive 30,000 spectators. It was also home to Pythian Games on a number of occasions which took place every four years. The stadium was only unearthed in 1923 and further excavations have taken place since to further delve into its past.