The Arles Amphitheatre (French: Arènes d'Arles) is a Roman amphitheatre in the southern French town of Arles. This two-tiered Roman Amphitheatre is probably the most prominent tourist attraction in the city of Arles, which thrived in Roman times.
Measuring 136 m (446 ft) in length and 109 m (358 ft) wide, the 120 arches date back to the 1st century BC. The amphitheatre was capable of seating over 20,000 spectators, and was built to provide entertainment in the form of chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles. Today, it draws large crowds for bullfighting as well as plays and concerts in summer.
The building has the oval arena surrounded by terraces, arcades on two levels (60 in all), bleachers, a system of galleries, drainage system in many corridors of access and staircases for a quick exit from the crowd. It was obviously inspired by the Colosseum in Rome (72-80), which is slightly posterior (90). The amphitheater was not expected to receive 25,000 spectators, the architect was therefore forced to reduce the size and replace the dual system of galleries outside of the Coliseum by a single annular gallery. This difference is explained by the conformation of the land. This "temple" of the game has housed gladiators and hunting scenes for more than four centuries.
With the fall of the Empire in the 5th century, the amphitheater became a shelter of the population and was transformed into a fortress with four towers and which fit in more than 200 houses and two chapels. The amphitheatre became a real town, with its public square built in the center of the arena and two chapels, one in the center of the building, and another one at the base of the west tower.
This new residential role continued until the expropriation started in the late 18th century, when in 1825 by the initiative of the writer Prosper Mérimée started the change to national historical monument. In 1826 began the expropriation of the houses built within the building, which ended in 1830 when the first event was organized in the arena - race of the bulls to celebrate the taking of Algiers.