The Arènes de Lutèce amphitheatre, built toward the end of the first century A.D., reminds tourists that there is much more to Paris than the Renaissance and Gothic eras. Beyond its renowned chapels and palaces, Paris counts with rich Roman heritage from its Gallo-Roman times.
Such is the case with Arènes de Lutèce, tucked away in Paris’ 5th arrondissement, which used to house plays, circus acts and gladiatorial combats. The amphitheatre is assumed to be largest of its kind, its construction relatively rare for its age.
It could once seat 15,000 people in its bleachers that, historians consider, surrounded more than half of the arena’s circumference. Slaves, the poor and women would occupy the Arènes de Lutèce’s upper bleaches while Roman dignitaries enjoyed events from its lower seats.
One must close their eyes in order to fully imagine the ancient Arènes in its entire form. But, it takes little to picture the linen awning over the spectators and wild animals escaping from its run-down cages found below the lower bleachers, reading to combat the most daring gladiators of that time.
The ancient amphitheatre used to be completely buried under les Arènes neighborhood and it wasn’t until the 1860s that Théodore Vaquer discovered the Arènes de Lutèce’s ruins while building the Rue Monge on its location.
Today, the Arènes de Lutèce have been classified as a Historical Monument and one can still experience parts of what used to be a magnificent Roman amphitheatre: grilled animal cages, its vast arena, parts of its original stage and more. The arena has been turned into a public park and is regularly visited by locals and tourists alike during spring and summer, where impromptu picnics can be held on its ground and men engage in games of pétanque (boules).
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