Arles Roman Theatre - History and Facts | History Hit

Arles Roman Theatre

Arles, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, France

Arles Roman Theatre was constructed during the reign of the Emperor Augustus.

Peta Stamper

09 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Arles Roman Theatre

Arles Roman Theatre, known as the Théâtre antique d’Arles, is an Ancient Roman theatre in the Provence town of Arles, France, which would have been used for a variety of theatrical shows. Now one of Arles’ UNESCO World Heritage sites, Arles Roman Theatre is the venue of an annual festival – the Recontres d’Arles.

Arles Roman Theatre history

Like Arles Amphitheatre, it was probably constructed in the late 1st century BC to early 1st century AD, during the reign of the Emperor Augustus (27 BC–14 AD). With a capacity for seating 8,000 spectators on 33 tiers of steps, the theatre in Arles as a similar size to its counterpart in Orange.

Quarried for its materials in the Middle Ages and overtaken by other development, Arles Roman Theatre was only really rediscovered in the 19th century. By this time, only a fraction of its steps remained together with the orchestra and two solitary columns.

Arles Roman Theatre today

Unlike its famous counterpart – Arles Amphitheatre – which stands in an excellent state of preservation, Arles Roman Theatre has suffered significant deterioration. Of the once-impressive rear wall stands only a couple of pillar-stumps and a pair of complete columns.

Nevertheless, the theatre has gained a new lease of life and today is protected from the outside by screens and inside contains technical items that allow the site to become a popular venue.

Many of the statues and other objects once contained in the Arles Roman Theatre are now displayed in museums, including the Arles Archaeological Museum. The theatre’s most notable piece, the Venus d’ Arles, can now be found in the Louvre in Paris.

Getting to Arles Roman Theatre

Sat just beside the amphitheatre in central Arles, the Roman Theatre is easily reached on foot. The train station is only a 10 minute walk away and serves links to Marseilles Saint-Charles and Lyon.

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