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1. Inside amphitheatre

2. Inside the colonnade

3. Dungeons

4. Tiny tourists


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And the amphitheatre

1. The colosseum from the outside. CLICK HERE
2. Underneath the columns. CLICK HERE
3. The fighting grounds where men and lions died. CLICK HERE

Apart from the Roman colosseum, the sights of El Jem are still covered by sand. And the city of El Jem is a sleepy place without much character. But the colosseum is great, almost as big as the one of Rome, and in better condition. It is 148 metres long by 122 metres wide, with tiers up to 35 metres.
There is nothing missing which takes away its grandeur. One area of the walls is gone, and this was done in 1695 when a big hole was shot in the wall of the colosseum, in order to uncover the hiding places of dissidents against the Ottomans.

El Jem, Tunisia

The colosseum was constructed between 230 and 238 CE by the command of the Imperial official Gordian. It's believed to have given room for as much as 30,000 spectators, some estimates set it at 45,000. This in the town of Thysdrus with only 30,000 inhabitants. But was a wealthy town, probably eager to impress its visitors.
The building process is even more impressive considering that the stones were quarried 30 km away at Salakta. In 238 Gordian committed suicide after an unsuccessful rebellion against Rome, where he had claimed to be emperor. With this, the construction of the amphitheatre ended. It was never completely finished, but was of course used.
Around El Jem there are more to be found, not by today's tourists, but by the archaeologists of the future. Another, but smaller amphitheatre, can be seen around a kilometre away. And aerial photos indicate another and bigger one close to El Jem.

By Tore Kjeilen