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The Roman amphitheatre in Alexandria in Egypt is a large circular Roman theatre and the only one of its type to be found in the country. Though often referred to as an amphitheatre, the site is actually that of a small Roman theatre rather than a larger sporting arena.
Excavations at the site – initially undertaken in search of the grave of Alexander the Great – uncovered the original Roman marble seating, a number of courtyard mosaics and even graffiti relating to the rivalry of supporters of local chariot teams. As well as the theatre itself, there are also the remains of a baths complex on the site and several other chambers and living quarters.
Further research and excavations are still being carried out, with these finds shedding new light on the complex. Some of the latest theories are centred around the idea that the theatre was actually a small lecture hall, and indeed that the complex as a whole was an academic institution – perhaps even an ancient university linked to the Great Library of Alexandria.
History of Alexandria
Alexander the Great founded the city in 332 bce after the start of his Persian campaign it was to be the capital of his new Egyptian dominion and a naval base that would control the Mediterranean. The choice of the site that included the ancient settlement of Rhakotis (which dates to 1500 bce ) was determined by the abundance of water from Lake Maryūṭ, then fed by a spur of the Canopic Nile, and by the good anchorage provided offshore by the island of Pharos.
After Alexander left Egypt his viceroy, Cleomenes, continued the creation of Alexandria. With the breakup of the empire upon Alexander’s death in 323 bce , control of the city passed to his viceroy, Ptolemy I Soter, who founded the dynasty that took his name. The early Ptolemies successfully blended the religions of ancient Greece and Egypt in the cult of Serapis (Sarapis) and presided over Alexandria’s golden age. Alexandria profited from the demise of Phoenician power after Alexander sacked Tyre (332 bce ) and from Rome’s growing trade with the East via the Nile and the canal that then linked it with the Red Sea. Indeed, Alexandria became, within a century of its founding, one of the Mediterranean’s largest cities and a centre of Greek scholarship and science. Such scholars as Euclid, Archimedes, Plotinus the philosopher, and Ptolemy and Eratosthenes the geographers studied at the Mouseion, the great research institute founded in the beginning of the 3rd century bce by the Ptolemies that included the city’s famed library. The ancient library housed numerous texts, the majority of them in Greek a “daughter library” was established at the temple of Serapis about 235 bce . The library itself was later destroyed in the civil war that occurred under the Roman emperor Aurelian in the late 3rd century ce , while the subsidiary branch was destroyed in 391 ce (see Alexandria, Library of).
Alexandria was also home to a populous Jewish colony and was a major centre of Jewish learning the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek, the Septuagint, was produced there. Many other ethnic and religious groups were represented in the city, and Alexandria was the scene of much interethnic strife during this period.
Alexandria is known for having little to show for its storied history. The city&rsquos location between the Mediterranean and the Nile wetlands behind means that it has literally been built on top of itself several times over to fit into this confines place. Add to this the devastation of repeated conquests, sieges, and bombardments throughout its history and the fact that very little of ancient Alexandria is visible today becomes more understandable.
It can be difficult to wrap your mind around the importance of this city as a hub of trade and culture since its founding in 331 BC. A visit to the Greco-Roman Museum and Kom Al-Dikka may help you to overcome this problem.
The Greco-Roman Museum is small, but it features artifacts from a fascinating period in Egyptian history when Greek, Roman, and Ancient Egyptian civilization all interacted here, resulting in an interesting fusion of traditions. In this small museum you will come in contact with several legendary figures from world history, all of who played out important parts of their lives in Alexandria.
Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, and Cleopatra are all represented here. You can also see the only existing replica of the Pharos Lighthouse that used to mark Alexandria&rsquos harbor&mdashthe 2nd of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in Egypt. The Giza Pyramids in Cairo is the other.
Nearby the museum is Kom Al-Dikka. The name translates from Arabic as a &ldquomound of rubble&rdquo, but this is one of a handful of sites in the site where archeologists have uncovered part of the ancient city. The ongoing digging here has revealed a well-preserved Roman amphitheater, the only one of many that are supposed to have adorned the ancient city. The site has also revealed a Roman bathhouse and a Roman villa with mosaic decorations still in tact.
Ancient era Edit
Recent radiocarbon dating of seashell fragments and lead contamination show human activity at the location during the period of the Old Kingdom (27th–21st centuries BC) and again in the period 1000–800 BC, followed by the absence of activity thereafter.  From ancient sources it is known there existed a trading post at this location during the time of Rameses the Great for trade with Crete, but it had long been lost by the time of Alexander's arrival.  A small Egyptian fishing village named Rhakotis (Egyptian: rꜥ-qdy.t, 'That which is built up') existed since the 13th century BC in the vicinity and eventually grew into the Egyptian quarter of the city.  Just east of Alexandria (where Abu Qir Bay is now), there was in ancient times marshland and several islands. As early as the 7th century BC, there existed important port cities of Canopus and Heracleion. The latter was recently rediscovered under water.
Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in April 331 BC as Ἀλεξάνδρεια (Alexandreia). Passing through Egypt, Alexander wanted to build a large Greek city on Egypt's coast that would bear his name. He chose the site of Alexandria, envisioning the building of a causeway to the nearby island of Pharos that would generate two great natural harbours.  Alexandria was intended to supersede the older Greek colony of Naucratis as a Hellenistic centre in Egypt, and to be the link between Greece and the rich Nile valley. A few months after the foundation, Alexander left Egypt and never returned to the city during his life.
After Alexander's departure, his viceroy Cleomenes continued the expansion. The architect Dinocrates of Rhodes designed the city, using a Hippodamian grid plan. Following Alexander's death in 323 BC, his general Ptolemy Lagides took possession of Egypt and brought Alexander's body to Egypt with him.  Ptolemy at first ruled from the old Egyptian capital of Memphis. In 322/321 BC he had Cleomenes executed. Finally, in 305 BC, Ptolemy declared himself Pharaoh as Ptolemy I Soter ("Savior") and moved his capital to Alexandria.
Although Cleomenes was mainly in charge of overseeing Alexandria's early development, the Heptastadion and the mainland quarters seem to have been primarily Ptolemaic work. Inheriting the trade of ruined Tyre and becoming the centre of the new commerce between Europe and the Arabian and Indian East, the city grew in less than a generation to be larger than Carthage. In a century, Alexandria had become the largest city in the world and, for some centuries more, was second only to Rome. It became Egypt's main Greek city, with Greek people from diverse backgrounds. 
Alexandria was not only a centre of Hellenism, but was also home to the largest urban Jewish community in the world. The Septuagint, a Greek version of the Tanakh, was produced there. The early Ptolemies kept it in order and fostered the development of its museum into the leading Hellenistic centre of learning (Library of Alexandria), but were careful to maintain the distinction of its population's three largest ethnicities: Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian.  By the time of Augustus, the city walls encompassed an area of 5.34 km 2 , and the total population during the Roman principate was around 500,000–600,000, which would wax and wane in the course of the next four centuries under Roman rule. 
According to Philo of Alexandria, in the year 38 of the Common era, disturbances erupted between Jews and Greek citizens of Alexandria during a visit paid by King Agrippa I to Alexandria, principally over the respect paid by the Herodian nation to the Roman emperor, and which quickly escalated to open affronts and violence between the two ethnic groups and the desecration of Alexandrian synagogues. This event has been called the Alexandrian pogroms. The violence was quelled after Caligula intervened and had the Roman governor, Flaccus, removed from the city. 
In AD 115, large parts of Alexandria were destroyed during the Kitos War, which gave Hadrian and his architect, Decriannus, an opportunity to rebuild it. In 215, the emperor Caracalla visited the city and, because of some insulting satires that the inhabitants had directed at him, abruptly commanded his troops to put to death all youths capable of bearing arms. On 21 July 365, Alexandria was devastated by a tsunami (365 Crete earthquake),  an event annually commemorated years later as a "day of horror". 
Islamic era Edit
In 619, Alexandria fell to the Sassanid Persians. Although the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius recovered it in 629, in 641 the Arabs under the general 'Amr ibn al-'As invaded it during the Muslim conquest of Egypt, after a siege that lasted 14 months. The first Arab governor of Egypt recorded to have visited Alexandria was Utba ibn Abi Sufyan, who strengthened the Arab presence and built a governor's palace in the city in 664–665.  
After the Battle of Ridaniya in 1517, the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and remained under Ottoman rule until 1798. Alexandria lost much of its former importance to the Egyptian port city of Rosetta during the 9th to 18th centuries, and only regained its former prominence with the construction of the Mahmoudiyah Canal in 1807.
Alexandria figured prominently in the military operations of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt in 1798. French troops stormed the city on 2 July 1798, and it remained in their hands until the arrival of a British expedition in 1801. The British won a considerable victory over the French at the Battle of Alexandria on 21 March 1801, following which they besieged the city, which fell to them on 2 September 1801. Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman governor of Egypt, began rebuilding and redevelopment around 1810, and by 1850, Alexandria had returned to something akin to its former glory.  Egypt turned to Europe in their effort to modernize the country. Greeks, followed by other Europeans and others, began moving to the city. In the early 20th century, the city became a home for novelists and poets. 
In July 1882, the city came under bombardment from British naval forces and was occupied. 
In July 1954, the city was a target of an Israeli bombing campaign that later became known as the Lavon Affair. On 26 October 1954, Alexandria's Mansheya Square was the site of a failed assassination attempt on Gamal Abdel Nasser. 
Europeans began leaving Alexandria following the 1956 Suez Crisis that led to an outburst of Arab nationalism. The nationalization of property by Nasser, which reached its highest point in 1961, drove out nearly all the rest. 
Ibn Battuta in Alexandria Edit
In reference to Alexandria, Egypt, Ibn Battuta speaks of great saints that resided here. One of them being Imam Borhan Oddin El Aaraj. He was said to have the power of working miracles. He told Ibn Battuta that he should go find his three brothers, Farid Oddin, who lived in India, Rokn Oddin Ibn Zakarya, who lived in Sindia, and Borhan Oddin, who lived in China. Battuta then made it his purpose to find these people and give them his compliments. Sheikh Yakut was another great man. He was the disciple of Sheikh Abu Abbas El Mursi, who was the disciple of Abu El Hasan El Shadali, who is known to be a servant of God. Abu Abbas was the author of the Hizb El Bahr and was famous for piety and miracles. Abu Abd Allah El Murshidi was a great interpreting saint that lived secluded in the Minyat of Ibn Murshed. He lived alone but was visited daily by emirs, viziers, and crowds that wished to eat with him. The Sultan of Egypt (El Malik El Nasir) visited him, as well. Ibn Battuta left Alexandria with the intent of visiting him. 
Ibn Battuta also visited the Pharos lighthouse on 2 occasions in 1326 he found it to be partly in ruins and in 1349 it had deteriorated further, making entrance to the edifice impossible. 
The most important battles and sieges of Alexandria include:
- , Julius Caesar's civil war , final war of the Roman Republic , Byzantine-Persian Wars , Rashidun conquest of Byzantine Egypt (1365), a crusade led by Peter de Lusignan of Cyprus which resulted in the defeat of the Mamluks and the sack of the city. , Napoleonic Wars , Napoleonic Wars , Napoleonic Wars (1882), followed by the British occupation of Egypt
Greek Alexandria was divided into three regions:
Two main streets, lined with colonnades and said to have been each about 60 meters (200 ft) wide, intersected in the centre of the city, close to the point where the Sema (or Soma) of Alexander (his Mausoleum) rose. This point is very near the present mosque of Nebi Daniel and the line of the great East–West "Canopic" street, only slightly diverged from that of the modern Boulevard de Rosette (now Sharia Fouad). Traces of its pavement and canal have been found near the Rosetta Gate, but remnants of streets and canals were exposed in 1899 by German excavators outside the east fortifications, which lie well within the area of the ancient city.
Alexandria consisted originally of little more than the island of Pharos, which was joined to the mainland by a 1,260-metre-long (4,130 ft) mole and called the Heptastadion ("seven stadia"—a stadium was a Greek unit of length measuring approximately 180 metres or 590 feet). The end of this abutted on the land at the head of the present Grand Square, where the "Moon Gate" rose. All that now lies between that point and the modern "Ras al-Tin" quarter is built on the silt which gradually widened and obliterated this mole. The Ras al-Tin quarter represents all that is left of the island of Pharos, the site of the actual lighthouse having been weathered away by the sea. On the east of the mole was the Great Harbour, now an open bay on the west lay the port of Eunostos, with its inner basin Kibotos, now vastly enlarged to form the modern harbour.
In Strabo's time, (latter half of the 1st century BC) the principal buildings were as follows, enumerated as they were to be seen from a ship entering the Great Harbour.
- The Royal Palaces, filling the northeast angle of the town and occupying the promontory of Lochias, which shut in the Great Harbour on the east. Lochias (the modern Pharillon) has almost entirely disappeared into the sea, together with the palaces, the "Private Port," and the island of Antirrhodus. There has been a land subsidence here, as throughout the northeast coast of Africa.
- The Great Theater, on the modern Hospital Hill near the Ramleh station. This was used by Julius Caesar as a fortress, where he withstood a siege from the city mob after he took Egypt after the battle of Pharsalus  [clarification needed]
- The Poseidon, or Temple of the Sea God, close to the theater
- The Timonium built by Marc Antony
- The Emporium (Exchange)
- The Apostases (Magazines)
- The Navalia (Docks), lying west of the Timonium, along the seafront as far as the mole
- Behind the Emporium rose the Great Caesareum, by which stood the two great obelisks, which become known as "Cleopatra's Needles," and were transported to New York City and London. This temple became, in time, the Patriarchal Church, though some ancient remains of the temple have been discovered. The actual Caesareum, the parts not eroded by the waves, lies under the houses lining the new seawall.
- The Gymnasium and the Palaestra are both inland, near the Boulevard de Rosette in the eastern half of the town sites unknown.
- The Temple of Saturn alexandria west.
- The Mausolea of Alexander (Soma) and the Ptolemies in one ring-fence, near the point of intersection of the two main streets.
- The Musaeum with its famous Library and theater in the same region site unknown.
- The Serapeum of Alexandria, the most famous of all Alexandrian temples. Strabo tells us that this stood in the west of the city and recent discoveries go far as to place it near "Pompey's Pillar," which was an independent monument erected to commemorate Diocletian's siege of the city.
The names of a few other public buildings on the mainland are known, but there is little information as to their actual position. None, however, are as famous as the building that stood on the eastern point of Pharos island. There, The Great Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, reputed to be 138 metres (453 feet) high, was situated. The first Ptolemy began the project, and the second Ptolemy (Ptolemy II Philadelphus) completed it, at a total cost of 800 talents. It took 12 years to complete and served as a prototype for all later lighthouses in the world. The light was produced by a furnace at the top and the tower was built mostly with solid blocks of limestone. The Pharos lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century, making it the second longest surviving ancient wonder, after the Great Pyramid of Giza. A temple of Hephaestus also stood on Pharos at the head of the mole.
In the 1st century, the population of Alexandria contained over 180,000 adult male citizens,  according to a census dated from 32 CE, in addition to a large number of freedmen, women, children and slaves. Estimates of the total population range from 216,000  to 500,000  making it one of the largest cities ever built before the Industrial Revolution and the largest pre-industrial city that was not an imperial capital. [ citation needed ]
The Roman amphitheatre of Alexandria
Amphitheatre is a word stands for ancient Greek term which means an open air area used for kinds of performances. The Greek amphitheatres were usually structured as circular or oval shape with many seated steps for the audience. It was actually more like open air stadium, and was spread all over countries like Italy, Turkey, Jordan and Greece when Romans were dominating all of these regions. The amphitheatre of Alexandria was discovered by coincidence in the year of 1960. When the Egyptian government was getting ready to set one its buildings in the area of kom El Dekka, one of the workers found solid column underneath the dust and sand during preparing the location by engineers. Immediately, an excavation team where down the location to examine what have been found. The Roman theatre was a very important discovery in the 20th century. It was proven that the theatre was built since the 4th A.D century and was used up until the 7th century passing by the Roman, byzantine and Islamic eras. Travel to Egypt Company is completely aware of these ancient sites value for being highly requested by our clients. We have involved many of the Greco Roman sites in Egypt tours, and if you want to track down more Roman sites, you'll find them all listed in Alexandria day tours.
History of The Roman Amphitheatre
- The Roman Amphitheatre we see today in Alexandria was constructed in the 4th century AD and it was a common feature of the Greco Roman period. Amphitheatres were special roofed theatres that were built to host music ceremonies and poet competitions during the reign of the Romans in Egypt.
- The Roman Amphitheatre of Alexandria is featured with its marble audiences section which is symmetrical with extended wing and could host up 600 spectators.
- The audience section of the Roman Amphitheatre has a diameter of about 33 meters and it consists of 13 rows made of European white marble with the uppermost part being a portico made out of Granite columns that were brought from Aswan and some of them are still standing until today.
- The thirteen rows of the Roman Amphitheatre of Alexandria were numbered with Roman digits and letters to regulate the seating of the audience in different occasions.
- There were also five compartments that were constructed at the top of the audience section and were used to host important figures and wealthy tradesmen during performances.
- These compartments used to have ceilings with domes that were based upon large columns made of granite to protect the audience from the sun and the rain. Moreover, these domes were used to magnify the sound of the music and the chants during different performances.
The theatre was used during three different periods the Roman, the Byzantine, and the Early Islamic era.
Unfortunately, all these structures were destroyed during the earthquake that hit Alexandria in the 6th century AD and resulted in the damage of many important structures at the time.
The Roman Amphitheatre of Alexandria, which is considered to be one of the most important Roman architectural achievements in Egypt, was discovered by mere coincidence in the year 1960 by causal workers who were removing a sand in order to clean the place and construct a governmental building.
The Roman Amphitheatre of Alexandria is located in the area called Kom El Dekka.
Who were the Romans and why did they build Amphitheaters?
At its peak, the Ancient Roman Empire spread from the British Aisles in the northwest all the way to modern-day Egypt and Iraq in the southeast. Rome rose to power starting in 509 BCE, and eventually fell in 476 CE. The Roman Emperors were constantly struggling to keep the peace amongst millions of Roman Citizens and they built amphitheaters as places for people to gather in mass and enjoy popular Roman spectacles. This really helped maintain order in the empire, and as long as they were entertained, the people were predominantly peaceful.
What are the best Roman Amphitheaters?
This list is a calculated effort to choose the top twenty Ancient Roman Amphitheaters that can still be visited today. we’ve collected plenty of data and based this list on three main criteria. First, the size of the amphitheater which is typically measured by seating capacity. Second, the preservation of the exterior façade, and finally, the preservation of the seating and viewing area. Together these criteria determine the rankings of the Roman Amphitheaters below starting with the greatest of them all, and ending with amphitheaters that were unfortunately mostly dismantled over the ages.
1. Colosseum – Rome, Lazio, Italy
Photo by Diliff from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 80,000+ Preserved Structure: 60% ±
The largest and most famous of all Roman Amphitheaters is, of course, the Colosseum. Able to hold an estimated 80,000 spectators, it is the largest arena by a huge margin. Construction began during the reign of Emperor Vespasian in 72 CE and was completed during the reign of Emperor Titus in 80 CE. Two notable earthquakes among other events did significant damage to the structure, and much of the exterior façade and seats were repurposed in many of Rome’s other buildings. The majority of the façade was made of travertine with a marble veneer, and the rest of the structure was brick and concrete. In 2018 the Colosseum was the most visited site on earth, and it remains a symbol for the city of Rome and the Roman Empire.
2. Nîmes Amphitheater – Nîmes, Occitanie, France
Photo by Wolfgang Staudt from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 24,000+ Preserved Structure: 90% ±
The Amphitheater of Nîmes was completed in 100 CE shortly after the completion of the Colosseum in Rome. Like other Roman Amphitheaters, the structure was used as a defensive fortress after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Today most of the arena is still intact including almost all of the seating and all 60 rows of the original exterior arches. In modern France, the amphitheater is used as a bullfighting arena during the summer months.
3. El Djem Amphitheater – El Djem, Mahdia, Tunisia
Photo by Agnieszka Wolska from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 35,000+ Preserved Structure: 70% ±
El Djem’s Amphitheater is the tallest and most imposing structure in the entire city. It is the third-largest amphitheater on this list and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction was completed in 238 CE and was built completely from the ground up, not sunken into the earth like many other arenas. All of the stone arches and seats are made out of yellow sandstone, which is commonly found in Tunisia. Although not as preserved as other Roman Amphitheaters, the shear capacity and height of the exterior facade make it one of the most impressive remnants of Ancient Rome. (the cover image of this post shows the exterior of El Djem Amphitheater)
4. Arles Amphitheater – Arles, Provence, France
Photo by Guido Radig from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 20,000+ Preserved Structure: 90% ±
Arles Amphitheater is not as large as many others on this list, but it is incredibly well preserved. Most of the seats are still intact, along with the majority of the exterior façade. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with many other Roman buildings located in Arles. During the middle ages, the arena was repurposed as a defensive fortress. Many wooden structures were built within and on top of the stone structure. Three stone defense towers were also added, which can still be seen today.
5. Verona Amphitheater – Verona, Veneto, ItalyPhoto by Kevin Poh from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 30,000+ Preserved Structure: 80% ±
Italy, being the oldest and most central of the empire’s many regions, contains a high concentration of Roman Amphitheaters. Located in Piazza Bra, the Verona Amphitheater is among the best preserved in all of Italy. Practically 100% of the seating and internal structure remains, but all but four of the original exterior façade arches were dismantled for other buildings. (an earthquake in the 12 th century did significant damage to the outer façade, so the decision was made to reuse the material elsewhere) The arena was constructed around the year 30 CE. Today it is one of the most notable sites in Verona and it still is used for concerts and performances being viewed by over half a million spectators each year.
6. Pula Amphitheater – Pula, Istria, Croatia
Photo by Jeroen Komen from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 23,000+ Preserved Structure: 70% ±
Pula Amphitheater is one of the most notable Roman sites in all of Croatia. It has arguably one of the most spectacular and well preserved exterior facades of any Roman Amphitheater. Although modified several times in its history, the structure that we see today was completed in 81 CE. The taller façade reaches a soaring height of over 100’ and contains three tiers of archways.
7. Pompeii Amphitheater – Pompeii, Campania, Italy
Photo by Mosborne01 from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 20,000+ Preserved Structure: 90% ±
Pompeii’s Amphitheater is the oldest Roman Amphitheater that still survives today. Along with the entire city, the arena was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. Today visitors to the Pompeii archeological site are allowed to walk in and around the amphitheater. Despite the number of spectators it could hold, the exterior façade is actually only one level, unlike other arenas on this list. This is because a lot of the structure was dug deep into the earth. The Amphitheater of Pompeii was also used by the rock band Pink Floyd to record a live version of the song “echoes” in 1971 – check out the footage to see some great glimpses of the amphitheater!
8. Uthina Amphitheater – Mohammedia, Ben Arous Governorate, TunisiaPhoto by Maurizio Hublitz from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 16,000+ Preserved Structure: 60% ±
North Africa was an important region within the empire, and today many of North Africa’s Roman Amphitheaters are remarkably well preserved. Uthina Amphitheater’s seats are only about 60% intact, but several stone arches from the original façade still survive to this day. About half of the arena was built sunken into an adjacent hill. The rest was built out from the ground with a grand façade that must have been a marvel in ancient times. Luckily, because of its secluded nature away from other major cities, it’s likely that the arena will be excavated more and more in the future.
9. Leptis Magna Amphitheater – Khoms, Murqub, Libya
Photo by Capuozzo Pietro from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 16,000+ Preserved Structure: 70% ±
A prominent North African city during the Roman Empire, Leptis Magna holds several notable Ancient Roman attractions, including a Triumphal Arch dedicated to Emperor Septimius Severus. The Amphitheater of Leptis Magna is a highlight of the entire area, it’s seating rows and aisles are very well preserved. Because the amphitheater was built into the Earth, within a natural depression, there is no surviving exterior façade. The construction was dedicated to Emperor Nero, which puts the completion date at around 56 CE.
Like Ancient Rome? check out our article, “Top 20 Ancient Roman Aqueducts.”
10. Avenches Amphitheater – Avenches, Vaud, SwitzerlandPhoto by Nursangaion from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 16,000+ Preserved Structure: 50% ±
Avenches Amphitheater was completed in the year 165 CE and is one of the top sites in Modern Avenches. Originally called Aventicum, the city was the capital of Roman Switzerland. Large portions of the exterior façade were removed for other buildings, and a lot of the rows of seating are still unexcavated. Visitors are allowed to enter the center of the arena and stand exactly where gladiatorial battles used to take place. This arena is the only Swiss amphitheater on this list, and one notable feature is the defensive tower that was added to the structure in the 11 th century.
11. Tarragona Amphitheater – Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain
Photo by Malopez 21 from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 15,000+ Preserved Structure: 40% ±
The Ancient Roman Amphitheater in Tarragona is currently classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with other ancient structures in the city. The arena has an idyllic position, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea to the South. About 50% of the seating rows are still preserved, as well as a good portion of the archways on the south façade. Construction began in the 2nd century CE when the city was called, Tarraco. Today, visitors to amphitheater can walk around the rows of seats, and if you climb to the top you are rewarded with a magnificent view of the ocean beyond.
12. Mérida Amphitheater – Mérida, Extremadura, SpainPhoto by José Manuel García from flickr
Capacity: 15,000+ Preserved Structure: 20% ±
Mérida’s Roman Amphitheater, as well as the Roman Theater, aqueduct, and Bridge, are some of the most notable Roman sites in all of Spain. Together, these structures are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The majority of the structure, including the top two seating sections, were repurposed in other buildings.
13. Italica Amphitheater – Santiponce, Andalusia, SpainPhoto by Diego Delso from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 25,000+ Preserved Structure: 20% ±
Italica is a historic site, located about 5 miles north of the town of Santiponce in Spain. The amphitheater and other remnants of the Ancient Roman city are a popular day trip from nearby Seville. Italica was a large city in Roman times, founded in 206 BCE by the general now known as Scipio Africanus. The birthplace of at least two Roman Emperors, Hadrian, and Trajan, Italica was known to have large and notable buildings. The amphitheater was also recently used as a filming location for Game of Thrones in 2017, in a scene where a few main characters (and their dragons) meet.
14. Trier Amphitheater – Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Photo by Berthold Werner from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 20,000+ Preserved Structure: 50% ±
Trier Amphitheater is the best-preserved Ancient Roman Amphitheater in all of Germany. At the time of its construction, Trier was a leading city in the Roman province of Gaul. Trier continued to grow in importance later becoming a regional capital in the later stages of the Western Roman Empire. Today the Roman monuments of Trier, along with several other historic buildings in the city, are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
15. Alexandria Amphitheater – Alexandria, Alexandria, EgyptPhoto by ASaber91 from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 600+ Preserved Structure: 30% ±
By far the smallest on this list, Alexandria’s Amphitheater could only have held about 600+ spectators. Many historians believe it was used more for concerts and plays rather than gladiatorial combat. But one noticeable difference is the actual marble seats that still exist today. Completed in the 4th century CE this amphitheater was built during the Roman occupation of Egypt. It’s one of the top Roman sites located in the ancient city which was founded by Alexander the Great.
16. Lecce Amphitheater – Lecce, Apulia, Italy
Photo by Paolo de Reggio from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 25,000+ Preserved Structure: 20% ±
The Amphitheater of Lecce is still largely unexcavated. It’s highly unlikely it will ever be excavated since the remainder of the structure is covered up by modern roads and buildings. During the time of the Romans, the city was named Lupiae and was a major city on the “heel” of the Italian Peninsula. The seats and façade of the arena are made of yellow-white sandstone, the same material which is used on many other significant buildings in the city.
Check out our article, “Top 15 Ancient Roman Triumphal Arches” to learn more about the architecture of the Roman Empire!
17. Cagliari Amphitheater – Cagliari, Sardinia, ItalyPhoto by Ruben Holthuijsen from flickr
Capacity: 10,000+ Preserved Structure: 40% ±
The Roman Amphitheater of Cagliari differs from many of the others on this list since it was partially carved out of solid rock in the surrounding hillside. The hill of Buon Cammino is one of the tallest and steepest in Cagliari. Most of the seating was carved to match the slope of the hill, and there was also a large entry façade on the southern side. Today restoration work is still ongoing, so there’s a strong chance that more of the remains will be uncovered in the future.
18. Flavian Amphitheater of Pozzuoli – Pozzuoli, Campania, ItalyPhoto by ho visto nina volare from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 50,000+ Preserved Structure: 40% ±
The Flavian Amphitheater of Pozzuoli is the third-largest Amphitheater built during the Roman Empire. (“Flavian Amphitheater” is also a term widely associated with the Colosseum in Rome) Today several of the exterior arches and the vast majority of the seats remain, although all of the exterior marble veneers were reused in other buildings. The underground portion of this arena is among the best-preserved of all Roman Amphitheaters. Even some portions of the lifting mechanisms that connected the arena floor to the underground chambers are still intact.
19. Capua Amphitheater – Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Campania, ItalyPhoto by Rico Heil from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: 60,000+ Preserved Structure: 30% ±
The Amphitheater of Capua is the second-largest amphitheater that still survives from antiquity. It is believed to be the model for the Colosseum in Rome. Today only a few of the original arches and about 30% of the original seating rows are still intact. The arena was the center point in a very well known event in Roman history, the Revolt of Spartacus that started in 73 BCE.
20. Aquincum Amphitheater – Budapest, Central Hungary, HungaryPhoto by Civertan Grafik from Wikimedia Commons
Capacity: unknown Preserved Structure: 10% ±
The Ancient Roman City of Aquincum was located on the Danube River in what is now Budapest. The city actually contained two separate Roman Amphitheaters, the Aquincum Miltary Amphitheater (depicted above) and the Aquincum Civil Amphitheater. In addition to being used for organized spectacles, the Aquincum Military Amphitheater was an important military training facility. Today the amphitheater lies at the southern edge of the Obuda district of Budapest.
Roman Amphitheaters Today
Today, Roman Amphitheaters have left a lasting legacy on architectural history. Many of the amphitheaters on this list are still used for events to this day. They remain symbols of the Roman Empire and the fact that they can be found all over the Mediterranean is a testament to the reach and power of the Romans.
The model for the Roman Amphitheater has been reproduced all over the globe. One great example is the Harvard Colosseum located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. Used as a football stadium for Harvard University, the exterior facade resembles what most Roman Amphitheaters would have looked like in their prime.
Photo of the Harvard Colosseum in Cambridge Massachusettes.
Photo by Nick Allen from Wikimedia Commons
The Roman Empire was one of the most influential civilizations to have ever existed. They created monumental structures and made incredibly significant advancements in construction and engineering. Their largest and most emblematic structures were their amphitheaters. Throughout the lands of the Roman Empire, some 400 arenas remain. This list shows 20 of the best-preserved examples, each one a significant site that is worth a visit. Two honorable mentions that did not make this list are the Roman Amphitheater of Lucca Italy, which has since been repurposed as a public square, and Serdica Amphitheater in Sofia Bulgaria, where today a modern hotel atrium is built surrounding the ancient structure.
About the Author
Rob Carney, the founder and lead writer for Architecture of Cities has been studying the history of architecture for over 10 years. He is an avid traveler and photographer, and he is passionate about buildings and building history. Rob has a B.S. and a Master’s degree in Architecture and has worked as an architect and engineer in the Boston area for several years.
Exterior facade of the Amphitheater of El Djem in Tunisia
Photo by Mrabet.amir from Wikimedia Commons
The Roman Amphitheatre
The only known Roman amphitheater in Egypt is located in Kom El-Dekka, Alexandria, and is an extraordinarily well-preserved structure consisting of 13 terraces built in the traditional Greek style with a flat stage in the center of the lower level.
The Roman Amphitheater of Alexandria is the only Roman amphitheater in Egypt, dating back to the 2nd century AD. It was discovered by chance in 1960 by the Polish Egyptian expedition to Kom el-Dekka. It was found when the expedition team was trying to remove some remains from Napoleon’s time. The theater dates back to the 1st -2nd century BC. During the times this place was changing its plan and function until in the 6th century it became a place to celebrate religious feasts. The theatre consists of 2 main parts: AUDITORIUM – conference hall and SKENE’ – performance hall. Between these two parts, there was a special place for the orchestra. The diameter of the theatre was 42 meters. Now it is impossible to identify exactly how many steps the theatre had until the 6th century. After that, it became 33.5 meters in diameter and 16 steps. In the same century, it was decided to turn the open theatre into a close celebration hall. In the beginning, it was a semicircular auditorium with a number of rows of seats and a skenè in the middle.
Then it was decided to remove 3 steps (rows) and extend the auditorium. In addition, 6 columns on two rows were made to cover the theater and support a dome that was designed to be placed on the body of the theater (steps) and 6 columns. But after construction, the dome collapsed due to incorrect scientific calculations. After the theater is no longer used statp…So far you can see some remains of mosaic floors that once covered the entire floor of the scene. The steps of the theatre are made of white marble with the exception of the lower one in pink granite. The site is also home to the Villa degli Uccelli – four well-preserved floor mosaics depicting birds rather than risk damaging the mosaics by moving them, a museum has been built over the opera to protect it from the elements.
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Pergamon lies on the north edge of the Caicus plain in the historic region of Mysia in the northwest of Turkey. The Caicus river breaks through the surrounding mountains and hills at this point and flows in a wide arc to the southwest. At the foot of the mountain range to the north, between the rivers Selinus and Cetius, there is the massif of Pergamon which rises 335 metres above sea level. The site is only 26 km from the sea, but the Caicus plain is not open to the sea, since the way is blocked by the Karadağ massif. As a result, the area has a strongly inland character. In Hellenistic times, the town of Elaia at the mouth of the Caicus served as the port of Pergamon. The climate is Mediterranean with a dry period from May to August, as is common along the west coast of Asia Minor. 
The Caicus valley is mostly composed of volcanic rock, particularly andesite and the Pergamon massif is also an intrusive stock of andesite. The massif is about one kilometre wide and around 5.5 km long from north to south. It consists of a broad, elongated base and a relatively small peak - the upper city. The side facing the Cetius river is a sharp cliff, while the side facing the Selinus is a little rough. On the north side, the rock forms a 70 m wide spur of rock. To the southeast of this spur, which is known as the 'Garden of the Queen', the massif reaches its greatest height and breaks off suddenly immediately to the east. The upper city extends for another 250 m to the south, but it remains very narrow, with a width of only 150 m. At its south end the massif falls gradually to the east and south, widening to around 350 m and then descends to the plain towards the southwest. 
Pre-Hellenistic period Edit
Settlement of Pergamon can be detected as far back as the Archaic period, thanks to modest archaeological finds, especially fragments of pottery imported from the west, particularly eastern Greece and Corinth, which date to the late 8th century BC.  Earlier habitation in the Bronze Age cannot be demonstrated, although Bronze Age stone tools are found in the surrounding area. 
The earliest mention of Pergamon in literary sources comes from Xenophon's Anabasis, since the march of the Ten Thousand under Xenophon's command ended at Pergamon in 400/399 BC.  Xenophon, who calls the city Pergamos, handed over the rest of his Greek troops (some 5,000 men according to Diodorus) to Thibron, who was planning an expedition against the Persian satraps Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus, at this location in March 399 BC. At this time Pergamon was in the possession of the family of Gongylos from Eretria, a Greek favourable to the Achaemenid Empire who had taken refuge in Asia Minor and obtained the territory of Pergamon from Xerxes I, and Xenophon was hosted by his widow Hellas. 
In 362 BC, Orontes, satrap of Mysia, based his revolt against the Persian Empire at Pergamon, but was crushed.  Only with Alexander the Great was Pergamon and the surrounding area removed from Persian control. There are few traces of the pre-Hellenistic city, since in the following period the terrain was profoundly changed and the construction of broad terraces involved the removal of almost all earlier structures. Parts of the temple of Athena, as well as the walls and foundations of the altar in the sanctuary of Demeter go back to the fourth century.
Possible coinage of the Greek ruler Gongylos, wearing the Persian cap on the reverse, as ruler of Pergamon for the Achaemenid Empire. Pergamon, Mysia, circa 450 BC. The name of the city ΠΕΡΓ ("PERG"), appears for the first on this coinage, and is the first evidence for the name of the city. 
Coin of Orontes, Achaemenid Satrap of Mysia (including Pergamon), Adramyteion. Circa 357-352 BC
Hellenistic period Edit
Lysimachus, King of Thrace, took possession in 301 BC, but soon after his lieutenant Philetaerus enlarged the town, the kingdom of Thrace collapsed in 281 BC and Philetaerus became an independent ruler, founding the Attalid dynasty. His family ruled Pergamon from 281 until 133 BC: Philetaerus 281–263 Eumenes I 263–241 Attalus I 241–197 Eumenes II 197–159 Attalus II 159–138 and Attalus III 138–133. The domain of Philetaerus was limited to the area surrounding the city itself, but Eumenes I was able to expand them greatly. In particular, after the Battle of Sardis in 261 BC against Antiochus I, Eumenes was able to appropriate the area down to the coast and some way inland. The city thus became the centre of a territorial realm, but Eumenes did not take the royal title. In 238 his successor Attalus I defeated the Galatians, to whom Pergamon had paid tribute under Eumenes I.  Attalus thereafter declared himself leader of an entirely independent Pergamene kingdom, which went on to reach its greatest power and territorial extent in 188 BC.
The Attalids became some of the most loyal supporters of Rome in the Hellenistic world. Under Attalus I (241–197 BC), they allied with Rome against Philip V of Macedon, during the first and second Macedonian Wars. In the Roman–Seleucid War against the Seleucid king Antiochus III, Pergamon joined the Romans' coalition and was rewarded with almost all the former Seleucid domains in Asia Minor at the Peace of Apamea in 188 BC. Eumenes II supported the Romans again, against Perseus of Macedon, in the Third Macedonian War, but the Romans did not reward Pergamon for this. On the basis of a rumour that Eumenes had entered into negotiations with Perseus during the war, the Romans attempted to replace Eumenes II with the future Attalus II, but the latter refused. After this, Pergamon lost its privileged status with the Romans and was awarded no further territory by them.
Image of Philetaerus on a coin of Eumenes I
The Kingdom of Pergamon, shown at its greatest extent in 188 BC
Over-life-size portrait head, probably of Attalus I, from early in the reign of Eumenes II
Nevertheless, under the brothers Eumenes II and Attalus II, Pergamon reached its apex and was rebuilt on a monumental scale. Until 188 BC, it had not grown significantly since its founding by Philetaerus, and covered c. 21 hectares (52 acres). After this year, a massive new city wall was constructed, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) long and enclosing an area of approximately 90 hectares (220 acres).  The Attalids' goal was to create a second Athens, a cultural and artistic hub of the Greek world. They remodeled the Acropolis of Pergamon after the Acropolis in Athens. Epigraphic documents survive showing how the Attalids supported the growth of towns by sending in skilled artisans and by remitting taxes. They allowed the Greek cities in their domains to maintain nominal independence. They sent gifts to Greek cultural sites like Delphi, Delos, and Athens. The Library of Pergamon was renowned as second only to the Library of Alexandria. Pergamon was also a flourishing center for the production of parchment (the word itself, a corruption of pergamenos, meaning "from Pergamon"), which had been used in Asia Minor long before the rise of the city. The story that parchment was invented by the Pergamenes because the Ptolemies in Alexandria had a monopoly on papyrus production is not true.  The two brothers Eumenes II and Attalus II displayed the most distinctive trait of the Attalids: a pronounced sense of family without rivalry or intrigue - rare amongst the Hellenistic dynasties.  Eumenes II and Attalus II (whose epithet was 'Philadelphos' - 'he who loves his brother') were even compared to the mythical pair of brothers, Cleobis and Biton. 
When Attalus III died without an heir in 133 BC, he bequeathed the whole of Pergamon to Rome. This was challenged by Aristonicus who claimed to be Attalus III's brother and led an armed uprising against the Romans with the help of Blossius, a famous Stoic philosopher. For a period he enjoyed success, defeating and killing the Roman consul P. Licinius Crassus and his army, but he was defeated in 129 BC by the consul M. Perperna. The kingdom of Pergamon was divided between Rome, Pontus, and Cappadocia, with the bulk of its territory becoming the new Roman province of Asia. The city itself was declared free and was briefly the capital of the province, before it was transferred to Ephesus.
Roman period Edit
In 88 BC, Mithridates VI made the city the headquarters in his first war against Rome, in which he was defeated. At the end of the war, the victorious Romans deprived Pergamon of all its benefits and of its status as a free city. Henceforth the city was required to pay tribute and accommodate and supply Roman troops, and the property of many of the inhabitants was confiscated. The members of the Pergamene aristocracy, especially Diodorus Pasparus in the 70s BC, used their own possessions to maintain good relationships with Rome, by acting as donors for the development of city. Numerous honorific inscriptions indicate Pasparus’ work and his exceptional position in Pergamon at this time. 
Pergamon still remained a famous city and the noteworthy luxuries of Lucullus included imported wares from the city, which continued to be the site of a conventus (regional assembly). Under Augustus, the first imperial cult, a neocorate, to be established in the province of Asia was in Pergamon. Pliny the Elder refers to the city as the most important in the province  and the local aristocracy continued to reach the highest circles of power in the 1st century AD, like Aulus Julius Quadratus who was consul in 94 and 105.
Yet it was only under Trajan and his successors that a comprehensive redesign and remodelling of the city took place, with the construction a Roman 'new city' at the base of the Acropolis. The city was the first in the province to receive a second neocorate, from Trajan in AD 113/4. Hadrian raised the city to the rank of metropolis in 123 and thereby elevated it above its local rivals, Ephesus and Smyrna. An ambitious building programme was carried out: massive temples, a stadium, a theatre, a huge forum and an amphitheatre were constructed. In addition, at the city limits the shrine to Asclepius (the god of healing) was expanded into a lavish spa. This sanctuary grew in fame and was considered one of the most famous therapeutic and healing centers of the Roman world. In the middle of the 2nd century, Pergamon was one of the largest cities in the province, along with these two, and had around 200,000 inhabitants. Galen, the most famous physician of antiquity aside from Hippocrates, was born at Pergamon and received his early training at the Asclepeion. At the beginning of the third century, Caracalla granted the city a third neocorate, but the decline had already set in. During the crisis of the Third Century, the economic strength of Pergamon finally collapsed, as the city was badly damaged in an earthquake in 262 and was sacked by the Goths shortly thereafter. In late antiquity, it experienced a limited economic recovery.
Byzantine period Edit
The city gradually declined during Late Antiquity, and its settled core contracted to the acropolis, which was fortified by Emperor Constans II ( r . 641–668 ).  In AD 663/4, Pergamon was captured by raiding Arabs for the first time.  As a result of this ongoing threat, the area of settlement retracted to the citadel, which was protected by a 6-meter-thick (20 ft) wall, built of spolia.
During the middle Byzantine period, the city was part of the Thracesian Theme,  and from the time of Leo VI the Wise ( r . 886–912 ) of the Theme of Samos.  The presence of an Armenian community, probably from refugees from the Muslim conquests, is attested during the 7th century, from which the emperor Philippikos ( r . 711–713 ) hailed.   In 716, Pergamon was sacked again by the armies of Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik. It was again rebuilt and refortified after the Arabs abandoned their Siege of Constantinople in 717–718.  
It suffered from the attacks of the Seljuks on western Anatolia after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071: after attacks in 1109 and in 1113, the city was largely destroyed and rebuilt only by Emperor Manuel I Komnenos ( r . 1143–1180 ) in c. 1170 . It likely became the capital of the new theme of Neokastra, established by Manuel.   Under Isaac II Angelos ( r . 1185–1195 ), the local see was promoted to a metropolitan bishopric, having previously been a suffragan diocese of the Metropolis of Ephesus. 
With the expansion of the Anatolian beyliks, Pergamon was absorbed into the beylik of Karasids shortly after 1300, and then conquered by the Ottoman beylik.  The Ottoman Sultan Murad III had two large alabaster urns transported from the ruins of Pergamon and placed on two sides of the nave in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. 
Pergamon, which traced its founding back to Telephus, the son of Heracles, is not mentioned in Greek myth or epic of the archaic or classical periods. However, in the epic cycle the Telephos myth is already connected with the area of Mysia. He comes there following an oracle in search of his mother, and becomes Teuthras' son-in-law or foster-son and inherits his kingdom of Teuthrania, which encompassed the area between Pergamon and the mouth of the Caicus. Telephus refused to participate in the Trojan War, but his son Eurypylus fought on the side of the Trojans. This material was dealt with in a number of tragedies, such as Aeschylus' Mysi, Sophocles' Aleadae, and Euripides' Telephus and Auge, but Pergamon does not seem to have played any role in any of them.  The adaptation of the myth is not entirely smooth.
Thus, on the one hand, Eurypylus who must have been part of the dynastic line as a result of the appropriation of the myth, was not mentioned in the hymn sung in honour of Telephus in the Asclepieion. Otherwise he does not seem to have been paid any heed.  But the Pergamenes made offerings to Telephus  and the grave of his mother Auge was located in Pergamon near the Caicus.  Pergamon thus entered the Trojan epic cycle, with its ruler said to have been an Arcadian who had fought with Telephus against Agamemnon when he landed at the Caicus, mistook it for Troy and began to ravage the land.
On the other hand, the story was linked to the foundation of the city with another myth - that of Pergamus, the eponymous hero of the city. He also belonged to the broader cycle of myths related to the Trojan War as the grandson of Achilles through his father Neoptolemus and of Eetion of Thebe through his mother Andromache (concubine to Neoptolemus after the death of Hector of Troy).  With his mother, he was said to have fled to Mysia where he killed the ruler of Teuthrania and gave the city his own name. There he built a heroon for his mother after her death.  In a less heroic version, Grynos the son of Eurypylus named a city after him in gratitude for a favour.  These mythic connections seem to be late and are not attested before the 3rd century BC. Pergamus' role remained subordinate, although he did receive some cult worship. Beginning in the Roman period, his image appears on civic coinage and he is said to have had a heroon in the city.  Even so, he provided a further, deliberately crafted link to the world of Homeric epic. Mithridates VI was celebrated in the city as a new Pergamus. 
However, for the Attalids, it was apparently the genealogical connection to Heracles that was crucial, since all the other Hellenistic dynasties had long established such links:  the Ptolemies derived themselves directly from Heracles,  the Antigonids inserted Heracles into their family tree in the reign of Philip V at the end of the 3rd century BC at the latest,  and the Seleucids claimed descent from Heracles' brother Apollo.  All of these claims derive their significance from Alexander the Great, who claimed descent from Heracles, through his father Philip II. 
In their constructive adaptation of the myth, the Attalids stood within the tradition of the other, older Hellenistic dynasties, who legitimized themselves through divine descent, and sought to increase their own prestige.  The inhabitants of Pergamon enthusiastically followed their lead and took to calling themselves Telephidai ( Τηλεφίδαι ) and referring to Pergamon itself in poetic registers as the 'Telephian city' ( Τήλεφις πόλις ).
The first mention of Pergamon in written records after ancient times comes from the 13th century. Beginning with Ciriaco de' Pizzicolli in the 15th century, ever more travellers visited the place and published their accounts of it. The key description is that of Thomas Smith, who visited the Levant in 1668 and transmitted a detailed description of Pergamon, to which the great 17th century travellers Jacob Spon and George Wheler were able to add nothing significant in their own accounts. 
In the late 18th century, these visits were reinforced by a scholarly (especially ancient historical) desire for research, epitomised by Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste de Choiseul-Gouffier, a traveller in Asia Minor and French ambassador to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul from 1784 to 1791. At the beginning of the 19th century, Charles Robert Cockerell produced a detailed account and Otto Magnus von Stackelberg made important sketches.  A proper, multi-page description with plans, elevations, and views of the city and its ruins was first produced by Charles Texier when he published the second volume of his Description de l’Asie mineure. 
In 1864/5, the German engineer Carl Humann visited Pergamon for the first time. For the construction of the road from Pergamon to Dikili for which he had undertaken planning work and topographical studies, he returned in 1869 and began to focus intensively on the legacy of the city. In 1871, he organised a small expedition there under the leadership of Ernst Curtius. As a result of this short but intensive investigation, two fragments of a great frieze were discovered and transported to Berlin for detailed analysis, where they received some interest, but not a lot. It is not clear who connected these fragments with the Great Altar in Pergamon mentioned by Lucius Ampelius.  However, when the archaeologist Alexander Conze took over direction of the department of ancient sculpture at the Royal Museums of Berlin, he quickly initiated a programme for the excavation and protection of the monuments connected to the sculpture, which were widely suspected to include the Great Altar. 
As a result of these efforts, Carl Humann, who had been carrying out low-level excavations at Pergamon for the previous few years and had discovered for example the architrave inscription of the Temple of Demeter in 1875, was entrusted with carry out work in the area of the altar of Zeus in 1878, where he continued to work until 1886. With the approval of the Ottoman empire, the reliefs discovered there were transported to Berlin, where the Pergamon Museum was opened for them in 1907. The work was continued by Conze, who aimed for the most complete possible exposure and investigation of the historic city and citadel that was possible. He was followed by the architectural historian Wilhelm Dörpfeld from 1900 to 1911, who was responsible for the most important discoveries. Under his leadership the Lower Agora, the House of Attalos, the Gymnasion, and the Sanctuary of Demeter were brought to light.
The excavations were interrupted by the First World War and were only resumed in 1927 under the leadership of Theodor Wiegand, who remained in this post until 1939. He concentrated on further excavation of the upper city, the Asklepieion, and the Red Hall. The Second World War also caused a break in work at Pergamon, which lasted until 1957. From 1957 to 1968, Erich Boehringer worked on the Asklepieion in particular, but also carried out important work on the lower city as a whole and performed survey work, which increased knowledge of the countryside surrounding the city. In 1971, after a short pause, Wolfgang Radt succeeded him as leader of excavations and directed the focus of research on the residential buildings of Pergamon, but also on technical issues, like the water management system of the city which supported a population of 200,000 at its height. He also carried out conservation projects which were of vital importance for maintaining the material remains of Pergamon. Since 2006, the excavations have been led by Felix Pirson. 
Most of the finds from the Pergamon excavations before the First World War were taken to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, with a smaller portion going to the İstanbul Archaeological Museum after it was opened in 1891. After the First World War the Bergama Museum was opened, which has received all finds discovered since then.
Pergamon is a good example of a city that expanded in a planned and controlled manner. Philetairos transformed Pergamon from an archaic settlement into a fortified city. He or his successor Attalos I built a wall around the whole upper city, including the plateau to the south, the upper agora and some of the housing - further housing must have been found outside these walls. Because of the growth of the city, the streets were expanded and the city was monumentalised.  Under Attalos I some minor changes were made to the city of Philetairos.  During the reign of Eumenes II and Attalos II, there was a substantial expansion of the city.  A new street network was created and a new city wall with a monumental gatehouse south of the Acropolis called the Gate of Eumenes. The wall, with numerous gates, now surrounded the entire hill, not just the upper city and the flat area to the southwest, all the way to the Selinus river. Numerous public buildings were constructed, as well as a new marketplace south of the acropolis and a new gymnasion in the east. The southeast slope and the whole western slope of the hill were now settled and opened up by streets.
The plan of Pergamon was affected by the extreme steepness of the site. As a result of this, the streets had to turn hairpin corners, so that the hill could be climbed as comfortably and quickly as possible. For the construction of buildings and laying out of the agoras, extensive work on the cliff-face and terracing had to be carried out. A consequence of the city's growth was the construction of new buildings over old ones, since there was not sufficient space.
Separate from this, a new area was laid out in Roman times, consisting of a whole new city west of the Selinus river, with all necessary infrastructure, including baths, theatres, stadiums, and sanctuaries. This Roman new city was able to expand without any city walls constraining it because of the absence of external threats.
Generally, most of the Hellenistic houses at Pergamon were laid out with a small, centrally-located and roughly square courtyard, with rooms on one or two sides of it. The main rooms are often stacked in two levels on the north side of the courtyard. A wide passage or colonnade on the north side of the courtyard often opened onto foyers, which enabled access to other rooms. An exact north-south arrangement of the city blocks was not possible because of the topographical situation and earlier construction. Thus the size and arrangement of the rooms differed from house to house. From the time of Philetairos, at the latest, this kind of courtyard house was common and it was ever more widespread as time went on, but not universal. Some complexes were designed as Prostas houses, similar to designs seen at Priene. Others had wide columned halls in front of main rooms to the north. Especially in this latter type there is often a second story accessed by stairways. In the courtyards there were often cisterns, which captured rain water from the sloping roofs above. For the construction under Eumenes II, a city block of 35 x 45 m can be reconstructed, subject to significant variation as a result of the terrain. 
Open spaces Edit
From the beginning of the reign of Philetairos, civic events in Pergamon were concentrated on the Acropolis. Over time the so-called 'Upper agora' was developed at the south end of this. In the reign of Attalos I, a Temple of Zeus was built there.  To the north of this structure there was a multi-story building, which propbably had a function connected to the marketplace.  With progressive development of the open space, these buildings were demolished, while the Upper Agora itself took on a more strongly commercial function, while still a special space as a result of the temple of Zeus. In the course of the expansion of the city under Eumenes, the commercial character of the Upper Agora was further developed. The key signs of this development are primarily the halls built under Eumenes II, whose back chambers were probably used for trade.  In the west, the 'West Chamber' was built which might have served as a market administration building.  After these renovations, the Upper Agora thus served as a centre for trade and spectacle in the city. 
Because of significant new construction in the immediate vicinity - the renovation of the Sanctuary of Athena and the Pergamon altar and the redesign of the neighbouring area - the design and organisational principle of the Upper Agora underwent a further change.  Its character became much more spectacular and focussed on the two new structures looming over it, especially the altar which was visible on its terrace from below since the usual stoa surrounding it was omitted from the design. 
The 80 m long and 55 m wide 'Lower Agora' was built under Eumenes II and was not significantly altered until Late Antiquity.  As with the Upper Agora, the rectangular form of the agora was adapted to the steep terrain. The construction consisted in total of three levels. Of these the Upper Level and the 'Main Level' opened onto a central courtyard. On the lower level there were rooms only on the south and east sides because of the slope of the land, which led through a colonnade to the exterior of the space.  The whole market area extended over two levels with a large columned hall in the centre, which contained small shop spaces and miscellaneous rooms. 
Streets and bridges Edit
The course of the main street, which winds up the hill to the Acropolis with a series of hairpin turns, is typical of the street system of Pergamon. On this street were shops and warehouses.  The surface of the street consisted of andesite blocks up to 5 metres wide, 1 metre long and 30 cm deep. The street included a drainage system, which carried the water down the slope. Since it was the most important street of the city, the quality of the material used in its construction was very high. 
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