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The Roman amphitheatre at saintes was built a few years after the Germanicus Arch  and probably took a little longer to finish. It is dedicated to Emperor Claudius although it was started in the time of Emperor Tiberius, and  was constructed between 40 and 50 AD.

Looking towards main entrance.

In those days Saintes was called Mediolanum Santonum and had a population estimated to be about 15,000 which is roughly the number of seats in the amphitheatre. As was the case in those days the Roman amphitheatre played host to gladiatorial battles. The contestants (men and wild animals) entered through the Sanavaria doorway and if they were lucky they left through the same door. If they were not going to fight another day they left through the Libitinensis door. ( Libitina was the Goddess of death, funerals and corpses)  At the opposite end from that through which the contestants entered were the upmarket seats where the rich members of the Saintes community would sit. Behind them was the town.

By about 300 AD the amphitheatre was no more in use and the town had declined leaving it effectively outside of the town. During the middle ages it was being used as a quarry. Recently the town has grown to once again encompass the amphitheatre. Some restoration has taken place and it is once again used during August each year, not for gladiatorial battles but for opera and rock concerts.

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Just a thought…… I am at present reading a book about William Duke of Normandy, also known as William the Conqueror or William the Bastard. He was born almost 1000 years ago (1028) but when he was alive the Amphitheatre was already a ruin and over 1000 years old. Amazing.

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