The Roman forum in Arles
A quick note about the Arles forum. When it was built in the first century BC, it was three storeys tall and could seat over 20,000 spectators. It was obviously modeled after the forum in Rome, and like Rome, it was the scene of gladiator fights, sacrifices and celebration.
After fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, a succession of Gauls, Christians and Muslims took turns raiding and controlling Arles, and the forum was converted into a walled fortress.
The third storey was dismantled, basically for building blocks, and a public square was built in the center of the arena along with two chapels.
Shops and residences were also set up under the seating. It must have been a little rat’s nest with everyone living on top of each other. This went on until the late 1700’s.
I wonder if it was part of the series of changes that swept over Arles during the French revolution of 1789.
Then in 1825, it started its conversion to a national historical monument and in 1830 the first event was organized in the arena – a race of the bulls to celebrate the taking of Algiers.
So think about it for a minute. For about 500 years it was used for its original purpose but for the next 1,300 years it was a walled city within a city. It sure puts North American history and timeframes into perspective.