Spectators likely bet on the arena’s wild animals fights and gladiator battles.
Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered the remains of a “magnificent” Roman-era arena, where up to 20,000 spectators likely cheered and jeered as they watched gladiator matches and wild animal fights, the excavators said.
The 1,800-year-old arena was discovered on the rolling hills of the ancient city of Mastaura, in Turkey’s western Aydın Province. Its large central area, where “bloody shows” once took place, has since filled with earth and vegetation over the centuries.
“Most of the amphitheater is under the ground,” and the part that is visible is largely covered by “shrubs and wild trees,” Mehmet Umut Tuncer, the Aydın Culture and Tourism provincial director and project survey leader Sedat Akkurnaz, an archaeologist at Adnan Menderes University in Turkey.
Archaeologists found the arena in the summer of 2020, after they received permission from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism to conduct archaeological research in the ancient city. After finding immense stonework rising out of the ground, the team immediately began clearing and studying the site. From October to December 2020, they “cut down all the bushes and wild trees,” Akkurnaz and Tuncer said. “We started to protect the building against the destruction of nature.”
It soon became clear that the arena was old, dating to about A.D. 200, meaning it was built during the Severan Dynasty, which included five emperors who successively ruled from A.D. 193 to 235, they said.
“During this dynasty, the city of Mastaura was very developed and rich,” as Roman administrators helped the city grow economically, which led to new stonework and masonry dating to that dynasty, Akkurnaz and Tuncer said. “There is a great increase and variety of Mastaura coins during this period,” they added.
Much of the arena’s underground structure is well-preserved. “It is solid, as if it was just built,” Akkurnaz and Tuncer said. Many of the structures above ground have crumbled over the years, but it’s still possible to find “some of the rows of seats, the arena where gladiators fought and the supporting walls outside the building,” they said.