Skip to content

[:RU]Blood and Sand. The majestic amphitheater El Jem in Tunisia.[:]

[:RU]Of all his travels, it is from Tunisia I got the most vivid impression. But the strongest of them, of course, did not have the impression of a jeep safari across the Sahara, but rather a giant amphitheater from the Roman era (III century BC) in the tiny town of El Jem (El Jem). Its size is only slightly inferior to the Coliseum and the Roman amphitheater in the Italian town of Capua (ital. Capua). But, here in its preservation, he confidently holds first place in the world!

terraoko-201511171 (7)


It’s hard to describe the feeling when you do not look at any site, and enter, through the centuries, on their own feet, fully preserved, gladiatorial arena, remembering thousands of human lives. Here at tremendous speeds raced Roman chariots and swords, folding, embossing spark … Each battle in this arena was the limit of human capabilities, because the price was someone’s life …




The hand slowly touches the ancient stones of the walls of the amphitheater, the headphones sounded atmospheric soundtrack Hans Zimmer from the famous film «Gladiator» by Ridley Scott and, at the same time, the modern world around you ceases to exist. The few tourists seemed to dissolve in the air, and their place in the stands of the Roman amphitheater takes to know in light of festive white robes. Women trying to escape from the hot African sun in the shade of the columns, hanging in the air hum of voices … Periodically, the tension in the air horns sounds break — Roots, everyone is waiting for the start of the bloody spectacle …


Images and feelings are mixed into a single unit, making you completely transported into the distant epoch. At this moment there is only you and the surrounding area of ​​the majestic amphitheater of El Jem!


Modern El Jem stands on the site of the ancient Phoenician settlement, which age is in contrast to the capital of the Phoenician kingdom — Carthage (founded in 814 BC), find it difficult to give even the scientists. After a series of the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, the last one was destroyed in 146 BC and it turned into a colony. Going south, the Roman Empire, presumably, in 46 BC It founded the city Tizdr (lat. Thysdrus ), the future of El Jem.


Economic Dawn settlements account for II — beg. The III century, when around town, thanks to the favorable climate, olive groves grow. Olive oil, in those days, Rome was valued its weight in gold. In addition, the city was at the crossroads of trade routes from Central Africa to the Mediterranean. All this has led to what Tizdr quickly became one of the most important cities in North Africa, the second largest after Carthage and its population reached 30 thousand people.


As in any thriving city rich strata of the population demanded spectacle in which it would be possible to invest their money. Thus, in 230 AD by order of the proconsul Marcus Antonius Gordian (lat. Marcus Antonius Gordianus), the future emperor, the construction of the amphitheater, which, after 8 years, was stopped.

08. The beginning of construction.thysdrus_01.jpg



10. The plan of the amphitheater.


To understand why an amphitheater and was not completed until the end, I propose to look at what happened in the years of the Roman Empire.

11. Presumably, so he had to be.thysdrus_03.jpg

And there it was very sad … In 235 AD begin internecine war for the imperial throne. The conspirators killed the Emperor Alexander Severus, together with his mother, then the Empire begins to crumble. The legions proclaimed emperor «their man» — Gaius Julius Maximinus Thracians, who became the first emperor who came from ordinary soldiers.


After a couple of years, the newly-born Emperor got an opponent in the face proconsul Gordian, nominated by the imperial throne legions loyal to him. Gordian agreed on this adventure with the condition that the co-regent to his son Gordian II, and received the go-ahead from the Senate of Rome.




At the beginning of the war, in a battle with the legions of Maximin, under the Carthage Junior Gordian killed. On hearing this, Gordian I committed suicide by hanging himself in his belt … The Roman Senate appoints new emperor his man — Senator Mark Claudia Pupien, to continue the war against Maximinus.


Slightly longer lived for himself displaced Thracian Maximin. Was brought forward from the army to Italy, he is killed along with his son, in a battle near the town of Aquileia, a couple of months after the suicide of Gordian I.


It is also sad over the life of Mark Pupien who does not deserve the trust of the people and in the course of the next uprising, was killed in his own palace Praetorians. Roman throne passes to Mark Anthony Gordian III, grandson of Gordian I.

I will continue the story of the fate of the future emperor, except to say that for the III century Rome became a nightmare. During the 50-year period, more than 26 people are becoming candidates for the imperial bed, and almost all of them die a violent death.


But back to our «Tunis Coliseum» and the reign of Gordian I.

A three-storey amphitheater, measuring 138 meters long and 114 meters wide, has turned this magnificent handsome. Tall arched gallery with a lot of transitions surrounded by sand arena, the length of 65 meters and a width of 39 meters, and the walls were decorated with multicolored mosaic with the image of galloping horsemen, hunters and persecuted them beasts. Over the eastern entrance was arranged by the imperial box.


As in most other amphitheatres, it is also a major spectacle of gladiatorial combat served. In addition, the large size of the arena allowed to arrange the battle on the battle chariot.


It was at the amphitheater Tizdrusa and its feature. Unlike Italy, the African «Coliseum» were common fights with wild predatory animals. They fought as gladiators and animal fights were held exclusively between the different types of predators. Wild beasts, which are released into the arena, dedicated to the gods: the lion and the bull — Saturn and Juno, the panther — Dionysus, the bear — Diana.

As a further bloody entertainment, often released into the arena unarmed slaves who are hungry animals are literally torn apart …


Gladiators, wild animals and slaves were kept in special chambers and cells. For this purpose, under the arena of the amphitheater was built entire underground city. Some rooms were designed for the dying gladiators as well as for the storage of corpses.




Today, this underground city, almost completely preserved and has no analogues in the world, accessible to visitors. The chambers and passages that once filled the dying moans and cries of battle, deathly silence.

23. Camera gladiator.IMG_1957.jpg





Special feelings arise when you pass the «corridor of death», in which the gladiators went into the arena. Of all the light before there were only a few torches, and a bright white light at the end of a long corridor, where there was access to the arena. Maybe from here went the phrase «light at the end of the tunnel», meaning the border between life and death?




After the death of Gordian I, in 238 AD, Tizdr seriously destroyed by opposition forces, was unable to recover. However, he survived and amphitheater stood intact until VII century.


The 699 year Tizdr becomes the center of the revolt of the Berber queen united states Dahiyaal-Kahin Bint Tabitha (Al Kahin) against the Arab conquest. After the defeat of the uprising settlement was abandoned residents.

The city with the present name of El Jem (in Arabic — «crossroads») occurs only here in the early XVII century. It was during this period began the destruction of the amphitheater. The stones of its walls are used as free construction materials for the construction of town houses, as well as for the construction of the Grand mosque in the city of Kairouan. So it was virtually destroyed by the northern wall of the amphitheater. Finally amphitheater was used as a fortress, it was demolished in 1850 as a result of gun attacks of the Ottoman Empire.


Today, as many centuries ago, in El Jem crowded, but mainly because of the many tourists. It boils briskly trade of souvenirs, clothes and other goods. For these purposes, even equipped with a small market. At the same time, compared with Rome, the percentage of tourists are just a tiny, allowing you to enjoy all the beauty of the amphitheater in its entirety and make beautiful deserted frames.




Do not be amiss to add that the price in the «Tunisian Colosseum» only 10 TND (300 rubles), plus 1 TND — permission to shoot. This compared to 12 € in the Roman Coliseum. For 10 dinars you unlimited space to walk around the amphitheater, visit the underground galleries and the upper tiers, with a panoramic view of the modern El Jem.


Surprisingly, it did not spoil the overall view of the amphitheater and the modern music scene. The fact that in August, thanks to the amazing acoustics, is held the annual International Festival of classical music under the open sky.

33. The music scene in the arena of the amphitheater.IMG_1980.jpg

Anyway, the amphitheater of El Jem leaves an indelible mark in the memory of any man, even if he is not especially interested in ancient Rome. And for lovers of history there is even a small Archaeological Museum (a kilometer away from the amphitheater), which can be seen fragments of the preserved mosaics from the walls.


At the end of the story, I want to dispel a modern legend, associated with the El Jem. The fact that almost all tourist catalogs said that the amphitheater is famous for the fact that its walls were filmed some scenes of the famous film «Gladiator» director Ridley Scott with Russell Crowe in the lead role. It is understood that this is done to lure tourists and increase the tourist flow.

In reality, the «Gladiator» never in El Jem is not removed. First, the film company would simply not allowed to carry out the shooting of the film in such a historic place. Secondly, he Ridley Scott said that the size of the Roman Colosseum pans too small for him, what could then talk about El Jem?

Shooting «Gladiator» was carried out in England, Morocco and Malta, where he built a huge amphitheater layout, as well as all kinds of additional «street» scenery. Everything else, such as the upper tiers were to finish with the help of computer graphics. Malta has long been a mecca for this film. There also was shot, no less famous film «Troy» and TV series «Game of Thrones.»


Since 1979, open to all African winds, remnants of an ancient Roman amphitheater was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Liked? I need your opinion about what I do and what I write. Your comment — best estimate of my work. Let’s talk more![:]

Написать отзыв

Лимит времени истёк. Пожалуйста, перезагрузите CAPTCHA.