Open House Festival

London's Roman Amphitheatre

monument, sport, miscellaneous

Roman , 70

London’s Roman Amphitheatre at Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard

UPDATED: Open daily 10.30am-4pm Closed Mon 19 September. Combined guided tours of Amphitheatre and Guildhall Art Gallery at 12.15pm & 1.15pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays. The capital’s only known Roman Amphitheatre

Getting there

Tube

Bank, Moorgate, St. Paul's, Mansion House

Train

Liverpool Street, City Thameslink, Moorgate, Cannon Street

Bus

8, 100, 76, 25, 43, 21, 141

Access

Facilities

About

General Access and Tours during Open House

During Open House Festival, you can drop-in for general access between 10.30am to 4pm (last admission at 3pm).

Join one of our drop-in tours - a combined tour of Guildhall Art Gallery and London's Roman Amphitheatre -

12.15pm and 1.15pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Background

Hear the roar of the crowd and imagine the spectacle. The amphitheatre was the Wembley Stadium of Roman London, although the entertainment was more bloody and barbaric 2,000 years ago. More than 7,000 spectators sat on tiered wooden benches in the open air to watch wild animal fights and the execution of criminals. There may have been occasional combats between gladiators, although such entertainments were very expensive to put on.

The amphitheatre would have been one of the most visible buildings on the Roman city skyline.

Today, the amphitheatre’s entrance tunnel and the east gate, which had double wooden doors that opened into the arena itself, can be seen six metres (20ft) below modern street level. Outside in Guildhall Yard, look for the black paving stones marking the outline of where the amphitheatre once stood.

Construction

Around AD 43, the Romans established Londinium: within 30 years they had probably built a wooden amphitheatre. Tree-ring dating of timbers used in the east entrance to the arena suggest a date in AD 74 or 75. The building received a major facelift in the early second century, possibly shortly after the visit of the new Emperor Hadrian to London in AD 122. Rebuilding of the main elements of the amphitheatre took place, including new walls in Kentish ragstone.

Over the following centuries, much of the masonry was dismantled and the amphitheatre was buried under layers of later buildings. Parts of the remaining arena walls are one metre (3ft) thick and 1.5 metres (5ft) high, but they would have originally been much higher to keep animals from leaping into the crowd.

Discovery

Historians assumed that a Roman city of the stature of London would have an amphitheatre but no-one could find any evidence. Then in February 1988, during site preparations for the new art gallery, workmen unearthed fragments of ancient walls and the archaeology team from the Museum of London moved in.

Their discovery of the amphitheatre changed the face of Roman London. The record of the finds from 13 years of fieldwork filled three volumes. After a long period to dry out the remains, the amphitheatre opened to the public in 2002.

London's Roman Amphitheatre is open to the public year round, entrance is free.

What can you see today?

Inside: Ruins of Kentish ragstone and tile, with ancient timber thresholds and drains.

Outside: look out for the outline in Guildhall Yard which marks the original extent of the amphitheatre.

Online presence

www.thecityofldn.com/directory/londons-roman-amphitheatre

twitter.com/GuildhallArt

Nearby

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