Bordeaux's origins date back to Roman times, but from that era nothing but the Palais Gallien has survived. It is a rather curious sight as it is located amidst residential buildings and not visible until you have reached it.
Dating back to the 3rd century, the amphitheatre suffered severely over the centuries. Its complete extension is only visible from an aerial perspective as it encloses the space now occupied by houses and streets, but it is said to have had enough space for 17,000 (!) spectators. You can imagine its importance back then... During later years, when it had already fallen into disrepair, the Bordelaises used it as a quarry and deconstructed large parts of it. But already in the beginning of the 19th century measures were taken against the continueing destruction of the building. The Palais Gallien was declared a historical monument in 1911.
Nowadays, it is worth a quick visit, but in order to make the most of it you would need the explanations of a good guide as there is not really much left to see.
Located several blocks, slightly SW of the Jardin Public, hidden among the sidestreets off of reu Fondaudege are the ruins of an Roman era, ancient amphitheatre. It was build to hold up to 15,000 people and designed for the easy ingress and egress. It is so removed from view that one has to know where to find it behind the flats and residential buildings.
Built between the years 193 and 235, while Burdigala enjoys the benefits of the pax romana*, this building wasn't a palace but a coliseum, seating up to 15 000 person. It's been named after the emperor Gallien, who reigned between 254 and 268.
Probably burnt down by german invaders in 276-277, the Palais was then abandoned during the middle age, as the city was protecting itself behind smaller fortifications.
The ruins have then been exploited as a career, and were said to be the host for the vilest occupants (XVIIth century)
The remains of the building were progressively destroyed during the XVIIIth, as the city was beginning to surround it, and finally was protected in 1800 thanks to the Préfet Thibaudeau.
It's been classificated as a historical monument in 1911.
Vestiges of a roman amphitheatre that once held 10 000 spectators
Its the oldest evidence of the roman town (Burdigalia) that is still visible.From this Gaullic Roman amphitheatre, une can see the monumental gates as well as the departure of some walls and arcatures, integrated in the surrunding gardens and houses. This amphitheatre was built outside the walls of the castrum. Legend (which has its origin in the middle age litterature) says that Charlemegne had buildt it for his wife Galiene, whereas in actually from the 2nd century
The edifice, which was modestly built with rubble stones and bricks, measured roughly 133 meters by 111, with an arena measuring 70 meters by 47, which are standard dimensions for a such a work.It consisted of seven elliptic coronas, divided into 64 rows by lateral walls that have now disappeared, and covered with wooden piers supported by ledgers (horizontal pieces of wood).The latter were driven into the brickwork; throught holes that can still be seen in the walls
Elliptic in shape, it was probability meant for games and for combat between gladiators.It s very similar in size and spatial organization to the arenas of Arles and Nimes
In the 7tyh century, the Palais Gallienserved as a shelter for thieves and protitutes and it was rumoured that it was a meeting place for withches, until a mayor transformed it into a public quarry during the french revolution
This arena beyond the city walls is the oldest remnant of the city’s history – the only remaining traces of old Burdigala, with the monumental gate and parts of the walls.