The Best Of The Rest


The Romans were not inventors of the supporting arch, but its extended use in vaults and intersecting barrel shapes and domes is theirs.
— Harry Seidler, architect

In the posts immediately preceding this one, I have been talking about ancient Roman amphitheatres.  In the first post I discussed those I've visited and in the second I discussed a few that I just missed out on visiting.  I'm going to wrap this little series up with a final post on a few more that I missed.  These were just a little further out of the way than those in my previous post - which for the most part were within a short walking distance from those I visited.  The ones on this page were on average within a few miles of sites I visited or the travel route I took.


1 & 2. Carnuntum (present day Petronell-Carnuntum), Austria

 

The ruins of Carnuntum are just east of Vienna and very near the border of Slovakia. There are actually two ancient Roman amphitheaters here:  a  civil amphitheatre (wikimapia) and a  military amphitheatre (wikimapia) . It could have made for a nice day or afternoon trip from Vienna had I known about them at the time. 

 
 

3.  Patavium (present day Padua), Italy

 I took a train from Venice to Verona and passed right through PaduaHad I got off here, I could have walked less than six blocks south of the train station and found the amphitheatre.  wikimapia

 

4. Lucca, Italy

Some research indicates that Pisa had its own amphitheater, traces of which were later covered by one of the buildings at its University. As far as I can tell, no traces are visible in the aerial view. However, one can find traces of an ancient amphitheatre at Lucca, a small town just a few miles northeast of Pisa. The Piazza dell'Anfiteatro in the old walled city center is actually all that remains of its amphitheatre. Like the ruins of some other towns (Florence, Naples, etc.), present day buildings currently trace the outline of the former arena. wikimapia 

 

Fans of the British motoring show Top Gear might also recognize it from beginning of Series 18, Episode 1. 


5. Luna (present day Luni), Italy

I traveled north by train from Pisa to the Cinque Terre (and back again a few days later). If I had known what to look for, I might have been able to see the amphitheatre of Luni as the train passed by. wikimapia 

 

6. Cales, Italy

The ruins of Cales are just a few a few miles northwest of those at S. Maria Capua Vetere. I traveled past the town on the train from Rome to Naples. There doesn't appear to be a train station there and even if there were, the ruins would be a good mile or more from it. Even if I had managed to visit them, there doesn't appear to be much to see. wikimapia 

 

7. Cumae, Italy

The ancient Greek (and later Roman) settlement of Cumae can be found on the Italian coast just west of Pozzuoli. The train I took to Pozzuoli didn't go quite that far. And neither did I. wikimapia 

 

8. Municipium Aurelium Commodum (Henchir Bou Cha), Tunisia

If I had known about it and had the time, I could have made a side trip to this site just prior to visiting the ruins at Thurburbo Majus. wikimapia 

 

9. Leptis Parva (present day Bouhjar) , Tunisia

Leptis Parva is also known as Leptis Minor, presumably to distinguish it from the impressive ruins of Leptis Magna in neighboring Libiya.  On the morning of October 20, 2000, I drove from Kairouan to Monastir and then from Monastir to El Jem.  I don’t think I drove through Bouhjar, but I’m certain I was within a mile or two of it. wikimapia 

 

10. Bararus, Tunisia

wikimapia 

 

11. Acholla (present day Botrai), Tunisia

wikimapia

 

Baraus and Ancholla both lie south of El Jem. That day was mostly a day of travel for me with a morning stop at Monastir, a lunch time stop at El Jem, an hour long traffic jam through Sfax, and a late evening arrival in Houmt Souk on the far side of the island of Djerba.  If I had known in advance about Sfax traffic and a way around it, I might have been able to visit Bararus and/or Ancholla.


12. Thimisua (present day Gaafour), Tunisia

wikimapia

 

13. Uchi Maius, Tunisia

wikimapia

 

Thimisua and Uchi Maius are both within a few miles of Dougga.  That day was also a day travel.  I left Tozeur in the south around 7:30 am, made  an extended early afternoon stop at Dougga, and ended the day with an overly long hotel search back in Tunis and Sidi Bou Said.  On top of that, two weeks of Tunisian cuisine had more than caught up with me and the thought of getting out of the car to walk around more Roman ruins was too painful to bear.  Fortunately for my exhausted body, I was not aware of either of these sites at the time. 


14. Jebel Moraba, Tunisia

 This amphitheatre is not attached to any named Roman settlement that I’m aware of. Instead it sits somewhat anonymously on the hill known as Jebel Moraba. It’s a little further north of Thurburbo Majus than the one at Henchir Bou Cha. As such, it probably wouldn’t have been a stop on my way south through the country. But it isn’t too far south of either the A5 or the P3 going back into Tunis. If I had known about it and had been feeling better, I’d likely have stopped for a quick visit.  wikimapia

 

And there you have it!  I saw quite a few amphitheatres and missed out on quite a few more. If you are interested in more on this topic, here are a few titles you may enjoy:

  • Roman Imperial Architecture (The Yale University Press Pelican History of Art) by J. B. Ward-Perkins. This was the book I used in my art history classes some twenty years ago now. As the title implies, it is a survey of Roman imperial architecture in general and is not dedicated solely to amphitheatres.  It does however span the entire Roman empire and not just Rome (or even Italy).
  • The Roman Amphitheatre: From its Origins to the Colosseum by Katherine E. Welch  is probably a better choice if you are only interested in amphitheaters, though I confess I have not actually seen this title in person.
  • If you have little gladiators running about, then you might be interested in the Roman Colosseum 3D Puzzle. Just remember to take your time. Rome wasn't built in a day!