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One of the most unusual and little known attractions in the City of London is the remains of a Roman amphitheatre beneath the Guildhall Art Gallery. Although the remains are quite limited, their discovery during the redevelopment of the Guildhall Art Gallery in the 1980’s offer some fascinating insights into Roman London.
For well over a century, archaeologists had searched for London’s Roman Amphitheatre and it was considered a surprise that it was built within the old Roman city walls when the majority of ancient amphitheatres were generally built outside the city walls.
Compared with the large amphitheatres in the Rome and other parts of the Roman world, the history of the London amphitheatre suggests a more modest wooden structure built around AD70, although it was rebuilt in the early 2nd century it is doubtful the capacity was never more than 6,000 to 7,000 people. Throughout the history of the London amphitheatre it is likely that was used for ceremonial public events, religious activities, animal fights, public executions and gladiatorial combat.
When the Romans left Britain in the fourth century, the amphitheatre was deserted and a ruin for hundreds of years before in the 11th century the area was reoccupied probably by a Viking settlement , by the 12th century the first Guildhall was built next to it.
The discovery of the Roman amphitheatre provided evidence that this particularly small Guildhall site has been at the centre of London life for almost two thousand years. The attraction has a highly original digital projection and with the sounds of the crowds you can get a taste of what it might have like in a barbaric and bloody Roman Britain.
As an antidote to the brutal sport of the Roman amphitheatre, visitors can walk upstairs and explore the fine collection of paintings in the Guildhall Art Gallery. Walking out of the Gallery into the courtyard if you look on the ground there is black inlaid stone in the paving which marks the outline of the arena below.
London’s Roman Amphitheatre forms part of Guildhall Galleries which includes the City’s Art and Heritage Galleries, Guildhall Library, Guildhall Great Hall and St Lawrence Jewry all are located in the same area and are free to enter.
If you would like to visit the ruins of London’s Roman Amphitheatre, walk into the Guildhall Art Gallery.and follow the signs. The admission is Free.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Sunday, 12pm – 4pm
If you would like further information, visit the City of London website here
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