Results 1-3of 3 Reviews
by Liam Hetherington
Manchester, United Kingdom
August 2, 2008
From journal Provence: A Home From Rome
April 12, 2004
Amphithéâtre, €3. The Roman arena in Arles, built in the first century AD, is the largest still surviving in France. It still sits at the center of town, a marvel of Roman engineering and design, with two levels of arches still mostly intact, despite the history it has seen. It could seat 20,000 people and was designed to empty out within five minutes. It’s a feat no modern sports stadium can match! Once the Roman Empire had crumbled, Arles suffered under repeated invasions; during the medieval period citizens built homes and shops inside the arena and turned it into a fortress, a testament to the difficulty of the times. Four towers were built onto the structure, only one of which is sufficiently intact and open to the public. Be sure to climb up to the top to enjoy a fine view over the red-tiled rooftops of Arles and the Rhone River. If you want to do as the Romans did, you can see a bullfight here. If the Spanish version (corrida) is too gory for your taste, choose a cocarde, the Camarguaise version of a bullfight where the bull is not harmed.
Théatre Antique, €3. What remains of the Roman theater sits at the top of the hill next to the arena. Much of the stage of the once-glorious theater is in ruins now, with most of the stone carted away over the centuries for use elsewhere. Only two Corinthian-style columns from the former stage wall, known as the Two Widows, still stand. Once the theater seated 10,000; its acoustics ensure that it still sees use for concerts. You can go up in the seats (more of which are modern than ancient) and look at the stage, now rebuilt of wood, or wander around backstage through a veritable garden of stone bits and pieces. If you didn’t buy the monuments pass, you might want to peek through the fence and pass up paying to go in and take a look.
Cryptoportiques du Forum, €3. The Roman forum was built on a slight hill, so a sturdy foundation was required to support the level surface of the forum. To take a look at the underlying structure which supports today’s place du Forum, enter the Baroque-style Jesuit church on rue Balze, between place du Forum and place de la République, and head down the stairs. Wander around the gloomy basement, dodging the puddles. There’s even the odd Roman column left as well as the more pedestrian Roman vaulting.
Circus. The ruins of the circus, the former horseracing track, are free; in fact, they are so rudimentary that you could miss them entirely if you didn’t know where to look. The flat end of the U-shaped track is right in front of the Musée de l’Arles Antique. The museum has a great model that will help you put those few stones into a real picture.
From journal The Beating Heart of Historic Arles
San Francisco, California
September 4, 2000
From journal Arles is a Great Small Town.