Famous Roman Amphitheatres

Where are the Top 10 Roman Amphitheatres in the World?

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From the incredible Colosseum and the eye-opening El Jem to the astonishing Nimes Arena, the world's largest and most famous surviving Roman amphitheatres are absolutely mind-blowing places to discover. Other prominent sites to visit usually include the ancient stadiums of Arles, Pula and Pozzuoli, which are all fascinating in their own right. To begin your journey exploring this list of amphitheatres from ancient Rome you can view our editor’s top ten picks below as well as checking out a host of other locations which you definitely won’t want to miss.

1. The Colosseum

Easily the most famous 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. A visit to the Colosseum offers a great insight into the lives of those who had the misfortune of fighting there. In particular, it's possible to tour the underground hallways and corridors where the gladiators would prepare to fight. There's also a museum with a wealth of interesting artefacts and information and audio guides are available in a number of languages.

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2. El Jem

El Jem in Tunisia is a magnificent UNESCO listed third century Roman stadium. From the outside, the El Jem bears a striking resemblance to its older and larger counterpart in Rome. In fact, with its abundant original characteristics and elliptical stone walls, which are intact up to 35 metres in places, many argue that El Jem 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. The structure measures 162 metres long and 118 metres wide, making the El Jem Amphitheatre the largest of its kind in North Africa.

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3. Nimes Arena

Possibly the best preserved Roman stadium in the world, Nimes Arena survived due to its adaptation over the centuries, being used as a fortress and village before its eventual restoration. Built during the reign of Augustus, Nimes is a marvel of Roman engineering. A vast oval with a stunning façade resplendent with archways and ornamentation, the arena could seat up to 24,000 people. Now fully restored, Nimes is a popular tourist attraction and allows people to 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.

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4. Arles

Arles is a UNESCO listed Roman sports arena still in use today. Built during the reign of Augustus, at the time Arles was flourishing as a Roman colony. It could accommodate over 20,000 spectators and had over a hundred Corinthian and Doric columns spread over two levels. Today the site's excellent state of preservation, in spite the fact that it was used as a medieval fortification.

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5. Pula Arena

Pula Arena in Croatia was built in the first century AD and still hosts events today. Constructed during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian, it was able to accommodate approximately 20,000 spectators. 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. Definitely one not to miss.

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6. Flavian Amphitheatre

Also known as Pozzuoli, the Flavian Amphitheatre was constructed during the reign of the Vespasian around the same time as Rome’s Colosseum. Later damaged by ash and rubble from the eruption of the Solfatara volcano, the site lay abandoned and was later used as a quarry for its marble. Nevertheless, when it was excavated in the nineteenth century, archaeologists found it in a good state of preservation, with many of its walls and floors intact. One of the highlights of a trip is exploring the underbelly of this once-thriving stadium and wandering through the rooms and chambers below the arena itself. It is even possible to see the quarters in which the gladiators would have prepared for their contests.

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7. Verona Arena

Verona Arena was built in 30AD and is though to have been the third largest of its time. Originally made up of three elliptical rings of arches, during its prime the arena could hold up to 30,000 people and would have played host to an array of ancient entertainment. As with many similar Roman constructions, the arena suffered during the decline of the Empire and was pillaged for masonry during the middle ages. Despite this however, the arena stands in an excellent state of preservation and still hosts events, operas and open-air performances.

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8. Leptis Magna

The amphitheatre of Leptis Magna would once have held almost 20,000 people and is still an impressive site today. Originally founded by the Phoenicians, 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  found at the site originate from the reign of Septimius Severus, who was born here.

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9. Carthage

Once holding over 30,000 spectators, the arena of Carthage was one of the biggest ancient stadia in North Africa. Unlike similar sites in North Africa, such as El Jem, this site has been mostly lost to ruin, but it is still worth a visit. 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.

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10. Pompeii

The oldest Roman amphitheatre to have survived today, Pompeii arena was able to hold around 20,000 people and was the first ever stone construction of its kind. One of the best known ancient sites in the world, Pompeii itself was famously destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Pompeii amphitheatre is staggeringly impressive and one of the most iconic ruins to be found at the site.

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Full list of Famous Roman Amphitheatres

While it’s fair to say these famous sites dominate the list, your search shouldn’t end there. Take Carthage for example, it may not be as well known as Nimes Arena but it remains an intriguing and compelling place to visit. Our advice? Don’t ignore them, because the less well known of these ancient stadia can be among the very best to visit! That's why we've gone beyond the top ten and brought you a selection of these hidden gems below.

Alexandria

This site in Alexandria is the only one of its kind found in Egypt. Though often referred to as an amphitheatre, the site is actually that of a small Roman theatre rather than a larger sporting arena.

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Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls

The Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls was a first century Roman arena in Lyon. Only a fraction remains, the rest seemingly swallowed up by modern roads and buildings which surround it.

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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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Arenes de Lutece

Arenes de Lutece was an ancient Roman amphitheatre, the remains of which stand in Paris. Originally built in the first to second century AD, it was a vast stadium able to seat between 10,000 and 15,000 spectators.

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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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Bordeaux

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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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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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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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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Caesarea

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

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Cagliari

Cagliari Amphitheatre is a rock-hewn Roman amphitheatre dating to the second century AD. Cut directly into the rock face and augmented with additional marble construction, the venue would have been used for a number of events, including gladiatorial games and public executions.

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Campania

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

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Chester

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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Cirencester

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

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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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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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Itálica

Itálica was the birthplace of more than one Roman emperor and includes some impressive ruins. Visitors can appreciate its broad streets, the remains of its large amphitheatre as well as houses and public buildings including various mosaics and gardens.

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London

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.

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Merida

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

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Paestum

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

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Plovdiv

While known as Plovdiv Amphitheatre, this site is in fact a beautifully preserved Roman theatre which dates back to the 2nd century AD.

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Richborough Roman Fort

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

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Rimini

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

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Saintes

This ancient sporting arena was built in around 40AD in the Roman settlement of Mediolanum Santonum.

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Syracuse Archaeological Site

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

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Taormina Amphitheatre

Taormina Amphitheatre was first built by the Ancient Greeks in the third century BC and reconstructed by the Romans. While known as an amphitheatre, the site is actually an ancient theatre, not an arena of the type normally meant by the term.

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Tarragona

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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Trier

Able to hold around 20,000 spectators, Trier's ancient stadium is a well preserved UNESCO site in use as early as the first century.

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Verulamium

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

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Vindonissa

Vindonissa is the site of a Roman legionary camp which includes the ruins of an amphitheatre and an aqueduct. It was first developed under Emperor Tiberius and various remains and excavations now survive in the modern-day town Windisch, Switzerland.

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Xanten Archaeological Park

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

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We’re constantly expanding this list ancient Roman stadia and if you do notice any omissions then please feel free to contact us with further information and our editorial team will look to expand this collection further.