I suppose the only real negative about Arles is that at some point we had to leave it. This town had me charmed with its beauty, history and Esprit de Vivre. The streets were alive with great people, colourful shops, music, the aroma of cooking and of course, the Arles Amphitheatre. Unlike the arena in Nimes, which we could neither enter nor tour, fortune smiled on us and we were able to explore inside the Arles Amphitheatre at no charge, unfettered by crowds or tour guides.
The Arles Amphitheatre dates back to 90 AD. When first constructed, it could accommodate over 20,000 spectators for events such chariot races and gladiator sports. Today the arena is used for bullfighting, plays and concerts. Pity that it no longer hosts chariot races or human blood sport.
The vista inside the arena speaks for itself and one can see just how good a venue it is, even by modern standards. Another benefit of ascending to the highest seats in the arena is that it revealed a bird’s eye view of the town.
First, a little more history from the Wikipedia article on the Arles Amphitheatre:
With the fall of the Empire in the 5th century, the amphitheatre became a shelter for the population and was transformed into a fortress with four towers enclosing more than 200 houses and two chapels. The amphitheatre became a real town, with its public square built in the centre of the arena and two chapels, one in the centre of the building, and another one at the base of the west tower.
This new residential role continued until the late 18th century, and in 1825 through the initiative of the writer Prosper Mérimée, the change to national historical monument began. In 1826, expropriation began of the houses built within the building, which ended by 1830 when the first event was organized in the arena – a race of the bulls to celebrate the taking of Algiers.
After taking in our fill of the arena, we all met for for lunch in the town square. The patios were bustling with people, live music and the aroma of the day’s freshly cooked paella.
I really miss the town of Arles. It merits another visit.