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Destination Details

Tunisia

Roman Amphitheatre of El Jem, Tunisia 

 

The impressive ruins of the largest colosseum in North Africa, a huge amphitheatre which could hold up to 35,000 spectators, are found in the small village of El Jem. This 3rd-century monument illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome. 

The Amphitheatre of  El Jem bears outstanding witness to Roman architecture, notably monuments built for spectator events, in Africa. Located in a plain in the centre of Tunisia, this amphitheatre is built entirely of stone blocks, with no  foundations and free-standing.  In this respect it is modelled on the Coliseum of Rome without being an exact copy of the Flavian construction. Its size (big axis of 148 metres and small axis 122 metres) and its capacity (judged to be 35,000  spectators) make it without a doubt among the largest amphitheatres in the world. Its facade comprises three levels of arcades of Corinthian or composite style. Inside, the monument has conserved most of the supporting infrastructure for the tiered seating. The wall of the podium, the arena and the underground passages are practically intact. This architectural and artistic creation built around 238 AD, constitutes an important milestone in the comprehension of the history of Roman Africa. The Amphitheatre of El Jem  also bears witness to the prosperity of the small city of Thysdrus (current El Jem) at the time of the Roman Empire.

The Amphitheatre of El Jem is one of the rare monuments of its kind and unique in Africa, which is not built against a hillside, but on flat ground and supported by a complex system of  arches. The monument of El Jem is one of the most accomplished examples of Roman architecture of an amphitheatre, almost equal to that of the Coliseum of Rome. The construction in a far-off province of a sophisticated and complex building, designed for popular spectacles, is characteristic of imperial Roman propaganda. The monument has conserved, without alteration, most of its architectural and architectonic components. 

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