The amphitheater of El Djem

The amphitheater of El Djem
The amphitheater of El Djem

On other occasions we have already said that Tunisia, a country of the Maghreb north of Africa, has authentic treasures from Roman times. The Roman mosaics that it keeps in its Museo del Bardo are true gems, such as the famous image of Ulysses and the sirens. But it also has incredible archaeological sites such as the attractive city of Timgad.


Djem Amphitheater

And as if that were not enough, it has some buildings built during the time of the Roman conquest that are masterpieces of their time. Without going any further, the Amphitheater of El Djem that we want to talk about today and which is one of the most spectacular in the world, obviously reminiscent of the famous Colosseum in Rome.

The monument is also sometimes cited as Thysdrus Coliseum, as this is the name of the Roman city that gave rise to El Djem.

It is a construction from the first half of the 3rd century and its dimensions are not negligible. It is almost 150 meters long by 122 wide, that is, it is the fourth largest amphitheater in the world. And its stands could hold up to 35,000 people. The fact is that the current ruin is quite well preserved, and it would be much better until the 17th century. Although many of the stones that were used in its construction can now be seen scattered around other buildings in El Djem.

The truth is that archaeologists have found traces in theamphitheater of two other previous buildings intended for the leisure of the inhabitants of Thysdrus. And of course, each one of them represents an evolution and an increase in dimensions, as that Roman colony was gaining in prosperity. And just as it was gaining more importance, with the passage of time it was also losing it. In fact, Thysdrus ended up being relegated to a secondary role when the neighbor Sufétula grew up and so the amphitheater stopped being used for shows and became a kind of castle that was used during various events in times of the Byzantine Empire or the subsequent expansion of Islam in this Tunisian area.

So it had different uses, and it was not until the 17th century that its stones were gradually dismantled. Stones that are sandstone, easy to work with but also not very resistant to erosion, and yet here they still look quite good considering their age. Something that is due to a distinctive element of the El Djem amphitheater: the extraordinary thickness of its walls, much greater than any other similar Roman construction. That is to say that those engineers already knew how to see the fragility of the stone and valued that detail to guarantee the construction. Thanks to this, it has a resounding presence that is another of its aesthetic hallmarks. In short, a great work of the Romans located in the north of the African continent.

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