The Roman Colosseum Has a Twin in Tunisia: Uncover the Amphitheater of El Jem, One of many Greatest-Preserved Roman Ruins within the World


Picture by way of Wikimedia Commons

When Rome conquered Carthage within the Third Punic Battle (149-146 BC), the Republic renamed the area Africa, for Afri, a phrase the Berbers used for native folks in present-day Tunisia. (The Arabic phrase for the area was Ifriqiya.) Thereafter would the Roman Empire have a stronghold in North Africa: Carthage, the capital of the African Province underneath Julius and Augustus Caesar and their successors. The province thrived. Second solely to town of Carthage within the area, town of Thysdrus was an vital heart of olive oil manufacturing and the hometown of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, who bestowed imperial favor upon it, granting partial Roman citizenship to its inhabitants.

In 238 AD, building started on an amphitheater in Thysdrus that might rival its largest cousins in Rome, the famed Amphitheater of El Jem. “Designed to seat a whopping crowd of 35,000 folks,” writes Atlas Obscura, El Jem was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage website in 1979. Constructed totally of stone blocks, the huge theater was “modeled on the Coliseum of Rome,” notes UNESCO, “with out being an actual copy of the Flavian building…. Its facade includes three ranges of arcades of Corinthian or composite model. Inside, the monument has conserved many of the supporting infrastructure for the tiered seating. The wall of the rostrum, the world and the underground passages are virtually intact.”

Picture by way of Wikimedia Commons


Though the small metropolis of El Jem hardly options on excursions of the classical previous, it was, within the time of the Amphitheater’s building, a distinguished website of wrestle for management over the Empire. The 12 months 238 “was notably tumultuous,” Atlas Obscura explains, as a result of a “revolt by the inhabitants of Thysdrus (El Jem), who opposed the big taxation quantities being levied by the Emperor Maximinus’s native procurator.” A riot of fifty,000 folks led to the ascension of Gordian I, who dominated for 21 days through the “12 months of the Six Emperors,” when “in only one 12 months, six completely different folks had been proclaimed Emperors of Rome.”

Picture by way of Wikimedia Commons

From such fraught beginnings, the huge stone construction of the El Jem Amphitheater went on to function a fortress throughout invasions of Vandals and Arabs within the Fifth-Seventh centuries. A thousand years after the Islamic conquest, El Jem grew to become a fortress through the Revolutions of Tunis. Later centuries noticed the amphitheater used for saltpetre manufacture, grain storage, and market stalls.

Regardless of a whole lot of years of human exercise, in violent upheavals and on a regular basis enterprise, El Jem stays the most effective preserved Roman ruins on the earth and one of many largest outside theaters ever constructed. Extra importantly, it marks the location of one in every of North Africa’s first imperial occupations, one that might designate a area — and ultimately a continent with a dizzyingly numerous mixture of peoples — as “African.”

by way of @WassilDZ

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Josh Jones is a author and musician primarily based in Durham, NC. Observe him at @jdmagness

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