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Los Angeles, California
April 15, 2006
From journal Back to Paris
Wellington, New Zealand
September 21, 2003
The amphitheatre was built at the end of the first century AD and is one of the largest in Roman Gaul. It measures 133m in length and 101m width, with a façade is 21m high, made up of two levels of 60 arcades each. In its traditional form more than 20,000 spectators could, and still can, enjoy shows and spectacles staged in the amphitheatre.
As a result of an unusual history, the Arènes is one of the best preserved amphitheatres in the roman world. When Roman buildings fell into disuse on the disintegration of the roman empire, most became viewed as a convient source of stone for the local inhabitants. The people of Nîmes were much more resourceful and chose to use the amphitheatre as a fortress to which they could flee in need. At this time it was also used as the seat of power for the Count, who built a small defensive castle on the perimeter.
In addition, from around the fourteenth century the local population decided to move in building more than one hundred houses and businesses and two churches. In 1809 when it was decided to restore the amphitheatre more than 700 people lived inside and it took 50 years before everyone had finally died or moved out. In some areas traces have been left of the inhabitants.
Today, it is still possible to see shows in the amphitheatre. In winter a specailly designed removable roof in installed, allowing for an audience of 6000 – 7000 people. Unfortunately, if you visit during the set up and take down periods, as I did, there are special visiting conditions. However a visit is still worth while. The special conditions include lower prices and a compulsory guided tour, to keep you out of trouble. Tours in English are available if there is sufficient interest.
Normal ticket prices are €4.45 for an adult, and €3.20 for a concession ticket. You can also buy a joint ticket with a visit to the Magne Tower for €5.40 for adults and €3.20 for a concession.
From journal Nîmes - Rome meets Provence