Cirencester Roman AmphitheatreCirencester
English Heritage
Cotswold Avenue
Gloucestershire GL7 1XW
Through four centuries of the Roman occupation of Britain, Cirencester was second only to London in size and importance. Constructed in 75 AD as a defensive and administrative town, it straddled the junction of four important roads.
As the centre of the local sheep and wool trade the town expanded rapidly and soon had all the splendid public amenities associated with such an important place. It had a Forum surrounded by a colonnade of shops, a Basilica (town hall and justice courts), and of course an amphitheatre for public entertainments.
Corinium Museum & Amphitheatre Remains
Although most of Cirencester’s Roman remains have been excavated and their treasures placed in the Corinium Museum before being built over, the amphitheatre remains clearly visible on the south-west of the town beside the Bristol Road bypass. It is roughly circular and is about 109 yards (100 metres) in diameter.
The earthwork remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain. It was built in the early 2nd century on the site of an existing Roman quarry.
The cavea or seating bank was probably retained using a timber and dry-stone wall. Later in the 2nd century the arena was then enclosed by a high stone wall, plastered and painted to look like marble.
The seating banks, originally 33 feet (10 metres) high, had tiered wooden seats laid on low dry-stone walls, with an area behind for standing spectators. An estimated 8,000 or more people could be accommodated at any one time; probably the entire population of Corinium and more.
Entertainments probably consisted of cock fighting, bear baiting and an occasional gladiatorial contest on special occasions.
Some of the amphitheatre has been excavated and archeologists have uncovered evidence that in the 5th or 6th centuries the area was fortified. There are several theories as to the reason for this fortification; possibly this was the palace of one of the British kings defeated by Ceawlin in 577 AD.
It is recorded that it was the scene of a later battle in 628 AD between the Mercian King Penda and the West Saxon Kings Cynegils and Cwichelm.
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All year, daily during reasonable daylight hours.
Amphitheatre Entrance
Visitors are advised to enter the amphitheatre from Cotswold Avenue.
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