The Roman Colosseum in El Djem is one of the largest Colosseums
ever built and the jewel in the crown of the Roman town of
Thysdrus which once held decadent villas and dazzling
mosaics. In its heyday, 30,000 bloodthirsty people would travel
from vast distances to see the spectacle of man on wild beast
What Happened at El Djem?
Any number of exotic animals may have faced their death here
- Camels, horses, zebra, even giraffes - as the concept of
the Colosseum was to show off the glories of the Roman Empire.
Here was the ancient trading town of Thesterus, the
hub of the Saharan trade routes bringing goods, slaves and
wild animals from the African interior to the Colosseum.
Animals, prisoners and gladiators were kept in the giant
dungeons underneath the ampitheatre until brought out into
the blinding sunlight to give, what in many cases, was the
final performance of their short lifetimes.
Architecture and Invasion
The site of El Djem itself is covered in sand. It's a grand
Romanesque construction and the third largest ampitheatre
in the world. Build in the 3rd century AD by Emperor Gordie
I, the theatre was never completed because of political rivalries
and lack of money. He reputedly killed himself in the ampitheatre
when the rebellion was doomed and his town virtually destroyed.
It's easy to see the project's weak point, built for 35,000
in a remote location it could never have achieved the crowds
and glory of Rome. It served as a stronghold against invasion
and was the last Berber bastion against Arab invaders.
Visiting El Djem
Workshops have recently opened in El Djem where artists are
creating exceptionally elegant mosaics. You can compare these
artworks with the historic pieces in the museum by the colosseum.