Nimes’ amphitheatre is still as sturdy as the day it was built:
Built at the end of the first century AD, Nîmes’ amphitheatre, Les Arènes, was built from stone and designed mainly to cater for the battles of gladiators. Les Arènes may not be the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire but it is one of the best preserved of its kind.
Inspired by Rome’s Coliseum, the architecture of Nîmes’ amphitheatre is a model of harmony and balance. Inside the oval structure, there are 24,000 stone seats, spread over several levels. These are accessed by internal staircases and galleries which ensured that people could leave their places safely and quickly. Like the many amphitheatres in the Roman Empire, Nîmes’ Les Arènes is evidence that the Romans loved their spectacular gladiator performances.
Nîmes’ Amphitheatre over the Centuries
At the peak of the Middle Ages, the amphitheatre was transformed into a fortress containing living quarters. Thankfully, these additions were destroyed in the 19th century and the monument was restored to its original grandeur. The first bullfight took place in the amphitheatre in 1863 and this tradition has continued ever since. So we can say that people today love their spectacular performances just as much as the ancient Romans.
Les Arènes is one of the main Nîmes sightseeing attractions. As well as bulls and matadors, the arena is used for rock concerts, jazz concerts, circuses, shows – even a Nativity. It has actually become the largest concert arena in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The Romans used a ‘canopy’ to cover the tiers, however these days the amphitheatre is covered for six months of the year with a mobile roof made of Plexiglas, canvas and aluminium.
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Map of Nîmes: