Alternative amphitheatres

26/04/2018 15:56

Written by Bradt Travel Guides

Pula, Croatia

Pula amphitheatre Istria Croatia by © Croatian National Tourist Board© Croatian National Tourist Board

You can’t miss Pula’s enormous Roman Amphitheatre – it’s the sixth biggest in the world (after Rome, Capua, Verona, Syracuse and Arles, since you ask), and has the most complete outer walls of any still standing. Started under Augustus, and continued under Flavian, it was enlarged and completed to its present 130m-by-105m ellipse under Vespasian (whose lover Antonia, it’s said, came from Pula) in the second half of the 1st century AD.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv Amphitheatre Bulgaria by meunierd Shutterstock© meunierd, Shutterstock

The Roman Theatre is perhaps the greatest of Plovdiv’s attractions. During the summer there is a season of opera and classical music concerts here. It seats over 4,000 spectators in a semicircle of 11 tiers, set into the hillside. The backdrop to the stage is a façade of Ionic columns and statues which is, of course, a work of restoration but sympathetically done.

Epidavros, Greece

Epidavros Epidauros Peloponnese Greece by S-F Shutterstock© S-F, Shutterstock

Epidavros is most famous for its theatre, one of the best surviving buildings from the Classical period. It is as impressive today as it was in Pausanias’ day when he complimented its supposed architect. It is a masterpiece of harmonious and technically clever design. Along with the Parthenon itself, it probably stands as one of the major symbols of all that is admirable in Classical Greek art and science. Most famously it has incredible acoustics. Drop a coin or rustle up a ball of paper in the middle of the circle at the centre of the theatre and the noise can be heard clearly from any of the seats, right up to the last tier (it is worth pointing out that this was not the stage in ancient times, the foundations of which are just behind it).

Caesarea, Israel

Caesarea Israel by ImagineStock, ShutterstockUnder Herod the Great the coastal city of Caesarea exploded on to the scene as one of the world's most cruicial seaports © ImagineStock, Shutterstock

This theatre in Israel has become the symbol of Caesarea and has been fully restored to its former grandeur. Seating up to 4,000 people, it once again hosts concerts, operas and summer events and has been designed so that audiences have a view over the Mediterranean Sea behind. At some point after its original construction, the theatre was extended to form a quasi-amphitheatre, where it is likely gladiatorial battles would have taken place. It is located south of the Crusader city near the Herodian south wall.

Durrësi, Albania

Durrës Amphitheatre Albania by Hons084, Wikimedia Commins© Hons084, Wikimedia Commons 

The huge Roman amphitheatre, which is one of Durrësi’s main attractions, was built in the early 2nd century AD. The largest in the Balkans, it is elliptical in shape, about 130m at its longest point, with the arena itself measuring about 60m by 40m across. On the terraced seats there would have been room for about 15,000 spectators, about a third of the capacity of the Colosseum in Rome.

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