Britain: Chester Roman amphitheatre built to resemble Colosseum

From The Independent in Britain:

Discovered: Britain’s very own Colosseum

Third-century fans flocked to watch gladiators fight in Chester’s bloody arena

By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

Published: 04 February 2007

Archaeologists have discovered that what had been thought to be a relatively small, down-market amphitheatre in Britain was in fact a top-of-the-range, though admittedly more intimate, version of Rome’s famous gladiatorial arena.

Indeed, this British Colosseum – in Chester – may well have been built as a replica of the one in Rome, possibly on the orders of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, who was in Britain at the time.

Although it was much smaller than the Colosseum, its outer wall appears to have had a blind arcade of 80 arches, giving it a superficially similar appearance to the one in Rome.

If the archaeologists’ calculations are correct, Rome and Chester were the only places in the Roman world to have amphitheatres with that number of arches.

Chester’s inhabitants appear to have been enthusiastic supporters of their Colosseum. Evidence suggests that the audience gorged on salmon, oysters, hazelnuts, venison, lamb, pork, beef and chicken.

The “entertainers” did not have such a good time.

The archaeologists – led by Dr Tony Wilmott of English Heritage and Dan Garner of Chester Archaeology – have not only found broken daggers and bits of shattered armour, but also fragments of body parts.

In all, the archaeologists found 10 pieces of human bone – a bit of jaw, a top vertebra, part of a leg and several fragments of skull (two of which show signs of fracture).

In the centre of the arena, a large stone block was found with the remains of an iron tethering ring set in it. It is likely that victims were tied to it while trying to protect themselves against wild animals.

The gladiatorial contests must have been important for the local economy.

Outside the building, traders built ovens to meet the demand for roast meat, and stalls almost certainly sold gladiator-related souvenirs.

The amphitheatre, built about AD100, was completely rebuilt about 100 years later to resemble a scaled-down version of Rome’s Colosseum.

Roman aqueduct in Lincoln: here.

Roman grave in London, about 400: here.

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4 thoughts on “Britain: Chester Roman amphitheatre built to resemble Colosseum

  1. Reconstructed helmet gives new view of Roman Britain

    Tuesday 10 January 2012

    Experts who pieced together a 2,000-year-old Roman cavalry helmet believe that the relic has shed new light on the conquest of Britain.

    The helmet, which was discovered 10 years ago in an Iron Age shrine, features several scenes of Roman military triumphs.

    One image on the helmet depicts the bust of a woman flanked by lions with another showing a Roman emperor on horseback with the goddess Victory flying behind, while a cowering figure, possibly a native Briton, is being trampled under his horse’s hooves.

    British Museum head of research Jeremy Hill said his “mouth dropped” when he saw the object pieced back together.

    He said that the helmet had helped “change our understanding of what Britain was like just before the Roman conquest.”

    The relic was unearthed in Hallaton, Leicestershire, after retired design and technology teacher Ken Wallace detected coins with his second-hand metal detector.

    Both the helmet and its cheek pieces were restored from 1,000 fragments by experts at the British Museum and bought by Leicestershire County Council to go on display at Harborough Museum, just nine miles from where it was buried 2,000 years ago.

    The object is believed to have been buried in the years around Roman Emperor Claudius’s invasion of Britain in AD43.


  2. Roman remains of a child found

    HISTORY: A child who was possibly murdered at one of Britain’s most important Roman sites 1,800 years ago came from the Mediterranean, a biological anthropologist said today.

    It has not been possible to determine whether the body was male or female but was aged about 10, Dr Trudi Buck from Durham University said.

    The discovery implies the young victim was either a child slave or the son or daughter of a soldier serving on Hadrian’s Wall — giving weight to the theory that they brought their families with them to Northumberland.



    The forts are thought to date from around 70 AD, about 50 years before Hadrian’s Wall was built

    Saturday September 8, 2012

    By David Scott

    ARCHAEOLOGISTS have found the remains of a pub where the ancient Picts used to mingle with the soldiers of the Roman legions over a glass of beer or wine.
    The discovery, in Angus, is said to be evidence that, far from being sworn enemies, the fearsome Picts could get along with the invaders.

    Experts found the bar outside the walls of the fort at Stracathro, near Brechin.

    It was at one end of a line of watchtowers and bases stretching south to Doune, near Stirling, and known as the Gask Ridge.

    The forts are thought to date from around 70 AD, about 50 years before Hadrian’s Wall was built.

    The University of Liverpool team found the wine bar in a “vicus”, or small civilian settlement, using a variety of techniques, including metal detecting.

    We hadn’t expected to find a pub her

    Dr Birgitta Hoffmann, co-director of The Roman Gask Project

    They say the Roman watering hole had a large square room, the equivalent of a public bar, and fronted on to a paved area, not unlike a modern beer garden. The team also found the spout of a wine jug.

    Dr Birgitta Hoffmann, co-director of The Roman Gask Project, said: “Roman forts south of the Border have civilian settlements that provided everything they needed from male and female companionship to shops, pubs and bath houses.

    “It was a very handy service, but it was always taught that you didn’t have to look for settlements at forts in Scotland because it was too dangerous. Civilians didn’t want to live too close.

    “We hadn’t expected to find a pub here.

    “It shows the Romans and the local population got on better than we thought. They would have lived in harmony here.”

    Stracathro is thought to have housed various units of the Roman army, perhaps a total of around 700 men. It was probably abandoned by 90 AD as the Romans vacated all their fortifications north of the River Forth.

    The discovery casts doubt on the idea that there was a perpetual state of conflict between the Picts and the Romans.

    This image was popularised by the story of the Ninth Legion, the Roman unit said to have been wiped out after marching into Scotland in 117 AD on a mission to put down the northern barbarian hordes.

    A number of recent finds have led to speculation that the natives of what the Romans called Caledonia were happy to do business with the newcomers, trading beer and mutton for Mediterranean delights such as wine and olive oil as well as glass and metal items.

    Dr Hoffmann added: “This was a Roman frontier. People would have known that if you stole the Roman cattle the punishment would be severe, but if they stuck to their rules people could become rich working with the Romans.”


  4. Pingback: London Roman age archaeological discoveries | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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