Cornela Fortson

Cornela Fortson

Published: 15 Sep 2023


El Djem, also known as Thysdrus, is a small town located in the central part of Tunisia. Despite its relatively modest size, El Djem boasts one of the most remarkable historical landmarks in the country – the magnificent Roman amphitheater. This ancient masterpiece, dating back to the 3rd century AD, is not only an architectural wonder but also holds many intriguing secrets and stories. In this article, we will dive into the fascinating world of El Djem and uncover 19 astonishing facts about this remarkable landmark. From its impressive size to its historical significance, El Djem’s amphitheater is bound to leave you in awe. So, let’s embark on this journey and explore the grandeur of El Djem!

Table of Contents

A Roman Amphitheatre Frozen in Time

El Djem is home to one of the most magnificent Roman amphitheatres in the world. This well-preserved structure, dating back to the 3rd century AD, is a testament to the grandeur and engineering prowess of the ancient Romans. With a seating capacity of up to 35,000 spectators, it stands as a remarkable example of Roman architecture.

The Third Largest Roman Amphitheatre

El Djem’s amphitheatre is not only well-preserved but also one of the largest of its kind. It ranks as the third largest Roman amphitheatre in the world, following the Colosseum in Rome and the arena in Capua, Italy. Its sheer size and impressive architectural features continue to awe visitors from around the globe.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

El Djem, including its Roman amphitheatre, has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since This prestigious designation highlights its outstanding universal value and the importance of preserving this historical gem for future generations.

A Popular Filming Location

The stunning presence of El Djem’s amphitheatre has attracted filmmakers from around the world. It has been featured in several movies, including the famous 2000 film “Gladiator” starring Russell Crowe. The grandeur of the amphitheatre adds an authentic and awe-inspiring backdrop to any period film.

The Amphitheatre’s Underground Network

Beneath the amphitheatre lies a complex network of underground passages and chambers. These were used to house gladiators, animals, and equipment, providing easy access to the arena during events. Exploring these subterranean tunnels gives visitors a glimpse into the fascinating logistics of ancient Roman entertainment.

El Djem’s Connection to Ancient Carthage

El Djem, known as Thysdrus during the Roman era, played a significant role in the history of Ancient Carthage. The city served as a vital link between Carthage and the rest of the Roman Empire, contributing to its economic and cultural prosperity.

An Iconic Filming Location for “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”

El Djem’s amphitheatre gained further recognition when it was used as a filming location for the legendary comedy film “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” in The amphitheatre’s distinctive architecture added a touch of authenticity to the satirical portrayal of Roman life.

The Amphitheatre’s Spectacular Views

Scaling the heights of El Djem’s amphitheatre rewards visitors with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. From the top, one can marvel at the vastness of the amphitheatre itself as well as the charming town that has grown around it.

El Djem’s Rich Mosaic Heritage

El Djem is also renowned for its impressive collection of ancient mosaics. These intricate artworks illustrate scenes from Roman mythology, daily life, and various historical events. The mosaics provide valuable insights into the beliefs and customs of the ancient inhabitants of the region.

The Magnificent Arch of Tiberius

In addition to the amphitheatre, El Djem boasts the famous Arch of Tiberius. This monumental arch, dedicated to the Roman Emperor Tiberius, once served as the main entrance to the city. Its intricately carved details and imposing presence are a testament to the city’s ancient grandeur.

El Djem’s Olive Oil Production

The region surrounding El Djem is known for its thriving olive oil industry. The fertile lands and favorable climate make it an ideal location for cultivating olives, and locals take pride in producing some of the finest olive oil in Tunisia.

A Symbol of Heritage and Identity

El Djem’s amphitheatre serves as a powerful symbol of the region’s rich heritage and cultural identity. It stands as a reminder of the long-standing influence of the Roman Empire and the resilience of the local community throughout history.

The Iconic Double Tiered Façade

The façade of El Djem’s amphitheatre is an architectural marvel. It features a unique double-tiered design, with rows of arched openings adorning the exterior. This intricate façade adds to the grandeur of the structure and showcases the skilled craftsmanship of the ancient Romans.

Historical Significance of Roman Games

The amphitheatre of El Djem played a vital role in hosting various Roman games and spectacles. These events served as a means of entertainment for the citizens and reflected the grandeur and power of the Roman Empire. The amphitheatre stands as a testament to the cultural significance of these ancient games.

El Djem’s Strategic Location

Strategically located in central Tunisia, El Djem served as an important crossroads between different regions of North Africa. Its position made it a hub for trade, commerce, and cultural exchange throughout history.

The Restoration Efforts

Over the years, significant efforts have been made to preserve and restore El Djem’s amphitheatre. These restoration projects have ensured that future generations can continue to marvel at its architectural splendor and experience the rich history it embodies.

A Testament to Ancient Engineering

The construction of El Djem’s amphitheatre demonstrates the remarkable engineering skills of the ancient Romans. Its well-preserved architecture and robust structure showcase the innovative techniques employed by Roman engineers in designing and constructing monumental buildings.

A Fascinating Blend of Roman and North African Culture

El Djem’s history is a fascinating blend of Roman and North African cultures. The city not only reflects the influence of the Roman Empire but also embraces the unique customs and traditions of the local Berber population, creating a vibrant and culturally diverse atmosphere.

The Tourist Magnet

El Djem’s amphitheatre attracts tourists from all corners of the globe. Its impressive size, historical significance, and stunning preservation make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts, architecture lovers, and curious travelers eager to immerse themselves in the wonders of ancient Rome.


El Djem is truly a remarkable and awe-inspiring landmark that is steeped in history and culture. From its impressive Roman amphitheater to its fascinating historical significance, El Djem offers visitors a unique and captivating experience. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture lover, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of ancient landmarks, El Djem is definitely worth a visit. The grandeur of the amphitheater, the rich historical context, and the overall ambiance of the town make El Djem a must-see destination. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an extraordinary journey to explore the astonishing wonders of El Djem!


Q: How old is the Amphitheater of El Djem?

A: The Amphitheater of El Djem dates back to the 3rd century AD, making it over 1,800 years old.

Q: How big is the Amphitheater of El Djem?

A: The Amphitheater of El Djem is one of the largest Roman amphitheaters ever built, with a seating capacity of around 35,000 spectators.

Q: Are there any guided tours available in El Djem?

A: Yes, there are guided tours available in El Djem that provide in-depth knowledge about the history, architecture, and significance of the amphitheater and the surrounding area.

Q: Can you enter the underground passages of the Amphitheater of El Djem?

A: Yes, visitors are allowed to explore the underground passages of the Amphitheater of El Djem, providing a unique perspective of the structure’s construction and magnificence.

Q: How long does it take to visit El Djem?

A: The duration of a visit to El Djem can vary based on individual interests, but generally, a few hours are sufficient to explore the amphitheater and the town.