Gladiators were fighters who entertained Roman Empire. They fought animals, other gladiators and condemned criminals. Some were volunteers who risked their social standing in the arena. Most were slaves and despised, segregated in death. If they died well they could elevate their status
Built in 70 AD, the arena was home to many gladiator tournaments. The free audio tour explains how they lived and died. I found is interesting that they would have hunts where skilled men would slay an animal with nothing more than a spear, how they chained a wolf and a bear together to see which would die to entertain the spectators in the stands, and how executions were held before the gladiator games.
They would place condemned criminals in the arena with animals and watch them be torn limb from limb. When the animals were full, the people were thrown into the crowds and the spectators murder them in the excitement of the day.
The floor was covered in sand to absorb the blood, and turned over many times throughout the course of the games to try to keep the smell down. The richest people had the best seats, and their servants would sit throughout the heat of the day to save them for the best event, the evening gladiators.
Gladiators were skilled and fought to the death. Sometimes they would be freed, but more often they died with honour in battle all for the Roman’s entertainment.
Now used for bullfighting and as a concert hall, my favourite part is that they are still using this 2000 year-old structure, so well built it is not only standing, but on solid ground. They continually keep it in good condition, by restoring different parts. An amazing feet of architecture, precise and mathematics. Can they build like this today? Somehow I doubt it.
It was also a fortified city at one point, housing 700 people in this neighbourhood along with animals and two chapels.
You can explore this structure from the top to bottom, and this is a must do and see when travelling with children. Not cheap to enter, 9.50€ per adult and 7.50€ per child, under 7 free. While exploring I could imagine the gladiators fighting in the centre of the arena, the fright of the animal hunts in the centre and the gore of the executions. So much history in this one spot.
The views from the top are remarkable offering a 360 degree of Nimes town centre. Hold your small children close, there are no safety railings and you must watch them at all times, there are little ledges and large steps to fall down.
The Arena or the Roman coliseum is the #1 tourist attraction in Nimes.