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The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria

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The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria


The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria

  • The roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria considered to be one of the most popular monuments in the whole world, as it is the fourth largest Roman amphitheater in the world.
  • Its location is almost in the center of the city of Alexandria.
  • Amphitheatre is a word stand for ancient Greek term which means an open air area used for kinds of performances.
  • There is another amphitheatre Egypt, which is the Bloziom Theater, which is located in the Belosium archeology area 25 km east of the Suez Canal.
  • The local people called this site (Kom El Dekka) in Arabic, which means the hill of rubble or the hill of the benches.
  • Kom al-Dikka is part of Alexandria's heart in the Greek and Roman eras, it includes a large classrooms or meeting rooms, bathroom (SPA)villas, homes, open air museum, and water tanks.

The story of discovering

  • It was discovered by chance when a decision was issued by the Egyptian government in (1960) to remove mounds of sand and dust resulting from digging works in canal called Mahmoudiya (it is a sub-waterway from the Nile River those cuts through the city of Alexandria and ends in the Mediterranean Sea).
  • The government wanted to remove sands covered the area, to build a government building in this area, when they began digging the foundations, parts of the Roman amphitheatre appeared, so the digging work stopped immediately.
  • The Egyptian Antiquities Authority was assigned to take over this site, which sought the help from the Polish mission, which were working near this site as they were searching for the tomb of Alexander the Great.
  • The Polish mission announced at this time, the amphitheatre could be the entrance to the tomb of Alexander the Great.
  • At that time many international films were made about Alexandria’s civilization, such as (Alexander the Great movie and Cleopatra movie  starring Elizabeth Taylor) as there were a strong recovery in the archaeological and tourism field.
  • Then, it was announced that it was not the tomb of Alexander the Great and it was Roman amphitheatres, as  they had been searching for it for 30 years, because many ancient texts mentioned the Roman amphitheatre, but it did not specify its exact location.
  • The noticeable thing that this site was discovered by chance, as most of the great archaeological discoveries are always been by chance.
The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria

The history of the Roman amphitheatre

  • The Roman amphitheatre  was built at the beginning of the fourth century ADand remained in use until the middle of the seventh century AD.
  • As the city of Alexandria at that time was the capital of Egypt and was the seat of the Roman ruler until (Amr Ibn Al-Aas who was  the Arab commander who led the Muslim conquest of Egypt and served as its governor in 640–646 came and liberated Egypt from the Romans in the middle of the seventh century AD.
  • This means that this theatre contemporary three eras, which are the Roman era, The Christian Byzantine era and the Islamic era, therefore, its uses differed from one era to another according to the nature, characteristics and features of each of these mentioned eras.

In the Roman era

  • There is a point of view that this building was mistakenly called the theatre, as the similar theatres which was discovered in Greece and Italy take the shape of the letter C, or the shape of a semicircle and not the shape of the letter U, or the horseshoe likes the design of this building.
  • The reason of the design of these theatres in the form of  semicircle so those sitting on the edges can clearly see the show.
  • There was another opinion said that it was used as a battlefield similar to the famous Roman arenas at this time, but this opinion was also wrong, because the building is supposed to have a large area to allow the fighting to take place, and there are no traces of walls  founded, to protect the spectators from the intensity of the fighting.
The right opinion of the function of the building that It was used to host musical shows, as it had all the elements, to host perfect performance.

☝There was a dome over the stage, it was used to magnify the sound of the music and the chants during different performances.

✌The design of the building revealed that the site was studied at the time of construction, so that the winds carry sound and collide with the western wall to make magnification echo, Thus, those sitting in the stands on either side can hear the music clearly.

In the Byzantine era


The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria

  • It was used as  a political meeting hall, where the emblem of the Byzantine state was found (which is a cross inside a circle As the cross  represented  the emblem of the Christian state, and the circle represented the aura of light to signify the face of Christ).

Or it may be used as  headquarter of the ruling party at the same time.

  • There are an inscriptions in ancient Greek letters on one of the stands, that  wishes luck and victory for political party over the other, this also evidenced that the building took on an official, and political character in the Byzantine era.

In the Islamic era

  • This important site unfortunately  was neglected, as it was used as a cemetery, the evidence for that, there is a number of tombstones with an inscription in the Kufic script found in this site (Kufic script is the oldest type of Arabic calligraphy).

Description of the Roman amphitheatre


The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria


  • It Consists now of (13) rows, but at the time of construction it was (16).
  • It was numbered with Greek letters and numbers, as it started from the bottom to the top, to regulate the seating process, and it accommodates 600 people.
  •  The sound reaches them clearly and evenly from the center point, as there is a circular stone, in the middle of the floor where the artist used to stand upon it, this stone was used as a microphone.

The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria

 

Notice : if you stand upon  it and say anything you will find the echo spread in the place.

  • All the rows were made from white and grey marble which imported from Italy, except for the first row which was made from pink granite stone.
  • It was known that this type of stone was very solid, it came from Aswan, and this was a great point of intelligence from the engineer who designed the building, as the first row was like a cornerstone for the rest of the rows.
  • There were 27 pillars that were intended to hold the large dome to protect the attendance from the sun and rain, In addition to its primary function in the good conduction of sound.
  • The dome unfortunately was completely destroyed in the 6th century A.D, as an earthquake hits Alexandria, and destroyed most of these structures leaving only some ruins that still stands until today, reflecting the beautiful, and magnificent architectural skills that Romans had in ancient time.
  • There were two entrances to the building, one on the north side, and the other was on the south sides.


The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria

  • There were two waiting halls like reception hall their floors were made of mosaics.

The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria


  • There are two statues bases, to hold the statues of the emperor and the empress, but the two statues were lost, only the two bases are remaining.
  • There were five compartments at the top from the audience section used to host important figures, and wealthy tradesmen during the shows.
  • These compartments had domed roofs that were built on large granite columns, to protect the public from the sun  and from rain.
  • The rows of the Roman amphitheatre were based on a wall of thick white limestone, and another wall was surrounds it.
  • These two walls were joined together by a number of arches and vaults where the outer wall function was to support the inner wall, that was a common feature of the Roman architecture from the 2nd to the 4th centuries.
  • Between these two walls, there is a corridor surrounded the building, which was used by the workers.
  • There were rooms beside the theatre, where actors used it before and between their performance, where they could change clothes, also it was used as storing the equipment of the performance.
  • There is newly part built opposite to the Roman amphitheatre, it is used for holding cultural parties in the presence of the most important international teams, as well as holding many artistic festivals.

Amphitheatre Street


The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria


It considered to be one of the oldest streets in ancient Alexandria.

The lecture halls


The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria


  • There were a unique collection of 22 lecture halls, which was discovered by the Egyptian-Polish mission in 2004.
  • It considered to be the oldest university has been discovered in all over the world, as Alexandria was in the late Roman period an educational and cultural center, where students and teachers came from all over the world to it.

The description of these halls

  • It was built from mud-brick, They take the rectangular  shape, it had an elevated area designated for the teachers as they were climbed up by several steps, surrounded by a place for students to sit, and there was in the last third of the hall a block of stone on which the student stands to train in public speaking.

The Roman Bath


The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria

  • Its one of the most prominent monuments from the Roman era in Egypt, and the biggest Roman bath ever found in Egypt.
  • It was made from red bricks Because one of the properties of this stone were to retain heat in the place, the use of this stone dates back to the Roman era in Egypt.
  • It was divided into two floors, the lower floor was for workers only, as it was used as ovens to heat the water, while visitors were not allowed to see them, and there were (12) tanks connected to the baths to supply it with water.
  • It is similar to the baths that spread in Italy, but it differs from them in size and it is less decorated, as well as that it does not include a sports court, or a swimming pool.
  • There were baths for cold water, the other for steam, and for hot water, rooms for changing clothes, all of them were in one row, these bathrooms was like spa nowadays.

Entrance fee of Roman Amphitheatre


  • 80 LE for foreigners, 40 LE for foreigners student.
  • 10 LE for Egyptian, 5 LE for Egyptian student.

References

  • http://www.alexandria.gov.eg/Alex/english/Roman Amphitheater.html
  • https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoudiyah_Canal
  • https://ask-aladdin.com/egypt-sites/greco-roman-monuments/romantheatre/
  • https://www.egypt-monuments1.website/2021/04/villa-of-birds_6.html

1. علماء الحملة الفرنسية )جراتيان لوبير(: موسوعة وصف مصر – ترجمة زهير الشايب – مكتبة األسرة – ج3 – 2002.

2. عزت قادوس: آثار اإلسكندرية القديمة – ط2 – 2000.

3. عمر طوسون: خليج اإلسكندرية القديم وترعة المحمودية – مطبعة العدل – 1943.





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