Amphitheatre of El Jem

Amphitheatre of El Jem
UNESCO World Heritage site
Anfiteatro, El Jem, Túnez, 2016-09-04, DD 55-66 HDR PAN.jpg
Interior of the Amphitheatre of El Jem
LocationThysdrus, El Djem, Mahdia Governorate, Tunisia
38bis
Inscription1979 (3rd Session)
Extensions2010
Area1.37 ha (0.0053 sq mi)
Buffer zone26.42 ha (0.1020 sq mi)
Coordinates35°17′47″N 10°42′25″E / 35°17′47″N 10°42′25″E / 35.296388888889; 10.706944444445
Amphitheatre of El Jem is located in Tunisia
Amphitheatre of El Jem
Location of Amphitheatre of El Jem in Tunisia

Amphitheatre of El Jem is an oval amphitheatre in the city of Thysdrus, El Djem, Tunisia. It is listed by UNESCO since 1979 as a World Heritage Site.[1]

History

The amphitheatre was built around 238 AD in Thysdrus, located in the Roman province of Africa Proconsulare in present-day El Djem, Tunisia. It is one of the best preserved Roman stone ruins in the world, and is unique in Africa. As other amphitheatres in the Roman Empire, it was built for spectator events, and it is one of the biggest amphitheatres in the world. The estimated capacity is 35,000, and the sizes of the big and the small axes are respectively 148 metres (486 ft) and 122 metres (400 ft). The amphitheatre is built of stone blocks, located on a flat ground, and is exceptionally well conserved.[1] The amphitheatre of El Jem is the third amphitheatre built on the same place. The belief is that it was constructed by the local proconsul Gordian, who became the emperor as Gordian III. In the Middle Ages, it served as a fortress, and the population sought here shelter during the attacks of Vandals in 430 and Arabs in 647. In 1695, during the Revolutions of Tunis, Mohamed Bey El Mouradi made an opening in one of the walls to stop the resistance of the followers of his brother Ali Bey al-Muradi who gathered inside the amphitheater.[2]

It is believed that the amphiteatre was used as a saltpetre manufacture in the end of the 18th and in the 19th century. Around 1850, the breach in the wall was enlarged by Ahmad I ibn Mustafa to approximately 30 metres (98 ft). In the second half of the 19th century, the structure was used for shops, dwellings, and grain storage.[3]

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