Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters Facts

If one like to picture about Roman entertainment, the first thing will come in mind is the savage fights between prisoners and animals (like in Gladiator) and chariot races (like in Ben-Hur). The gladiator fights were the domain of the Roman amphitheaters.

Romans considered these combats were good training for a nation of warriors. Now we realize what a savage thing it was! Here, 10 most famous Roman amphitheaters are shortly described.

Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters:

10. Uthina Amphitheater

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Uthina Amphitheater
Uthina Amphitheater ; image credit
Sarah Murray

Uthina (or Oudna) was a Roman colony, now in northern Tunisia. The city lost its zeal after the Arab conquest in the 7th century. The city is still under excavated and the ruins are not yet popular.

Uthina Roman amphitheater could host about 16,000 visitors. The central arena measures 58mx35m. Its shape is elliptical. However, the seats of the amphitheater are not original and were recently reconstructed.

9. Pozzuoli Amphitheater

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Pozzuoli Amphitheater
Pozzuoli Amphitheater ; image credit

The Amphitheater in Pozzuoli is the third largest Roman amphitheaters in Italy. It’s capable of housing over 20,000 visitors. The construction was begun under the reign of Emperor Vespasian and finished under the reign of his son Titus.

The interior of the amphitheater is still intact even the gears that were used to lift the cage. The arena was abandoned and partly buried under ash for the eruption of the volcano Solfatarain.

8. Leptis Magna Arena

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Leptis Magna Arena
Leptis Magna Arena ; image credit Cordaiy Photo Library Ltd./Corbis

Leptis Magna was an important city of the Roman Empire. The city is located in modern-day Libya. Founded by the Phoenicians in the 10th century BC, Leptis Magna had become part of the Roman Empire after the defeat of Carthage in 146 BC.

The city prospered and became a major trading post under Roman reign. And, It was abandoned in 523 AD after an attack of Berber tribe and later covered in desert.

For that reason, the site contains one of the most spectacular and unspoiled Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. The amphitheater of Leptis Magna built in 56 AD and lies about a kilometer east of the city center. It was capable of holding 16,000 spectators. This amphitheater is special because it was under the ground.

7. Roman Arena in Arles

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Roman Arena in Arles
Roman Arena in Arles ; image credit

The Roman amphitheater in the city of Arles is one of the major tourist attractions in southern France. Built around the 1st century BC, the amphitheater is capable of housing over 20,000 spectators.

The amphitheater is not abandoned. It is still used for hosting bull fight from1830 which is much lesser brutal than the Romans.

6. Amphitheatre Nimes

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Amphitheatre Nimes
Amphitheatre Nimes ; image credit

The Arena of Nîmes is another spectacular Roman amphitheater. It was located in the city of Nimes in France. Built at the end of the 1st century AD, it was remodeled in 1863 to serve as a bull fighting arena.  

About 24,000 spectators can sit in the Arena of Nîmes. It was one of the biggest Roman amphitheaters in Gaul. During the middle ages, a fortified palace was built within the amphitheater. A small neighborhood developed within its confines later.

5. Pompeii Spectacula

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Pompeii Spectacula
Pompeii Spectacula ; image credit

On August 24, 79 AD, the town Pompeii completely destructed by volcano Vesuvius eruption and subsequently preserving the city in its state from that tragic day. The best-preserved structures in Pompeii are the 2 theaters and the amphitheater.

It is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheaters in the world. Interestingly the amphitheater was called a ‘spectacula‘ because the term ‘amphitheatrum‘ was not in use yet.

About 20,000 spectators can sit in this amphitheater which is equal to the entire population of Pompeii. Any kind of game was banned for 10 years when a violent riot broke out between fans from Pompeii and a rival town in 59 AD.

4. Pula Arena

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Pula Arena
Pula Arena ; image credit

The amphitheater in Pula is one of the best preserved ancient monuments in Croatia. It was the sixth largest surviving Roman arena. It was built around the 1st century AD and over 26,000 spectators could seat.

Many stones were taken from the amphitheater to build houses and other structures around Pula in the 15th century. The amphitheater is used to host a variety of festivals and performances today.

3. Verona Arena

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Verona Arena
Verona Arena ; image credit Poh

The Verona Arena, the third-largest surviving Roman amphitheater and also one of the best tourist destinations in Italy today. During a major earthquake in 1117, its outer ring of white and pink limestone was almost completely destroyed but the inner part is still well preserved amazingly.

Built in 30 AD, it could host 30,000 spectators. It has been used continuously throughout the centuries to host games and shows. During Roman times the gladiator fights, in the middle Ages jousts and tournaments and from the 18th century until the present spectacular opera performances are performing here.

2. Amphitheater of El Djem

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Amphitheater of El Djem
Amphitheater of El Djem ; image credit

After Rome’s Colosseum and the ruined theater of Capua, the Roman amphitheater of El Djem in Tunisia is the third largest arena in the world. El Djem was formerly the Roman town of Thysdrus. It was one of the most important towns in North Africa after Carthage. Built in the early 3rd century AD, the amphitheater is capable of holding 35,000 spectators.

Until the 17th century, the structure remained in a good state but later stones from the arena were used for building the nearby village of El Djem and transported to the Great Mosque in Kairouan. It was used for filming some of the scenes from the Oscar-winning film “Gladiator” starring Russell Crowe.

1. Colosseum

Top 10 Most Famous Roman Amphitheaters, Colosseum
Colosseum ; image credit Kaufmann

The Colosseum is the largest and most famous amphitheater ever built. It is also known as the Flavian amphitheater. Its construction was started by Roman emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty in 72 AD and was finished by his son Titus in 80 AD.  Over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheater.

The Colosseum was capable of housing about 50,000 spectators who could enter the building through more than 80 entrances. The Colosseum was used to host gladiatorial shows as well as a variety of other events. Spectators were protected from the rain and heat of the sun by sails called the “velarium”, around the top of the attic. It has become an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome.

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