The Roman Coliseum in El Jem is a site that consistently impresses me. It was the third largest coliseum in the Roman world, and today Unesco considers it among the best preserved coliseums in the world. I recently went there with a small tour group, and walked around the entire Coliseum site. I’ve explored the inside on several occasions, but this walk gave me a view of the site I’ve never seen before. Getting an overall perspective of the coliseum helped me understand why this site consistently impresses me:
1) The sheer size of the coliseum: It’s estimated that 35,000 spectators could fit in El Jem’s Coliseum, more than twice the population of El Jem today. When you see the structure set against the backdrop of the small town, you get an even greater sense of its grandeur.
2) The near perfect shape: The oval shape of the structure has a simple beauty to it. It blows me away to think of how the Romans designed such a structure without all the advanced technology today’s engineers use!
3) The intricate style: The multiple arches, tiered seating, and detailed engravings also add to the beauty of the coliseum’s design.
El Jem’s Coliseum is a site worth going out of your way to visit. It’s easy to get there by mini-bus (louage) or train from Sousse or Tunis. El Jem is near the major North-South highway, so it’s also easy to get to by car. El Jem is also a major stop on Engaging Cultures’ tours in Tunisia. If you go, post a picture on our Facebook page and tell us if you were impressed!
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