Roman-era arena discovered in Turkey

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A team of archaeologists is currently excavating the remains of an arena dating from Roman times in Turkey. According to them, nearly 20,000 spectators could attend gladiatorial fights and wild animals in this enclosure.

We are in the summer of 2020, on the hills of the ancient city of Mastaura, in the province of Aydın, western Turkey. After authorization from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a team led by archaeologist Mehmet Umut Tuncer begins archaeological excavations in the region. Very quickly, the researchers isolated huge stones appearing above the ground. From October to December, they cut down the bushes and trees around to finally reveal the remains of an old arena.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people in the arena

According to the first analyzes, the structure would have been built around 1800 years ago, during the Severan dynasty. At that time, under the impetus of the Roman administrators, the city of Mastaura had already developed well economically.

Much of the arena’s underground structure is well preserved, “as if it had just been built“, note archaeologists. Many structures above ground have collapsed over the years, but it is still possible to identify “some of the rows of seats, the amphitheater or even the retaining walls outside the building ”, they said.

According to their estimates, between 15,000 and 20,000 people could enter the arena at the time. By way of comparison, the famous Colosseum in Rome hosted about 50,000 people.

Built around 70 AD. J.-C, the structure was larger overall. Its outer walls still measure about 48 meters, when those of the arena of Mastaura do not exceed the 25 meters high. The central arena of the Colosseum measured about 87 meters by 55, when Mastaura’s measured about 40 by 30 meters.

The exterior arches still standing. Credit: Mehmet Umut Tuncer

However, the gladiatorial battles and wild animal fights in Mastaura Arena that people were betting on were probably as bloody as those at the Colosseum. The arena also offered “waiting rooms” for fighters and entertainment rooms for private spectators.

There is no previous example of such an amphitheater in Anatolia. [également connue sous le nom d’Asie Mineure] and in its immediate surroundings“, Said the researchers. “Also, the arena probably attracted spectators from everywhere, including the ancient western Anatolian cities of Aphrodisias, Ephesus, Magnesia, Miletus and Priene.“, Who came especially to attend these bloody shows.

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