Twelve I Missed


Teachers told us
The Romans built this place
They built a wall and a temple on the edge of the Empire garrison town
They lived and they died
They prayed to their gods
But the stone gods did not make a sound
And their empire crumbled ‘till all that was left were the stones the workmen found...

- Sting, All This Time  

As I mentioned in my previous post, I missed out on visiting a number of ancient Roman amphitheatres. Most of them were (and still are) within a short walking distance of those that I did visit. The list that follows contains a dozen of the most significant near misses. Double-click the maps to zoom in. Right-double-click to zoom out. If you have a scrolling wheel on your mouse, you can use that too. You can also use the slider on the left hand side of each map to zoom in/out. Similarly, there should be a button in the upper right hand corner of each map that will toggle it to the aerial view. If it's not there, try refreshing your browser, or simply use the wikimapia links I have provided.

1. Florentia (present day Florence), Italy

The hotel I stayed at in Florence was mere blocks from the site of the amphitheatre of Florentia. Today, buildings on the site assume the shape of the oval. Wikipedia


2. Anfiteatro Ludus Magnus, Rome, Italy

The Anfiteatro Ludus Magnus is, or was, the training arena for the gladiators. It is right next to the Coloseum. Wikimapia


3. Amphitheatrum Castrense, Rome, Italy

The Amphiteatrum Castrense is a short distance east of the Coloseum. It dates to the early part of the 3rd century A.D. Wikipedia


4. Capua (present day Santa Maria Capua Vetere), Italy

There are actually ruins of two amphitheatres in the Santa Maria Capua Vetere. I wrote about the larger of the two in my previous post. At the time of my visit, the large square leading toward the ruins was an unremarkable dusty flat area where people would come to sit, drink coffee, play chess, etc. Judging from the aerial photos and my memory, this same square has had some excavation work done since my initial visit and the ruins of a second (earlier) amphitheatre are now clearly visible. Without realizing it at the time, I walked right over the top of them! Wikipedia


5. Neapolis (present day Naples, Italy)

The site of amphitheatre in Naples is directly west of the train station. As in Florence, it is covered by modern structures that roughly trace the outline of the ancient arena. Wikipedia


6. Catăna (present day Catania), Sicily, Italy

I stopped in Catania to change trains in order to get to Palermo. I had a few hours layover and went out in search of something to eat. I walked a few blocks west on Corso Sicilia finally finding a McDonalds. Had I walked a few blocks more, I would have come to the below-grade ruins of the amphitheatre. Interestingly, there is a Roman theatre – in a much better state of decay – a few blocks south of the amphitheatre. I missed ‘em both. Wikipedia 


7. Himera (present day Termini Imerese), Sicily, Italy

The train I was on passed through Termini Imerese on its way to Palermo. It looks as though the tracks run just north of the amphitheatre. Like those of Naples and Florence, the site has modern buildings that trace the outline of the ancient structure. Wikipedia 


8. Uthina (present day Oudna), Tunisia

I drove on the P3 from Tunis down to Thurburbo Majus before heading east to Zaghouan. The ruins of Uthina are just a little east of the P3. The amphitheater, though heavily restored, is still one of the better preserved examples in Tunisia. Wikipedia


9. Thaenae (near Sfax), Tunisia

From El Jem, I drove to Houmt Souk on the island of Djerba. On the way I passed through Sfax. The amphitheatre of Thaenae is on the south edge of town, just a few hundred meters from the road I travelled by on. Wikipedia


10. El Kantara, Djerba, Tunisia

On the southeast coast of the island of Djerba, is a causeway that connects the island to the mainland. On the island end of if, are the ruins of El Kantara. The morning I left Houmt Souk, I drove east along the road that follows the coastline. I passed right by El Kantara (and it amphitheatre) without even realizing they were there. Wikipedia


11. Thignica (present day Ain Tounga), Tunisia

After visiting the impressive ruins of Dougga (or Thugga as it is also known), I took the P5 back to Tunis. The amphitheatre at Thignica is less than 100 meters from the road and was likely visible as I passed by. Wikipedia


12. Carthage, north side of Tunis, Tunisia

On my last full day in Tunisia, I arrived in Tunis around 4pm. I was determined to spend my last night in the country in the picturesque village of Sidi Bou Said. But it was not to be. I was only able to find one hotel with a vacancy, but it was for a three person suite and the manager was unwilling to cut me (a solo traveller) a break in the rate. So I left in search of something more affordable. I eventually found it around 10pm at the Hotel Plazza Cornice in the neighboring seaside village of La Marsa - just down the hill from the Presidential Palace! The Corniche was by far the nicest place I stayed on the entire trip and, at around $50/night, was the most expensive place I stayed in Tunisia. But by the time I found it, I was drained and decided to Hell with my budget. In the course of my search that evening, I travelled from the Sidi Bou Said/La Marsa area to Tunis and back three or four times. The ruins of Carthage lie right between them and so I passed by them (and the amphitheater) as many times. The next morning I had just enough time to get the car cleaned (inside & out) and check out of the hotel before heading off to the airport. Wikipedia


I had known about the amphitheatre at Carthage, but simply ran out of time to visit it. In some instances, I missed out on the others due to time as well, but for the most part, I simply wasn't aware of them prior to my visit. In most cases, they were either not mentioned in my  guidebooks (most of the Tunisian examples), mentioned but didn't grab my attention at the time (those two in Rome), or not yet discovered (Santa Maria Capua Vetere). Today, thirteen years on, there are more resources for the traveller (architect or not) to draw upon. To this end I have found Google, Google maps, Google Earth, Wikimapia, and Wikipedia to be a tremendous source of information and discovery. Even when they can't answer my question(s) directly, they often lead to a source that can. In fact, in preparing this post, they led me to over a dozen other ancient Roman amphitheaters that I'll save for a future post.