Tour des Fouilles (12): The amphitheatre of Tours
Caesarodunum was a major Roman city in the first centuries of our era. It was the chief city of the Turones, which gave the place its modern name - Tours. The city was situated at one of the few major crossing points of the Loire, and played a key role in the road network of the province of Gallia Lugdunensis. Tours was directly connected to Brittanny in the west, the Rhone Valley in the east, and Gallia Aquitania to the south. There also was a good connection to the north.
The Roman period has left clear traces in the city - particularly in the street network: the traditional major streets are Roman in origin; the location of the cathedral was determined by the topography of the late-roman city. Yet, most spectacular is the imprint left on the city by the Roman amphitheatre, which is directly behind the cathedral: the small round quarter closely follows the outer walls of the amphitheatre, and the narrow Rue Manceau runs right through the centre of what used to be the arena.
The amphitheatre, by the way, was one of the largest of Roman Gaul - only those at Metz and Trier appear to have been bigger. It was situated just outside of the Roman city - which was further to the west.
This is not the only place in the Roman world where Roman spectacle buildings came to shape the urban network, whilst mostly disappearing themselves. In Italy, it is actually quite common - famous is the Piazza Anfiteatro in Lucca, but one should not hesitate to mention the Piazza Navona in Rome, or the theatre quarter in Naples. Yet, beyond the alps, such phenomena are much rarer.
The reason why this happened at Tours may be related to the city's history in late antiquity, when a castrum was built to the east of the Roman city, which incorporated the remains of the amphitheatre in the middle of its south wall. You can see the castrum wall on the picture to the right of the amphitheatre quarter.
|Benario, H. (1981) 'Amphitheatres of the Roman World'. CJ 76.3, 255-258.|
|Lelong, C. (1968) 'Note sur les vestiges visibles de Caesarodunum'. Caesarodun 2, 315-326.|
|Seigne, J.; Neury, P. (2003) 'Deux ponts antiques (?) à Tours'. RevArcCentre 42, 227-234.|