Two Roman stadia still host fights to the death
The arenas in Gladiator were creations of special effects and set design. For greater verisimilitude the filmmakers could have headed to the southern French cities of Aries and N�mes, about 20 miles apart, where well-preserved Roman coliseums survive to this day—and still host sports events. Constructed between the late first and early second century AD., the two ovals each originally seated more than 20,000 spectators, who would watch gladiators battle one another or beasts such as bulls and bears. So well constructed were the amphitheaters, with their wide stairways and arcades, that it took only five minutes for a full house to empty out. The designs ensured that various classes of spectators never mingled.
Over the centuries the two arenas served as quarries, fortresses and even housing complexes. Today man again battles beast inside the old Roman walls during southern France's bullfighting season. N�mes's big festival, the F�ria (above), will be held June 8-12. Unlike their Roman predecessors, the F�ria's fans have to pay to see the show.