Roman Amphitheatre – Saintes | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Roman Amphitheatre – Saintes

Saintes, New Aquitaine, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Roman Amphitheatre – Saintes

The Roman Amphitheatre in Saintes is a 1st century AD construction built around 40AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius.

Saintes Roman Amphitheatre history

Saintes was then known as Mediolanum Santonum and was a thriving Roman settlement in modern day France which was founded around 20BC. The amphitheatre itself would have had space for several thousand spectators and would have been the venue for ancient Roman games. Accommodating from 12 to 15,000 spectators attend sometimes bloody and violent shows, it was made by taking advantage of the site of the relief. The tiers are based on the slopes of a valley side and is on an embankment in the west.

The arena, 66 metres long and 39 metres wide, was surrounded by a stone block wall and two large side doors allowed to communicate with the outside. One of them was reserved for victors gladiators: it was called “the door of the living”.

Although used as a quarry in the Middle Ages, the amphitheater is one of the best preserved of the ancient Roman province. The arena, foundations and some steps have been cleared and partly restored in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These remains give a fairly accurate picture of what was the vast edifice in antiquity.

Saintes Roman Amphitheatre today

Along with the Arch of Germanicus, the Roman Amphitheatre in Saintes gives visitors a glimpse of the historic ancient Roman city and is certainly worth a visit for anyone exploring the area.

Much of the seating area is now grown over with grass but it is an impressive place. It is still possible to imagine the battles that went on here between gladiators and as in Rome’s Colosseum, wild animals.

Similar in design to that in the Italian capital, at one end of the Saintes amphitheatre is the Sanavivaria doorway through which entered the gladiators and animals ready for battle. If they were lucky enough to survive the content, they exited through the same doorway. However, if they died, they were despatched through the Libitinensis door (named after Libitina, the goddess of death, corpses and funerals).

Though it became an official historical monument in 1840, the site is now a venue hosting shows and concerts.

Getting to Saintes Roman Amphitheatre

The address of the location is Amphithéâtre gallo-romain, 20 Rue Lacurie, 17100 Saintes. The site is located in the centre of the town, west of the Charente and roughly a 20 minute walk from the famous Roman Arch of Germanicus.

The small town of Saintes is located in the department of Charente-Maritime of the french region Poitou-Charentes. It is roughly 120km (1hr 30min drive) north of Bordeaux and 80km (1hr drive) south of La Rochelle on the western coast of France. The site is very accessible from the road with free parking closeby.

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