Gladiator Arena unearthed in Turkey

After months in lockdown – and just as we are beginning to turn our attention to the possibility of having a vacation abroad – the Roman Empire proves that it is still marching on, thanks to archaeologists in Turkey who have uncovered a previously unknown Roman amphitheatre.

The arena was discovered in Aydın Province in Western Turkey and dates from the Severan period of the Roman Empire, meaning it is around 1,800 years old.

The Severan dynasty ruled the Roman Empire between 193 and 235 AD and was founded by the emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (193 to 211 AD). He was born at Leptis Magna, in what we know as Libya. Septimius was thought of as a good emperor whose reign is marked by a period of stability.

Lucius Septimius Severus (Image Wikipedia)

The lead archaeologist excavating the site in Turkey – Sedat Akkurnaz from Adnan Menderes University in Turkey – and Aydın Culture and Tourism provincial director Mehmet Umut Tuncer say that the site is currently underground and covered in vegetation. But it is thought that the arena would have seated 20,000 spectators.

The arena was first discovered last summer and from October to December 2020 vegetation and forestation was removed from the site to allow access. So far archaeologists have found retaining walls of the arena and some seating.

The area where the arena was sited is near the city of Mastaura, which was wealthy during the Severan period, Mehmet Umut Tuncer told the website LiveScience – and audiences would have enjoyed animal as well as gladiator fights at the arena and would have bet on them.

Spectators would also have travelled to the arena from other parts of Turkey, it is thought, as no other example of a Roman amphitheatre has been discovered in Anatolia (Asia Minor).

It is hoped that, after the building has been cleaned up and walls reinforced, geological surveys will begin as early as May.

And hopefully one day we will all have another major Roman site to visit when we go on holiday.

Buon viaggio!

You can read the full report on the site at LiveScience.

Images copyright Aydın Culture and Tourism provincial director Mehmet Umut Tuncer, except where stated.

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