Amphitheatre at El Jem - PHOTOGRAPHER COMMENT
The amphitheatre in the city of El Jem is almost as big as the one in Rome, and in better condition. It is 148 metres long by 122 metres wide, with tiers up to 35 metres, and was constructed between 230 and 238AD. A large section was destroyed in 1695 when a big hole was shot in the wall of the amphitheatre in order to uncover the hiding places of dissidents against the Ottomans. (Photo © D. Etherington)
Amphitheatre at El Jem - FURTHER INFORMATION
Amphitheatre at El Jem - El Djem visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'Amphitheatre at El Jem' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Mahdia.
El Jem Amphitheatre is one of the most impressive Roman ruins on North Africa and the main tourist attraction in El Djem village. Known as Thysdrus by the Romans, El Djem grew rich on olive trade, the climate being much more temperate 2000 years ago and the village lying at the crossroads of a major trade route through Tunisia.
The Amphitheatre was built by Marcus Antonius Gordianus in the early 3rd century and used for gladiator and wild animal shows. It is the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is only slightly smaller than the Colosseum in Rome, with a capacity for 35,000 spectators..
In the early third century, Gordianus lead a revolt against the Roman Emperor of the time, but eventually lost and committed suicide in 238 AD. El Jem was sacked by troops loyal to the Emperor and the town never properly recovered, sinking into poverty. The Amphitheatre remained mostly intact, though some of the stone was re-used within the village and some taken to build the Great Mosque in Kairouan.
Today, the amphitheatre is used concert venue during the classical music festival held here each summer. Next to the amphitheatre is a museum exploring some of the Roman history and artefacts. El Jem has also opened workshops where craftsmen are rediscovering the art of mosaic.
TRAVEL DIRECTIONS AND GETTING THERE
Car: El Djem is on the M'saken-Sfax motorway, about 30km south of M'saken and 60km north of Sfax.
Train: El Jem Station