About Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre
Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre is a vast 2nd century structure that once served the thriving Roman city of Corinium. Today its dramatic earthworks give an indication of the important community that once lived there, and provide a glimpse into some of Britain’s oldest history.
Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre history
Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre was constructed in the early 2nd century to hold a capacity of 8,000 spectators. Located in the major Roman city of Corinium, today known as Cirencester, Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre would have attracted visitors from around Roman Britain to its shows, likely featuring gladiatorial fights and exotic animal displays.
Corinium was the second-largest city in Roman Britain after Londinium (London), and was home to around 10,000 people. Following the Roman retreat from Britain in the 5th century however, the once-thriving community rapidly declined. Without soldiers’ wages to keep the local economy afloat and no private patrons to fund public games at the amphitheatre, it soon fell into disuse as a centre of entertainment.
Instead, it was turned into a fortress to safeguard what was left of the town’s community – these efforts were in vain however, as in 577 the Saxons invaded and took Cirencester.
It was then abandoned until in the Middle Ages the Abbot of Cirencester began using it as a rabbit warren, while its local name the ‘Bull Ring’ suggests its use at one point in bull-baiting.
Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre today
Today Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public. Very little of its structure remains however its large earthworks are still visible, giving an insight into the size of the former theatre – it is one of the largest in Britain!
It is oval-shaped with entrances at each end, and large banks once used to support seating made from wood atop drystone walls. Later in the amphitheatre’s life two small rooms were created on either side of one of the entrances, with one possibly used as a shrine to Nemesis, as was common at Roman amphitheatres such as Chester Roman Amphitheatre.
Getting to Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre
Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre is located just west of Cirencester, next to the city’s bypass on the A429. Free parking is available in the car park at the east end of Cotswold Avenue.
The nearest train station is Kemble, 4 miles away, from which the 882 bus service stops at The Forum in Cirencester, a 10-minute walk away. A number of bus services also stop at the nearby Hospital stop, a 15-minute walk to the site.