Nimes Arena - History and Facts | History Hit

Nimes Arena

Nimes, Occitania, France

Nimes Arena is amongst the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world.

Lily Johnson

17 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Nimes Arena

Nimes Arena (Arenes de Nimes), also known as Nimes Amphitheatre, is amongst the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world, and today provides visitors with an atmospheric look into Roman France.

Nimes Arena history

Built during the reign of the Emperor Augustus in the 1st century, Nimes Arena was a marvel of Roman engineering with its stunning façade of archways and ornamentation. A vast oval amphitheatre reminiscent of the Colosseum, Nimes Arena could seat up to 24,000 people in its 34 terraces.

The citizens of Nimes – then called Nemausus – would sit according to their social status and watch the games played there, ranging from animal hunts involving lions, tigers, and even elephants to the famous gladiatorial matches. Executions would also take place at the Arena, with those condemned to death being thrown to the animals.

In the 6th century Nimes Arena began to play a military role under the Visigoths. Transformed from a sports arena to a castle fortress or “castrum arena”, it acted as an emergency shelter for the town’s inhabitants in the event of attack, and featured a large moat to help keep enemy forces out.

Nimes Arena would go on to play an even more elaborate role in the 12th century when it became the seat of the Viscount of Nimes and home to a chateau, and soon a small residential neighbourhood had grown up inside its walls. In the 18th century, around 150 houses remained inside Nimes Arena, which in 1786 were demolished to revert the site to its original Roman grandeur.

Nimes Arena today

Now fully restored, Nimes Arena is a popular tourist attraction and allows visitors a glimpse into the dramatic world of the Roman amphitheatre. Including an interactive audio guide and detailed exhibits, the site is not only a marvel but is also highly informative and perfect for fans of ancient history.

Beyond its historic significance Nimes Arena is also still used for events today, including two biannual bullfights that take place during the Feria de Nimes, and reenactment events such as the ‘Great Roman Games’.

Getting to Nimes Arena

Nimes Arena is located in southern France in the centre of Nimes, and can be accessed via the N106 or N113 roads. Parking is available next to the site at Parking Indigo Nimes Arenes.

Nimes train station is a 7-minute walk away, and Nimes bus and coach station is a 30-minute walk away.

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