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Syria: Bosra Amphitheatre

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Bosra Amphitheatre | Syria | Asia

[Visited: September 2005]

When I arrived in Bosra that morning, I decided to leave the best for last and make a circle around the old city before entering the famous Roman amphitheatre. After a visit that exceeded my expectations, I was looking forward to entering the theatre. I had seen the impressive outside walls of the fortress built around it, and finally it was time to go inside. For some reason, entrance was free and before I knew it, I was walking in dark passage ways in the bowels of the fortification. I resisted the temptation to go in too early, and walked up the citadel. Eventually, I ended up walking on top of it, with views over part of Bosra. It was here that I first saw the arches of the theatre above the towers of the fortress.

Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Bosra amphitheatre: play of shadow and columns on the wall

When I could resist no longer, I walked through one of the openings leading inwards, and suddenly found myself looking down at an amphitheatre that was surprisingly intact. It was a sensational view, and behind the top of the theatre, I could see part of ancient Bosra, the ruins that I had been exploring earlier that day. I took one of the many available seats - apparently I was there out of season - and let the whole structure soak into me. So this was it. This was the amphitheatre built by the Romans in the second century CE, in the heydays of Bosra, when it was still the capital of the Roman province of Arabia. The fortress was built tightly around it in the course of centuries, and served as a fortification against the crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Bosra amphitheatre: the theatre seen from behind

In those times, it could accomodate 15,000 people. The roof of the stage was made of wood, while the rest was covered by silk. Even more incredible, during performances the spectators were treated to a spray of perfumed water. How much I would have wished to attend such a performance, see the theatre as the Romans did, I whispered while walking the stone seats. Every now and then, I discovered a Roman game engraved into the seats, apparently there were long waits or people were bored by some performances. Little could they have known how their theatre would have looked some 2,000 years on, and how breathtaking just visiting the Bosra amphitheatre would be for us.

Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Bosra amphitheatre seen from above
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Bosra amphitheatre: seen from outside the fortress walls
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Defensive walls and moat outside Bosra amphitheatre
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): One of the many tunnels in the fortress of Bosra amphitheatre
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Arches of the Bosra amphitheatre seen from the fortress
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Stage and columns of Bosra amphitheatre
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Looking up Bosra amphitheatre
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Bosra amphitheatre: close-up of one of the walls
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Looking up from the stage of the Bosra amphitheatre
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Rows of stone seats in the Bosra amphitheatre
Picture of Bosra Amphitheatre (Syria): Ancient Roman games engraved in seats of the Bosra amphitheatre

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