Amphitheatres | Roman Amphitheatre List

Amphitheatres in the ancient world were large public entertainment complexes which took the form of open-air oval stadia with ascending seating. Most surviving amphitheatres are from ancient Rome and the surviving roman amphitheatre list is actually more populated than you might imagine – with many excellent examples of surviving Roman amphitheatres.

Roman amphitheatres should not however be confused with ancient theatres, particularly Greek theatres. Amphitheatres are full ovals and are more like today’s sporting stadia, whereas ancient theatres were semi-circular with a theatrical-style stage and were used for plays and other performances.

For hundreds of years amphitheatres staged gladiatorial games, wild beast shows, races and executions. It was also known for amphitheatres to be flooded to stage mock-naval battles. The majority of Roman amphitheatres were built in Imperial times and were used as a way to keep the populace happy. Many new emperors would stage elaborate games as a way to secure their hold on power. The larger Roman amphitheatres could hold around 20,000 people while Rome’s Colosseum, the largest Roman amphitheatre, could cater for 50,000.

Today there are many amphitheaters around the world, particularly in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. They remain in radically different states of preservation – some, like Nimes Arena, were incorporated into other structures such as fortresses and survived in excellent condition, while others are but an oval sketching in the ground.

Above is the Roman amphitheatres map and below you will find a list of amphitheatres – click on the links to find out more details on each amphitheater, including map location, directions and entry details where relevant. Remember, you can always use our free itinerary planner tool to plan your own Roman amphitheatre tour.

Amphitheatres | Roman Amphitheatre List: Editor's Picks

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1. The Colosseum

Easily the most famous of all Roman amphitheatres, and the largest amphitheatre of Ancient Rome, the Colosseum saw gladiators, criminals and lions alike fight for their lives in spectacular events. Today it remains a world renowned, iconic symbol of the Roman Empire.

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The Colosseum is a site like no other. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, nothing represents the sheer power and magnificence of the Roman Empire like this stunning piece of ancient architecture.

The Colosseum, or ‘Colosseo’ in Italian, was once the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. It was built in the first century AD by the Emperor Vespasian as a place for the people of Rome to enjoy. Originally named the Flavian Amphitheatre, after Vespasian’s family name, the man who brought the Roman Empire back from the brink would not live to see its completion.

The construction of the Colosseum was very much a symbolic gesture to create a clear distinction between Vespasian and his predecessor, Nero. Nero had committed suicide after suffering military coups, partially a result of his extravagance, which included building the opulent Golden House and a vast statue of himself. By contrast, Vespasian was building the Colosseum for the citizens of Rome. As if to emphasise this point, the Colosseum was built in the former gardens of Nero’s palace over the site where Nero’s colossal statue had stood.

Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum was opened with great fanfare by Titus, Vespasian’s son and successor. He marked the opening of the Colosseum with one hundred days of games, including stunning battle recreations on artificial lakes of water. The fact that the Colosseum was completed by this date was particularly impressive considering the building’s incredible complexity, vast size and the fact that Vespasian only came to power in 69 AD.

Even despite the short timescale of the build, the result was spectacular. Not only was the Colosseum able to take up to 50,000 spectators, it was also perfectly symmetrical, ornately decorated in marble and stone and an incredible feat of engineering.

The Colosseum remained the amphitheatre of Rome until the end of the Roman Empire. This was the place where gladiators, lions and those accused of crimes were put to the test, often fighting to the death.

Since the fall of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum has suffered from various destructive forces, including extensive pillaging of its stone and marble as well as natural disasters such as earthquakes. In fact, its materials contributed to many famous Roman buildings such as St Peter’s Cathedral and the Palazzo Venezia. Yet, even though a third of the Colosseum has been lost over time, this magnificent structure remains one of the most fascinating and beautiful historic sites in the world.

A visit to the Colosseum offers a great insight into the lives of Roman citizens and those who had the misfortune of fighting there. In particular, it is now possible to tour the underground hallways and corridors where the gladiators of ancient Rome would prepare to fight and ponder their mortality. Also recently opened are the higher areas of the structure, from where you can take in views of the Roman Forum.

There is a museum within the Colosseum with a wealth of interesting artifacts and information and audio guides are available in a number of languages. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by carolune (cc)

2. El Jem Amphitheatre

One of the most impressive Roman amphitheatres in the world, El Jem in Tunisia is a magnificent UNESCO listed third century Roman stadium.

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El Jem Amphitheatre (El Djem) in Tunisia, also known as Thysdrus Amphitheatre after the original Roman settlement in this location, stands in the midst of a quiet town. This incredibly large and well-preserved Roman amphitheatre is El Jem’s star attraction and draws visitors from around the world.

From the outside, the El Jem Amphitheatre bears a striking resemblance to its older and larger – although not significantly larger – counterpart in Rome, The Colosseum. In fact, with its abundant original characteristics such as its tiered seats, arches and elliptical stone walls, which are intact up to 35 metres in places, many argue that the El Jem Amphitheatre is in better condition that the Colosseum.

Constructed by the Emperor Gordian between 230 and 238 AD, El Jem Amphitheatre was vast and able to accommodate up to 35,000 spectators (some even say up to 60,000). The structure measures 162 metres long and 118 metres wide, making the El Jem Amphitheatre the largest of its kind in North Africa.

Having managed to survive the destruction of the city carried out in 238 AD, the damage which one can see at the El Jem Amphitheatre can be attributed to its stint as a citadel in the seventeenth century. At this time, it was hit by cannon fire and suffered greatly. It was also quarried for its treasures and masonry over the years, yet still remains one of the most evocative Ancient Roman structures in the world and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.

El Jem Amphitheatre features as one of our Top Ten Tunisian Visitor Attractions.

Photo by Wolfgang Staudt (cc)

3. Nimes Arena

Possibly the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world, Nimes Arena survived due to its adaptation over the centuries, being used as a fortress and village before its eventual restoration.

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Nimes Arena (Arenes de Nimes), also known as Nimes Amphitheatre, is amongst the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world.

A Roman Marvel
Built during the reign of the Emperor Augustus in the first century AD, Nimes Arena is a marvel of Roman engineering. A vast oval with a stunning façade resplendent with archways and ornamentation, Nimes Arena could seat up to 24,000 people in its 34 terraces.

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All the people of Nimes - then called Nemausus - would sit according to their social status and watch the games played there. These would range from animal hunts involving lions, tigers and even elephants to the famous gladiatorial matches. Executions would also be held at Nimes Arena, in the form of those convicted to death being thrown to the animals.

A Visigoth Fortress
In the sixth century, under the Visigoths, Nimes Arena began to play a military role. Transformed from a sports arena to a castle fortress or "castrum arena" complete with a moat, Nimes Arena was a sort of emergency shelter of the people of the town in the event of attack.

From Castle to Village
Nimes Arena would go on to play an even more elaborate role in the twelfth century when it became the seat of the viscounty of Nimes and home to a chateau. In the eighteenth century, this went even further with the establishment of a whole 700-strong village within its walls. It was only in 1786 that Nimes Arena began to be restored to its original grandeur.

Nimes Arena Today
Now fully restored, Nimes Arena is a popular tourist attraction and allows people to really experience what it would have been like for Roman spectators. Including an interactive audio guide and some detailed exhibits, the site is now a fitting museum of its past. However, beyond just its historic significance, Nimes Arena is also still used for events today.

Photo by M_WalzEriksson (cc)

4. Arles Amphitheatre

One of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres, Arles Amphitheatre is a UNESCO listed Roman sports arena still in use today.

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Arles Amphitheatre or “Amphithéâtre d'Arles” is a large sports arena built by the Romans around the first century BC or AD, during the reign of Augustus (27 BC–14 AD). At the time, Arles was flourishing as a Roman colony and benefiting from the construction of several monuments, of which Arles Amphitheatre was one of the grandest.

Built to accommodate over 20,000 spectators, with over a hundred Corinthian and Doric columns spread over two levels and at a length of 136 metres, Arles Amphitheatre remains one of the town’s most impressive sites. Its excellent state of preservation means that it is even still used today, not for chariot races, but for bullfighting. This excellent state of conservation is in spite the fact that it was used as a medieval fortification.

Arles Amphitheatre is now one of the town’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Photo by Historvius

5. Caesarea

Caesarea in Israel was an Ancient Roman city later conquered by the Crusaders which includes the remains of a Roman amphitheatre.

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Caesarea or “Keysarya” was an Ancient Roman city which is now a large archaeological site in Israel. It is believed that the city of Caesarea was initially founded atop the ruins of Straton's Tower, a third century BC Phoenician port city.

Conquered by King Alexander Jannaeus of the Hasmonean Kingdom in 90 BC, Caesarea’s population remained under local control until it was taken by the Romans in 63 BC. It was King Herod the Great who named the city Caesarea – after Augustus Caesar - and who endowed it with the majority of its great public buildings, infrastructure and monuments from 22 BC. Caesarea became a thriving commercial hub which hosted sporting events and which flourished further under the Byzantines. It was conquered by Crusaders in the eleventh century and its Crusader defences were erected in 1251 under French King Louis IX.

Today, Caesarea offers so much to see, including a large amphitheatre overlooking the ocean and an extensive labyrinth of ruins. Some of the most imposing remains at Caesarea are its Crusader fortifications.

Nearby, visitors can also explore the stunning remains of the Caesarea Aqueduct. Unless willing to hike for quite a while, it’s best to drive to this site. Overall, a trip to Caesarea can last anywhere from one to three hours and makes for a truly excellent day out. This site also features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Israel.

Photo by NH53 (cc)

6. Leptis Magna

An extremely well preserved entry among on our Roman amphitheatre list, Leptis Magna amphitheatre would once have held almost 20,000 people and is still an impressive site today.

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Leptis Magna (Lepcis Magna) is an incredibly well preserved archaeological site in Tripoli, Libya. Originally founded by the Phoenicians as the port of Lpgy in the first millennium BC, Leptis Magna later became part of the Carthaginian Empire and was then incorporated into the Roman Empire in 46 BC.

Most of the remaining structures now found at the site of Leptis Magna are indeed Roman and originate from the reign of Septimius Severus. Emperor of Rome from 193 AD, Severus was born in Leptis Magna and, as such, he invested heavily in developing his home city, transforming it into one of the most important of Africa’s Roman cities. Leptis Magna became a beautiful place and a marvel of Severan planning.

Among the many remains found in Severus' home city, the marketplace, Severan Basilica, the Forum, the Amphitheatre and the Severan Arch represent some of the best preserved Roman sites in the Mediterranean. These sites remain visible at the site despite the various invasions that befell Leptis Magna from the fourth century onwards, finally falling to the Hilalians in the eleventh century. Today, Leptis Magna is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Check the official advice of your country’s foreign office before considering travelling to Libya.

Photo by Perrimoon (cc)

7. Pompeii

The oldest surviving Roman amphitheatre, Pompeii amphitheatre was able to hold around 20,000 people and was the first ever stone amphitheatre. It is extremely well preserved.

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One of the best known ancient sites in the world, Pompeii was an ancient Roman city founded in the 6th to 7th century BC and famously destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The people of Pompeii were completely unprepared for this disaster and its impact, which covered Pompeii in 6-7 metres of ash.

Today, Pompeii is one of the world’s most famous archeological sites. It is a ghost town filled with the bodies of its tragic citizens, many of whom died from asphyxiation and who were preserved by the ash and cinders which buried them.

The most intriguing aspect of Pompeii and what makes it such a popular site to visit is the extent to which its homes, buildings and artifacts have remained intact. Essentially, walking through Pompeii is treading in the footsteps of ancient Roman life, with its houses, shops, walkways, pedestrian stones and carriage tracks.

Amongst Pompeii’s most interesting sites are; the public marketplace or ’Forum’, a large home known as the House of the Vettii and the Basilica, which was a central building in the city. The artifacts found at the site are also fascinating, with many domestic objects and even the preserved bodies of people who perished in the eruption.

Pompeii Amphitheatre is also staggeringly impressive, it being a 20,000 seat structure and the first ever stone amphitheatre. In 59AD, the Emperor Nero banned games in this sports venue for a whole ten years, after a giant brawl between fans of Pompeii and those of neighbouring Nuceria.

Pompeii is quite a maze, so ensure you have a map, available for free at information desk at the entrance, where you can also buy audio guides. During the summer, the Pompeii Archeological Superintendence organises evening tours. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Photo by Historvius

8. Tarragona Amphitheatre

Tarragona Amphitheatre is a 2nd century AD construction which would once have played host to gladiatorial battles in front of as many as 14,000 spectators.

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Tarragona Amphitheatre (Anfiteatro Romano de Tarragona) is a second century AD sports arena in Spain which would once have played host to the pastimes of the Ancient Romans, particularly to gladiatorial battles.

It was probably built during the reign of Trajan or Hadrian. At the time, Tarragona Amphitheatre was part of the Roman city of Tarraco, the remains of which are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The elliptical structure and seating plan of Tarragona Amphitheatre can still be seen. It would once have held up to 14,000 spectators.

Tarragona Amphitheatre was in use until the fourth century AD, after which it was abandoned. Later, a sixth century basilica and a twelfth century gothic church were built on the site - the remains of which can be seen today.

9. Trier Roman Amphitheatre

Trier Roman Amphitheatre in Germany is a well preserved UNESCO site in use as early as the 1st century AD.

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Trier Roman Amphitheatre may have been constructed as early as the first century AD, but was certainly in use by the second century.

Able to hold around 20,000 spectators, Trier Roman Amphitheatre would have been the site of fierce gladiatorial battles, also involving animals. In fact, tunnels have been found under Trier Roman Amphitheatre which would have been used to house these animals together with unfortunate prisoners of the Roman Empire.

Beautifully preserved, the Roman Amphitheatre of Trier now hosts open-air events and even the city’s antiquity festival. It is part of Trier’s UNESCO World Heritage sites list.

Photo by By Veles (cc)

10. Xanten Archaeological Park

Xanten Archaeological Park houses the remains of Roman settlement Colonia Ulpia Traiana and include an impressive amphitheatre.

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Xanten Archaeological Park (Archaologischer Park Xanten) houses the remains of the former Roman settlement of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. The area of the park was first garrisoned by Roman legions in around 13 BC and soon flourished.

Roads and a harbour were built as was a vast military camp and, except for an interruption due to a Germanic Bataver revolt in 69-70 AD, it continued to thrive. In 88-89 AD this settlement was finally honoured with the status of being a "colonia" and thus Colonia Ulpia Traiana was born.

Most of the buildings in Xanten Archaeological Park date back to the second century AD, when great building projects were undertaken. By this time, the colonia had a population of around 10,000 people and was a great agricultural hub. However, it was utterly destroyed by the Germanic Franks in the third century and, despite final attempts to breathe life back into the settlement, including further fortification, it was abandoned by the fourth century.

At 73 hectares, Xanten Archaeological Park is now Germany’s largest outdoor museum and offers so much to see. It is a mixture of ruins and reconstructed sites including temples, homes, an amphitheatre, a city wall, a baths complex and an inn, to name but a few. There is also a museum housing finds from excavations.

Overall, Xanten Archaeological Park offers a fascinating insight into life in this Roman settlement and really lets you immerse yourself in its history. You can even dress up like a Roman.

Amphitheatres | Roman Amphitheatre List: Site Index

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Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls

One of many Roman amphitheatres in France, the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls is a partially preserved first century Roman amphitheatre in Lyon.

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The Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls, translated as “Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules”, was an early first century amphitheatre in Lyon.

Lyon was once the Roman city of Lugdunum. Whilst the city was founded in approximately 44 BC, the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls is thought to have been constructed in around 19 AD. The reference to the “Three Gauls” relates to Gaul’s main three provinces at the time, Belgica, Aquitania and Lugdunensis, and of which Lugdunum was the capital.

In the second century AD, it is thought that several Christians were martyred at the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls in the course of the campaign of persecution against Christians at the time.

Only a fraction of the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls remains, the rest seemingly swallowed up by modern roads and buildings which surround it. What does remain includes a section of its walls, its northern gate and some of its foundations.

Photo by chad_k (cc)

Aquincum

The ruins of Aquincum in Budapest include the partially preserved remains of two Roman amphitheatres which once served this important Roman city.

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Aquincum is a large Ancient Roman site in Budapest housing the remains of part of what was an important military base and city. Most of the sites at Aquincum date back to the second century AD, when the city reached its peak with up to 40,000 inhabitants and as the capital of the province of Pannonia, later Lower Pannonia.

Today, the site of Aquincum has much to offer sightseers and history enthusiasts alike, including the ruins of a city wall, an amphitheatre (one of two in Budapest), temples, homes and burial grounds.

There is also the modest Aquincum Museum housing some artifacts from the site, although the English translations could be improved.

Photo by burge5k (cc)

Arenes de Lutece

Lesser known on the list of Roman amphitheatres, Arenes de Lutece was an ancient amphitheatre in the Roman city of Lutetia, the remains of which stand in modern Paris.

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Arenes de Lutece or “Lutetia Arena” in Paris is one of the most important and rare remnants of the Gallo-Roman settlement of Lutetia. Lutetia or ‘Lutece’ was a settlement located on the site of what is now Paris. Originating in pre-Roman Gaul it then became a Roman city.

Originally built in the first to second century AD, Arenes de Lutece was a vast amphitheatre able to seat between 10,000 and 15,000 spectators. In 280 AD, Arenes de Lutece was sacked, leaving few remains.

Rediscovered during building works carried out in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Arenes de Lutece was subject to a great deal of renovation, sadly to the extent that much of what can be seen today – such as the tiered seating - is not original. Having said this, it is definitely worth seeing if you are interested in Roman Gaul. Some of the Roman stage settings are still visible and one does get a good sense of what the theatre would have looked like.

Today, Arenes de Lutece is more likely to be the site of skateboarding competitions and picnics rather than gladiator matches.

Photo by T.M.O.F. (cc)

Aventicum

The amphitheatre in Aventicum was built around the mid-second century AD and could hold up to 16,000 people. Today it remains in good condition and is an impressive Roman site in Switzerland.

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Aventicum is an impressive ancient Roman site in Switzerland which was the thriving capital of the Helvetians.

It is unclear as to exactly when Aventicum was founded, but it reached its peak between the 1st century BC and 5th century AD, during its time as capital of the region under Roman rule. At this point, it was home to some 20,000 inhabitants. Aventicum also became a colony of Rome or "colonia", a prestigious accolade, in around 71AD.

The sites which can now be seen at the archaeological site of Aventicum are very well preserved and include a 2nd century amphitheatre which would have seated 16,000, some of the original city walls with a surviving tower (originally one of 73), a set of thermal baths and holy sites including a sanctuary and some temples.

Now located in the area known as Avenches, Aventicum offers visitors plenty of original sites to see. There is also a museum within the amphitheatre tower which explores the history of Aventicum and with finds from the site itself including daily tools, mosaics, sculptures and various items from the city’s time under the Romans.

Photo by GFreihalter (cc)

Bordeaux Amphitheatre

These spectacular ruins are all that remain of what was once a grand amphitheatre; the centre of entertainment in a bustling Roman town.

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Nestled amongst charming French boulevards and cobbled streets is Bordeaux Amphitheatre, also known as Palais Gallien; all that remains of the once vibrant Roman city of Burdigala.

Put under state protection in 1911, Bordeaux’s citizens are now working to preserve this ancient amphitheatre, a snippet of a history long since vanished; it remains as an impressive reminder of the Roman presence which once dominated the area.

Burdigala is thought to have been the capital of the Roman province of Gallia Aquitaina; and was annexed as a Roman province under the emperor Augustus. The importance of the city is reflected in the grandeur of the amphitheatre and indeed the landmark once held around 15,000 spectators.

One of the first examples of an amphitheatre to use a both a stone and wooden structure, Bordeaux Amphitheatre was the sight of a host of ancient spectacles alongside often violent shows designed to engage and entertain both the locals, plebeians and patricians of the Empire alike. Little else is known about the ruins but it is thought that they got their name because in later times people thought the remains resembled a grand palace.

Some historians even speculate that Bordeaux Amphitheatre sits atop older ruins, but until further excavation can occur it remains an unanswered question.

Set in the heart of Bordeaux, destroyed by a fire during the Germanic invasions of the town, the impressive remains of the Palais Gallien are well worth the visit.

Contributed by Rebecca Lewis

Photo by davehighbury (cc)

Bulla Regia

Bulla Regia was a Roman settlement in Tunisia, famous for its subterranean villas. Among the remains is a partially preserved amphitheatre.

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Bulla Regia is a significant Ancient Roman archaeological site in Tunisia with a fascinating set of subterranean villas and other monuments.

Tunisia was annexed into the Roman Empire in approximately 46 BC, under Julius Caesar. Previously a Berber site, Bulla Regia flourished under the Romans, who built a series of monuments and public buildings in the area, such as its amphitheatre.

Amongst the remains at Bulla Regia, there are its famous two-storey villas, with the lower storey located underground to protect its inhabitants from the elements. A further characteristic of these villas is the fact that many of them contain original Roman mosaics, still in situ.

Bulla Regia features as one of our Top 10 Tunisian Visitor Attractions.

Photo by Alun Salt (cc)

Caerleon Roman Fortress

Constructed around 90AD, the Caerleon amphitheatre could hold up to 6,000 people. Though mostly covered in grass banks, it is nevertheless one of the best preserved amphitheaters in Britain.

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Caerleon Roman Fortress is home to the impressive remains of a first century Roman legionary barracks, fortifications, amphitheatre and baths. In fact, they are said to be Europe’s only such barracks on display.

Built in approximately 75AD, the Caerleon Roman Fortress was known as Isca and would have been home to the Second Augustan Legion. Spread over 50-acres, it would have housed approximately 5,000 people and was in use for some 200 years.

Today, the well-preserved ruins of Caerleon Roman Fortress offer a fascinating insight into life at a Roman fort on the edge of the Empire. Amongst the highlights are its grand bathhouse, 6,000-seater amphitheatre begun in 90AD and the L-shaped barracks themselves.

The nearby National Roman Legion Museum contains a number of fascinating exhibits detailing finds and artefacts from the site.

Photo by Alun Salt (cc)

Caerwent Roman Town

Caerwent was once the thriving Roman settlement of Venta Silurum and remains from the city include an outline of the original amphitheatre – though there is very little to see.

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Caerwent Roman Town is the name of the collection of Roman ruins which formed part of the once buzzing Roman settlement of Venta Silurum.

Probably founded in the first century AD, Venta Silurum reached its peak in the second century and was home to a range of buildings and facilities. From the remains of houses, a temple and an amphitheatre to its impressive 17-feet high defensive walls, Caerwent Roman Town has much to offer.

There are information panels along the way and pre-booked guided tours are available on certain days.

Campania Amphitheatre

Second in size only to Rome’s Colosseum, Campania Amphitheatre was located in the ancient city of Capua and is still reasonably well preserved today.

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Campania Amphitheatre (Anfiteatro Campano) in Santa Maria Capua Vetere was the second largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire after the Colosseum.

At its zenith, Campania Amphitheatre would have been a grand four-tiered structure able to seat up to 60,000 people and adorned with beautiful monuments from columns to sculptures.

Located in the city of Capua, which was at one time possibly the largest city in Italy, the existing Campania Amphitheatre was the second amphitheatre to be built on the site. Started by the Emperor Nerva and continued by Trajan and Hadrian, it was completed in 138 AD.

Unfortunately, much of Campania Amphitheatre has been destroyed over the years, ravaged by the Visigoths, the Vandals and the Saracens. Externally, only the first level and part of the second tier of Campania Amphitheatre survive. However, there is still much to see at the site, including subterranean tunnels showing the workings of the amphitheatre.

Guided tours of the site must be booked in advance. There is also an on-site Gladiator Museum, which explores the history of Campania Amphitheatre as well as that of those who fought in the amphitheatres of Ancient Rome.

Photo by Andy Hay (cc)

Chester Roman Amphitheatre

Britain’s largest known amphitheatre, Chester Roman Amphitheatre would once have been able to seat between 8,000 and 12,000 spectators. However, it is only partially preserved today.

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Chester Roman Amphitheatre is Britain’s largest known Roman amphitheatre. Originally part of the Roman settlement of ‘Deva’ which was founded in around 79AD and is now modern day Chester, Chester Roman Amphitheatre would have been able to seat between 8,000 and 12,000 spectators.

Two amphitheatres were actually built on the site of Chester Roman Amphitheatre, both stone-built with wooden seating but each quite different in other respects.

At its peak, Chester Roman Amphitheatre was a place where Rome’s 20th Legion trained and where the people of Deva were entertained. More recent findings have suggested that it was also the site of gruesome shows where gladiators were chained and tortured. The exact activities which would have taken place are unclear and archaeologists are still exploring Chester Roman Amphitheatre.

Sadly, little has remained of this once great structure. Most of its materials were used to construct the Chester City Walls and much of it is buried under the modern landscape. However, the outline of the amphitheatre is clear.

Cirencester Amphitheatre

Very little remains of Cirencester Amphitheatre in Gloucestershire, which once served the Roman city of Corinium.

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Cirencester Amphitheatre is thought to have been built in the second century AD and to have had a capacity of 8,000 spectators. The theatre of the major Roman city of Corinium, today known as Cirencester, Cirencester Amphitheatre would have attracted visitors from around Roman Britain.

Very little is left of Cirencester Amphitheatre, in fact only the earthworks are visible, although they do give an insight into the size of the former theatre. Cirencester Amphitheatre is an English Heritage site.

Photo by filologanoga (cc)

Cumae Archaeological Park

Cumae Archaeological Park in Pozzuoli houses a series of ancient ruins including a partially preserved second century BC amphitheatre.

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Cumae Archaeological Park in Pozzuoli houses a series of ancient ruins and artefacts and is thought to have been inhabited as far back as the Iron Age.

Cumae itself was a settlement established by Greek colonists in the eighth century BC. Sacked by the Oscans in the fifth century BC and incorporated into the Roman Empire in the fourth century BC, Cumae’s sites are mostly Roman, but there are several Greek ones as well.

The most celebrated site at Cumae Archaeological Park is Sybil’s Cave or ‘Antro della Sibilla’. This atmospheric cave was built in two phases, the first in the fourth century BC, the second in the late first century BC or early AD.

Named after the Cumaean priestess who, according to Virgil's Aeneid, is said to have prophesized to the Trojan Aeneas prior to his entry into the underworld, the exact purpose of Sybil’s Cave is yet to be decided upon, but it was most likely a defensive structure. It also served as a Christian burial site. Whatever its original use, this atmospheric trapezoidal tunnel is fascinating.

Other sites at Cumae Archaeological Park include the fifth century acropolis walls, a second century BC amphitheatre, a forum, several temples, such as the Temples of Jupiter and Apollo, and a second century AD public baths complex.

Photo by davehighbury (cc)

Cyrene

Cyrene Amphitheatre was originally built by the Greeks in the 6th century BC before being adapted as a Roman amphitheater. Its partial remains can still be explored.

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Cyrene in Libya is considered to be one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world and one of the best Classical Greek sites beyond Greece itself.

Traditionally said to have been founded by the Greeks of Thera in 631BC, Cyrene was a trading hub first inhabited by the Battiadae dynasty and which became one of the most important centres of the Greek world.

Over time, Cyrene was conquered several times yielding to, amongst others, Alexander the Great, before being Romanised in 74BC. Cyrene’s status and importance further flourished under Roman rule and was rebuilt under Hadrian. In fact, it was only after the great earthquake of 365AD and the region’s changing climate which eventually caused its decline.

Amongst its fantastic remains, Cyrene is home to the ruins of the great sanctuary of Apollo which has sites ranging from the Temples of Artemis and Apollo which date back as early as the 7th century BC to the 2nd century Trajan Baths. Also found at Cyrene is the impressive Temple of Zeus.

One of its most impressive sites is Cyrene Amphitheatre, which the Greeks built in the 6th century BC, was used as a Roman amphitheatre and is now the largest Greek site in Africa.

There’s lots more to see at Cyrene including its acropolis, agora, forum and necropolis. Part of what makes Cyrene so incredible is not just its monuments but its overall planning - a mix of Greek and Roman, which is evident throughout.

Listed by UNESCO and protected by the Global Heritage Fund, sadly Cyrene is considered to be badly neglected.

Check the official advice of your country’s foreign office before considering travelling to Libya.

Photo by Averain (cc)

Flavian Amphitheatre

Also known as Pozzuoli Amphitheatre, the Flavian Amphitheatre was constructed during the reign of the Vespasian around the same time as Rome’s Colosseum.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Flavian Amphitheatre (Amphitheatre Flavium) in Pozzuoli was constructed during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian, probably in around 70AD.

Vespasian, who was the first Flavian dynasty emperor, built this vast amphitheatre – the third largest in Ancient Rome after those of Rome and Capua – in Pozzuoli as it was at an important crossroad.

Later damaged by ash and rubble from the eruption of the Solfatara volcano, Pozzuoli’s Flavian Amphitheatre lay abandoned and was used as a quarry for its marble. Nevertheless, when it was excavated in the nineteenth century, archaeologists found the Flavian Amphitheatre in a very good state of preservation, with many of its walls and floors intact.

However, one of the key highlights of a trip to the Flavian Amphitheatre is the fact that you can explore the underbelly of this once-thriving stadium and wander through the rooms and chambers below the arena itself. It is even possible to see the quarters in which the gladiators themselves would have prepared for their contests. This amazing set of underground corridors and passageways remains in an excellent state of preservation and gives a genuine glimpse into the amphitheatre's past .

Today, the Flavian Amphitheatre operates as a popular destination for those who visit the (now dormant) Solfatara volcano and the local area.

Photo by portableantiquities (cc)

London Roman Amphitheatre

Though very little remains of the original structure, the 1st century AD London Roman Amphitheatre is still worth a visit for those interested in Roman London.

DID YOU KNOW?

The London Roman Amphitheatre was discovered in 1988 and remains the only known Roman amphitheatre in the city. Believed to have first been built in 74 AD, the London Roman Amphitheatre was probably extensively renovated in the second century, in around 120 AD.

At its peak, the London Roman Amphitheatre would have been able to seat up to 6,000 spectators and would probably have hosted brutal gladiatorial matches. At this time, London - then Londinium - had a population of some 20,000 to 30,000 people.

Today, visitors can see the remains of some of the walls of London Roman Amphitheatre, some original wooden drains and two small chambers which might have functioned as the waiting rooms for the gladiators or even the wild beasts that performed in the arena.

Once a month, the curator of the London Roman Amphitheatre hosts a guided tour of the site. Otherwise, it is part of the Guildhall Art Gallery and entry to the site is included in the gallery ticket.

Photo by Tomas Fano (cc)

Merida Amphitheatre

Ranking among the best surviving roman amphitheatres in Spain, Merida Amphitheatre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

DID YOU KNOW?

Merida Amphitheatre is a reasonably well preserved Ancient Roman amphitheatre in the Spanish city of Merida.

The Emperor Augustus (63 BC - AD 14) established the Roman colony known as Augusta Emerita - later to become modern Merida - in 25 BC. Soon after its founding, Augusta Emerita became the capital of Lusitania and, as an important city of the empire, had several impressive public buildings. Merida Amphitheatre was one of these.

Completed in 8 BC and able to seat up to 15,000 spectators, this elliptical amphitheatre was finally abandoned in the fourth century AD. Today, the walls of Merida Amphitheatre are still intact together with some of its seats and it gateways, showing a detailed outline of what it would have looked like in its day.

Together with other sites, such as the Merida Roman Theatre and the Guadiana Bridge, Merida Amphitheatre is a UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida.

Photo by Historvius

Paestum

Little remains of Paestum amphitheatre which once served this important Greco-Roman city. Be sure to see the Greek temples when you visit.

DID YOU KNOW?

Paestum is a Greco-Roman site located south of Naples which contains the stunning remains of three ancient Greek temples which still stand tall today.

Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC, Paestum was originally known as Poseidonia, named for the Greek god Poseidon. The city was captured by the Romans in 273BC after the Pyrrhic Wars and became the thriving Roman settlement of Paestum.

However, the changing climate and political upheavals of the later Roman Empire saw Paestum begin to decline in the early medieval period and by the turn of the millennium the site had been abandoned – it was not rediscovered until the 18th century.

Today, visitors to Paestum can still see the spectacular temples – the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres (thought by some to be a temple of Athena).

The site also contains impressive defensive walls, a Roman forum, the basic remains of a Roman amphitheatre and a number of ancient tombs. Paestum also boasts an early Christian church and Paestum Museum, which has a wealth of information about the local sites. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

Pula Arena

An amazing example of Roman amphitheatres, Pula Arena in Croatia was built in the first century AD and still hosts events today. Definitely one not to miss.

DID YOU KNOW?

Pula Arena, also known as Pula Amphitheatre, is a dramatic historic Roman amphitheatre in Croatia.

Built in the first century AD, Pula Arena was constructed during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian, who was also responsible for founding the Colosseum.

Able to accommodate approximately 20,000 spectators, Pula Arena would have played host to gladiatorial battles under the Romans and the tournaments of knights in medieval times. Now restored with a capacity of 5,000 people, Pula Arena’s shows are far more docile in nature and are mostly operas and film festivals.

Photo by trenchdroid (cc)

Richborough Roman Fort

Close to the site of Richborough Roman Fort lies the outline of the original Roman amphitheatre which would have served the Roman port of Rutupiae.

DID YOU KNOW?

Richborough Roman Fort, originally called “Rutupiae”, in Kent marks the site where the Romans successfully invaded Britain in 43 AD.

Known by many as the “gateway to Britain” and also Richborough Castle, Richborough Roman Fort is thought to have begun as a military stronghold for the invading Roman soldiers and developed into a civilian town and one of the country’s main ports. One reminder of the leisure facilities of this historic town can be seen around five minutes away in the form of the vague remnants of an amphitheatre.

When visiting Richborough Roman Fort, it is hard to believe that this now very much land-based site was a coastal defensive structure. However, in 2008, archaeologists discovered the location of the original Roman coast.

The impressive stone walls that still stand at Richborough Roman Fort are the remains of a wall fort built by the Romans in the late third century AD to protect against the Saxons. Visitors can also see remaining defensive ditches and the ruin of a first century triumphal arch.

Rimini Roman Amphitheatre

The partially-preserved Rimini Roman Amphitheater dates back to the second century AD and would originally have held up to 12,000 spectators.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Rimini Roman Amphitheatre is a second century Ancient Roman arena which would have held up to twelve thousand spectators. It is the sole surviving amphitheatre of its kind in the region of Emilia Romagna.

Having suffered a series of destructive events, including World War II bombardment, little remains of the Rimini Roman Amphitheatre except its elliptical outline and small sections of the main stands.

Having said this, that which does survive, which includes some of its walls and gates, is worth seeing when in Rimini. Guided tours of the site are offered by the Rimini Museum.

Roman Amphitheatre - Saintes

The Roman Amphitheatre in Saintes was built in around 40AD in the Roman settlement of Mediolanum Santonum.

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The Roman Amphitheatre in Saintes is a 1st century AD construction built around 40AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius.

Saintes was then known as Mediolanum Santonum and was a thriving Roman settlement in modern day France which was founded around 20BC. The amphitheatre itself would have had space for several thousand spectators and would have been the venue for ancient Roman games.

Along with the Arch of Germanicus, the Roman Amphitheatre in Saintes gives visitors a glimpse of the historic ancient Roman city and is certainly worth a visit for anyone exploring the area.

Photo by dalbera (cc)

Roman Amphitheatre of Carthage

Once holding over 30,000 spectators, the Roman Amphitheatre of Carthage was one of the biggest ancient stadia in North Africa. Today much of the site lies in ruins but it is still worth a visit.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Roman Amphitheatre of Carthage was once a major Roman stadium, the ruins of which can be found near modern-day Tunis.

Probably built at the end of the first century AD, it is believed to have been able to hold up to 35,000 spectators.

Unlike other Roman Amphitheatres in North Africa, such as El Jem, the Roman Amphitheatre of Carthage has been mostly lost to ruin. Although there are sources which intimate it was still intact in the early middle ages, its materials were systematically looted for other building projects and little remains today.

A Roman circus near the site was thought to be able to hold at least double the number of spectators but has been all-but-lost to history and there is little if nothing to see.

The Roman Amphitheatre of Carthage is about 1.5km from Byrsa Hill and the National Museum of Carthage.

Syracuse Archaeological Site

The partially preserved amphitheatre within the Syracuse Archaeological Site is one of a number of interesting remains which can be explored in this ancient city.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Syracuse Archaeological Site (Siracusa) in Sicily contains the impressive remains of the ancient city of Syracuse dating as far back as the eighth century BC. The city of Syracuse was founded by Greek colonists - heralding from Corinth - in 734 BC.

At its height, Syracuse was the most powerful city in Sicily and, according to Cicero, was the “most beautiful” of all Greek cities. By the fifth to fourth century BC, Syracuse controlled Sicily, especially during the reign of Dionysus the Elder (405BC-367BC).

In the third century BC, the Romans laid siege to Syracuse and, after three bitter years, it came under Roman rule in 212 BC as a province. One of the most famous residents of Syracuse, the mathematician Archimedes, died during this attack.

Remaining a part of the Roman Empire, the city remained stable for hundreds of years until the fall of the Western Empire. Over the following centuries, Syracuse was invaded, conquered and occupied several times, leading to it being inhabited by several peoples including the Vandals and Byzantines (5th-6th centuries) as well as the Muslims (9th-10th centuries). It also came under Norman rule for thirty years from 1061.

From 1197 to 1250, Syracuse experienced resurgence under the rule of Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty.

Today, visitors to the Syracuse Archaeological Site can enjoy the spectacular remnants of its past, the most famous of which is its Ancient Greek theatre. There is also a Roman amphitheatre (pictured on the map), a sanctuary to Apollo, an altar to Sicilian King Hieron II (265-215BC), a set of ancient quarries and a fort known as the Castle of Euryalus (although the latter is located around 8km north of the main site).

Together with the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Syracuse Archaeological Site is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by Historvius

Verona Arena

One of the most impressive remaining Roman amphitheatres, Verona Arena was built in 30AD and is definitely one of the top picks on any roman amphitheatre list.

DID YOU KNOW?

Verona Arena (Arena di Verona) is a stunning Roman amphitheatre built in 30AD and said to have been the third largest of its time after the Colosseum and Campania Amphitheatre, which served ancient Capua. 

Built during the first half of the 1st century AD, Verona Arena was originally made up of three elliptical rings of arches, of which the second is the best preserved and little remains of the first. During its prime, the arena could hold up to 30,000 people and would have played host to an array of ancient entertainment, including the famous gladiatorial games.

As with many similar Roman constructions, the arena suffered during the decline and fall of the Empire and was pillaged for masonry during the middle ages. Despite this however, and with a certain amount of restoration, Verona Arena stands in an excellent state of preservation today and still hosts a number of events, operas and open-air performances.

Photo by Brron (cc)

Verulamium

Verulamium was a Roman settlement near modern day St Albans, UK, the remains of which include a partially preserved amphitheater.

DID YOU KNOW?

Verulamium was a prominent Roman settlement near modern day St Albans in England. Formerly the tribal capital of the native Catuvellauni tribe, Verulamium was conquered by the Romans during their invasion of the island in 43 AD.

By 50 AD, Verulamium had become a major Roman town, and as such was a prime target during the revolt of Boudica in 61 AD, when the town was burnt to the ground. However, never ones to be perturbed, the Romans crushed the revolt and re-built Verulamium, and it remained a central Roman town for the next four hundred years.

The Roman remains at Verulamium consist of a variety of buildings - a basilica, bathhouse and part of the city walls to be found in Verulamium Park, but the most impressive are the remains of the roman theatre which lie across the road from Verulamium Park.

As well as the site itself, Verulamium Museum stands on St Michael’s St, with displays of Roman everyday life. There are some impressive murals and mosaics and a variety of interactive displays.