Back to ludic Forum Julii

A visit to Fréjus would be incomplete without a tour of the amphitheatre and a chase after the aqueducts, all the more so when the latter are known to have extended 30km outside the city into the neighbouring hills where two springs was being diverted.

The amphitheatre was the object of a dig for many years when most of the building was excavated and elements restored to their original state. Now the arena is being used for social events, concerts and the like.

 

The entrance to the amphitheatre is as majestic as it ought to have been a place of its kind. At a major event, around 10.000 people would march through these gates that would normally be numbered so as to match the tickets and their seats, based on social position. The more affluent you were, the lower you were seated. The magistrates would have their own balcony, as in any other amphitheatre.

A walk through the lower gallery reveals the largest area of original masonry, with vaulting and inside walls still intact. This is the side that was buried before the archeological dig of the early 2000’s

Roman ‘opus quadratum’ stonework. Romans were unprecedented in the finesse of their construction techniques

Top view of the amphitheatre

According to French experts, this is what the amphitheatre must have looked like at its peak in the 1st century AD

A remarkable illustration of the town of Fréjus in Roman times. The amphitheatre is to the far north west. The aqueduct to the far east

Inside the “arènes”. Underneath that layer of sand there were machinery that would hoist and lower gladiators, beasts and even turn the whole thing into a pond for naval warfare shows.

I left the amphitheatre for something more chilling: the aqueducts. A chain of hundreds of such pillars ran all the way into the hills (see below) where spring water was carried back into town for public fountains, baths and fullers’ workshops. This invention remains to this day one of the (unofficial) wonders of the ancient world. The whole system relied on a carefully designed channel that used gravity to convey water from a capture site to a water tower next to a distribution location. The most remarkable (I would say mind-boggling) thing is that water on public fountains and domestic “taps” that fed on this had the same outlet pressure as that of today’s water taps in the civilised world.

Three of the many aqueduct pillars that used to carry water into Fréjus.

Another bit of aqueduct some 8km away. The challenge was to take photos of all the ruins but time worked against it.

Somewhere in these hills two springs used to feed the aqueducts into Fréjus

 

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