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Roman Amphitheater (Tarragona)

 Roman Amphitheater (Tarragona)






Description of Roman Amphitheater

Roman Amphitheater (Tarragona)  Roman Amphitheater (Tarragona)

Roman Amphitheater is a an ancient stadium located in a picturesque park which stretches across a hill that is locally known as a Mediterranean balcony of Tarragona. Amphitheater was built in ancient Tarragona in the 2nd century AD in a shape of an ellipse with a central arena that measures 62 by 38 meters. During its heyday it could house about 15,000 residents of Tarragona. Ancient Romans had an interesting view of sports. It seems most of them involved some degree of violence. Gladiator fights, obviously, were some of the most violent of them all. In addition to organized fights, Tarragona Amphitheater hosted execution of criminals. During the persecution of Christians many believers met their grizzly end on the arena. However the most famous incident happened on January 21, 259 AD, when this area saw death of the first bishop of Tarragona Fruktuos and his two deacons Avgurus and Evlogius. They were badly tortured in hopes they will refuse Jesus Christ as their God. All three men became martyrs and died on the sand of the stadium unbroken. January 21st became hence their feast day.


Interestingly enough Pontius Pilate who ordered crucifixion of Jesus Christ used to live in Tarragona and probably visited Amphitheater long before Christianity was even born. Gladiator fights were outlawed with the introduction of Christianity as a state religion. Amphitheater like all other stadiums of its kind was closed along with many other across the Roman Empire. During the Dark Ages barbarian tribes of Visigoths used parts of the structure to created their own buildings so magnificent arena became a quarry. Later residents of Tarragona built a small church on the site where gladiators once fought each other till death. Unfortunately original basilica was not preserved. Structure was covered by layers of garbage and rubble. Amphitheater was discovered during archaeological digs only in 1952.






History of the Roman Amphitheater
Roman Amphitheater was built at the end of the 2nd century AD, in a space that had been a funerary area.

During the empire of Heliogábalo , a third century AD, in the amphitheater were carried out various reforms. In commemoration of this fact, the podium was crowned with a large monumental inscription, of which many fragments are preserved.

On January 21, 259, during the persecutions against Christians during the Emperor Valerian , the bishop of the city, Fructuoso and his deacons, Augurio and Eulogio , were burnt alive in the arena of the amphitheater .

During the fifth century, and as a consequence of the religious policy of the first Christian emperors, the amphitheater was losing its original functions. A century later took advantage of the stones of this, especially the blocks of the stands, to build a Christian basilica of three ships that commemorated the place of martyrdom of the three saints of the Church of Tarragona. Around the temple a cemetery was built with tombs dug in the sand and funeral mausoleums attached to the church.

The Islamic invasion opened a period of abandonment of the whole Roman Amphitheater, in the twelfth century, a new temple was erected on the foundations of the Visigothic basilica under the title of Santa María del Milagro. Romanesque style and Latin cross plan, a single nave and a quadrangular apse. The church remained standing until 1915.

Operation and use of the amphitheater
Roman Amphitheater held several events on its arena including the munera (fight of gladiators ) or the venationes (fights with animals). Also hunting, athletic exhibitions and death sentences were carried out (as well as killings of Christians). Roman Amphitheater was built near the sea in the lower part of the city because of its easy access both for the public attending the shows and for the disembarkation on the beach of the animals used for them. Roman Amphitheater is constructed on a steep slope, taking advantage of the rock to cut part of the stands. In the other parts where the topography could not be exploited, the stands were erected over vaults. The use of concrete (opus caementicium) and that of large stone ashlars (opus quadratum) was combined. It is known that on certain occasions a huge tent (velum) was stretched that protected the spectators from the sun or rain.

In the northern area of ​​the transverse fossa there was a fresco painting (now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona) dedicated to the goddess Nemesis, who decorated a small chapel for the invocation of this protective goddess of the gladiators.

Technical characteristics
Capacity: 15,000 people
Architectural form: ellipse
Measures: 130x102 meters in an elliptical shape
Stays: Podium was the stage that was located on one side of the amphitheater and underground fossae rooms for beasts and gladiators that had a forklift to raise them to the arena of the amphitheater. The cávea was the stand with three maeniana (sectors) intended for the public separated by walls and corridors to separate the spectators by social classes.