Arles Amphitheatre – Roman Amphitheatres in France


In the Provence region of France, on the banks of the Rhone River, lies the city of Arles. The city is known for having the most significant territory out of all the French communes. Aside from the extent of its area, the town of Arles is renowned for its long history as a part of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis which previously took up both Languedoc and Provence.Because of its history as a once province of the Roman empire, many Roman and Romanesque masterpieces and structures can be seen all over the town. These pieces of the past were listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of these places constitutes the Arles Amphitheatre, the most well-known tourist attraction in the town.

Arles Amphitheatre Background

The Romans founded this two-tiered Roman amphitheater in 90 AD in Arles. The city flourished very well through the Romans’ rule of Southern France. The amphitheater has 120 arches and measures 446 feet in length and 358 feet in width. At the center is the oval arena which is surrounded by arcades and bleachers along with a series of galleries, corridors, staircases, and drainage systems.

Arles city

At full capacity, the Arles Amphitheatre could seat over 20,000 spectators. It was a top-rated source of entertainment in the Roman province of Arles for several centuries where it was the venue of numerous bloody and violent events. These included chariot races, hand-to-hand battles between gladiators, along with hunting scenes.

Development after the Fall of Rome

When the Roman empire died in the fifth century, the amphitheater transformed into a fortress with an addition of four medieval towers to its structure. It also served as a shelter and became a real town which encircled over 200 houses with its public squares and chapels.The Arles Amphitheatre served as a private site for the citizens of Arles for several centuries until the beginning of the 19th century. Prosper Merimee, a writer, started the initiative in 1825 to change the purpose of the building and turn it into a historical monument. By the next year, the houses within the structure were dispossessed which continued until the 1830s when new events started to be hosted in the amphitheater once again.

Events and Activities at the Arles Amphitheatre

Since the 1830s, new and updated events have used the Arles Amphitheatre for its venue. At present, aside from being the choice set of several plays and concerts, it the host of large crowds of spectators for bullfighting. This event happens during the festival of Feria d’Arles, a famous festival in the city that is revolved around bull-wrestling related activities.

The Feria opens in April and ushers in the French bull fighting time of year, attracting an audience of over 600,000 people. On the other hand, around 50,000 people help out with the fights. All around the city, bull fighting sports are arranged for locals and tourists alike who come together in the streets for Arles’ moving orchestras, bodegas, and concerts.

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