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.

Arles - forum

Since the town was basically built around the forum, you keep coming across it from many different streets and angles.

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.

ForumFortress

Found this illustration on another site. Amazing to think of how many centuries this existed.

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.

Arles - restoration of forum graphic

Restoration is an ongoing project. I wonder if our town or province would pay for something like this? We'd probably tear it down. Put up condos.

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.

Arles - bullfighting poster

You might want to time your Arles visit for September when the bullfights start up again. They were advertising them already in May.

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.

Arles - Forum inside

How much blood has been spilled here? Human blood? Bull's blood? What else?


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