Introduction to The Roman Amphitheatre
The Roman Amphitheatre is one of the most important Greco-Roman monuments in Egypt. Together with the Citadel of Qaitbay the Amphitheatre is one of the main attractions of Alexandria. For this reason, this visit is included in almost all programs and packages in Egypt in which there are excursions to the Mediterranean coast.
The Amphitheatre is located in Alexandria, in the western part of the city, in an area called: Kom El Dikka, or “pile of rubble”. The name was given by the Alexandrian historian El Newery, who visited this part of the city in the mid-19th century, and described it as a large accumulation of sand and rubble.
Tourists can reach the Amphitheatre by taxi or even by local bus. However, it is recommended that all visitors (especially those who are traveling the country for the first time) contract their tours with one of the most respected agencies.
The Amphitheatre was discovered by chance when, in 1960, the Egyptian government decided to clean up Kom El Dikka, to build a building in its place.
During the first foundation works, one of the machines hit a solid area in the eastern and southern parts of the terrain. The engineers then assumed that underneath it there must be some construction or ruin.
Later, a mission of Polish archaeologists, representing the Mediterranean Centre of Antiquities, together with scientists from the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, began the excavations.
The results were incredible: the Roman amphitheater was discovered and through its study, knowledge about the Greco-Roman period was expanded.
The Amphitheatre was created in the 4th century AD and used until the 7th century AD. It is possible to have this information because of the analysis of materials used in its construction, the comparison of architectural styles, and the design of the amphitheater and other buildings of the same period.
Scientific research concluded that this monument witnessed three eras: Roman, Coptic, and Islamic, and was used in different ways in each of them.
The Roman Amphitheatre is shaped like a letter “U” or a horseshoe. According to comparisons made with other similar constructions in Italy, Greece, and Tunisia, it is believed that the Amphitheatre of Alexandria was never intended to function as a theatre.
Theatres of the Greco-Roman period used to be shaped like the letter “C” or an unfinished circle, to allow the audience to sit in the corners to see the performances. Besides, the size of the Alexandria amphitheater is very small compared to the number of inhabitants at that time
The amphitheater consists of thirteen rows of numbered marble seats. The first steps were made of pink granite stone, as a strong base for the other steps. They are supported by a thick limestone wall. Another parallel wall completed the complex. Some arches and domes used to connect these two walls and between them, there was a passage that was used by the staff working there.
At the end of the rows, there were five sleeping compartments. Only two of them are still preserved today. The roofs of these compartments used to have domes placed on columns and were built to protect the audience from sun and rain. Also, to allow the sound to be properly transferred to the different sectors. Unfortunately, the domes and columns collapsed during the earthquake in Alexandria in the 6th century AD.
The section of the orchestra was located in the middle of the stands and was secured with two large marble columns. Parts of it still have their magnificent mosaic floor.
The amphitheater had two entrances during the Roman period: one of them at the southern part and the other in the northern section. However, these two entrances were closed during the Byzantine period. Near both doors, two big rooms were used as a reception or waiting rooms.
In addition to the amphitheater, the site contains decorated stone statues and capitals, among others, also belonging to the Roman period.
Another monument that can be seen is the Roman House, or House of the Birds, which was recently discovered and is characterized by its magnificent mosaics decorated with the shapes of birds and other drawings.
Today, this amphitheater tour can be found in our package or tours in Alexandria and is one of the most visited historical sites by tourists.