Do you ever stop to think about those small areas of archaeology that get overlooked? Recently, I have done some work on an amphitheatre in Chester, UK. Far from the Colosseum it is nonetheless fascinating. Here are a few of my favourite facts to illuminate your knowledge.
1. The games may not have been on the same grand scale as they were in Rome but they were certainly of similar type. Blocks found to tie animals to suggest beast hunts.
2. The amphitheatre was assumed to be built for the legion XX Valeria Victrix which was housed at Chester – the problem is that it is too large for just them. The locals must have liked the games to.
3. Despite being on the fringes of empire the building is among the most elaborate in the northern provinces.
4. The legion that built and used it also contributed to Hadrian’s Wall.
5. A number of finds attest the type of games taking place – a sword hilt is one of the most exciting.
It may not seem all that sexy at first but I think it’s kind of cool that Gladiators lived and performed in England in a setting about as far removed from Russell Crowe as you can get. The best thing is the remains of the Amphitheatre are open to the public and free. So if you ever manage to take that trip to northern England, give it a go! If you’re like me you’ll visit during a huge rain storm – not very pleasant you might think – but very realistic. The soldiers at Chester would have had to put up with these conditions day in day out so one feels like they got a good experience! The point here is that we are all so obsessed with the “sexy” gladiators of Rome we rarely think of those elsewhere in the Empire – and we should.
You can find out more about the Chester Amphitheatre here.