The town of El Djem (also spelt El Jem) located 62km from Sfax is home to the most impressive Roman monument in all Africa – the Amphitheater of El Jem.

Built as a Roman settlements on the former Punic settlements in North Africa, El Jem known as Thysdrus by the Romans, became prosperous in the 2nd century as an important center for the processing of olive oil for export. Thysdrus was regarded second to Carthage until it was destroyed following the revolt that began in AD 238.

Ouverture_festival_d'el_jem_2013

Ouverture Festival d’el jem 2013 by Jean pierre x

The amphitheater of Thysdrus is dated to around AD 230, and was built under Proconsul Gordian I who was later proclaimed Emperor alongside his son Gordian II following the revolt. It is believed to have not been fully completed, although it was still used for gladiatorial battles and small chariots races.

Apart from the Colosseum at Rome and the ruined theater of Capua, the amphitheater of Thysdrus stood as the largest and was said to hold a capacity of 35,000 spectators. A free-standing monument, it is built entirely of stone blocks without foundation, and was modeled after the Colosseum. Scenes from the movie Gladiator were shot on location at the amphitheater.

1280px-Colisée_d'El_Djem_vue_panoramique

Colisée d’El Djem vue panoramique by Adel BRAHEM

The amphitheater of El Jem (Thysdrus) was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979 under categories: (iv) icon of an era, and (vi) association with belief system.

Amphitheatre_El_Jem(js)2

Amphitheatre_El_Jem(js) by Jerzystrzeleck

For additional information, please see:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/38

http://www.africanworldheritagesites.org/cultural-places/frontiers-of-the-roman-empire/amphitheatre-of-el-jem.html

http://romeartlover.tripod.com/Thysdrus.html

http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa/amphitheatre-el-djem-gladiatorial-arena-tunisia-003321

Feature Image: Amphitheater at El Djem by Agnieszka Wolska

 

‘Niyi David explores the beautiful and enthralling continent of Africa with Afro Tourism, capturing colorful memories of places, cultures and events in words and images.

 

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Michael Usifo

Michael Usifo

Creative Writer
Michael-Alvin, an imaginative get-it-done wordsmith, blends uncanny taste for facts gleaned from his training in law, and journalism by UNESCO, in his travels and reports about Africa for Afro Tourism.
Michael Usifo
Michael Usifo
Michael Usifo

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