El Djem Amphitheatre
Dominating the small town of El Djem in central Tunisia (about 60km south of Sousse), you’ll find the magnificent El Djem Amphitheatre. This colossal Roman structure, also known as the Ampitheare of El Djem, is one the country’s most famous ancient ruins, and it’s well worth a visit if you want to experience what it might’ve been like to be a spectator way back in Roman times.
The El Djem Amphitheatre was built in AD 238, and it’s made entirely out of stone blocks. It’s also free-standing, with no foundations whatsoever. It’s often compared to the Colosseum of Rome as one of the finest examples of Roman architecture. This 3rd century monument is actually North Africa’s biggest amphitheatre, and the third largest to be found anywhere in the world. No wonder some scenes from the movie Gladiator were shot on location here!
This breath-taking arena could seat up to 35,000 people across three levels, and everybody had a great view of the action in the centre of the arena. They’d gather here to watch chariot races or gladiator shows. Today, you’ll be able to come and see the ancient ruins for yourself. You’ll want to check out the basement area too, which was discovered by archaeologists in 1904; it’s where all the animals and gladiators would’ve been kept in cells and caves before their fights. Three levels, including the stairs and galleries, remain intact on one side of the amphitheatre.
Some of the original stones used in its construction were actually robbed from here to build the nearby village of El Djem in the 17th century, while others were taken over to the Great Mosque of Kairouan. So, in order to preserve the remainder of the structure, what remained of the El Djem Amphitheatre became a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.