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Amphitheatre – Amphitheatrum

Like the aqueduct and bathhouse, an amphitheatre was an integral element of all larger-scale settlements in ancient Rome. In view of the tough day-to-day life of a legionary, entertainment was especially important: the amphitheatre of Vindonissa is the oldest and largest in Switzerland.

The amphitheatre of Vindonissa is the oldest in Switzerland. It was erected by the 13th legion, initially being made of wood. After a fire, the 21st legion replaced it with the stone structure that survives today. The seating area (cavea) had a capacity of some 11,000 spectators while the oval arena in the centre measured 64x52 metres - the largest of the seven known amphitheatres on Swiss territory.

The amphitheatre was a Roman invention that was widespread in the provinces and is regarded as the ultimate symbol of Roman culture.

Animal hunting and slaying (venationes) and gladiator duels (munera) were presented to the audience in the arena. The gladiators in particular were highly popular, with real fan communities forming among spectators. Due to their huge popularity among the people, the games were also of political interest to the organisers: popular support could be gained by investing in the games, so no expense was spared when it came to the gladiator pairings. Exotic animals were a particular highlight, too: a possible indication here is the foot bone of a camel that was found at Vindonissa.

Since the legionaries liked to be entertained during their free time, too, amphitheatres were virtually a standard feature of legionary camps. Like the troops' parade ground (campus), an amphitheatre would have been situated outside the camp. The first excavations in the amphitheatre at Vindonissa were carried out as long ago as 1897. The structure has been in the possession of the Swiss Confederation since 1898. If you stand in the arena and looked up at the spectator terraces, you can almost sense the excitement and noise even today.

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