Roman Legeacy - El Jem
El Jem Travel Blog› entry 4 of 11 › view all entries
After the museum we were off to El Jem. We had not issues getting out of the city as we had pre-plotted. There was one point Rob was uncertain at a round-about and immediately stopped to verify. It was a good thing he did as we were headed in the wrong direction. The drive was pleasant and allowed us to see more of the landscape and countryside. There are so many olive trees it is astonishing, but
Once we arrived in El Jem we had to drive in through the entire town with few signs for the Roman Amphitheater, but we made.
Apart from the Roman colosseum, the sights of El Jem are still covered by sand. And the city of El Jem is a sleepy place without much character. But the colosseum is great, almost as big as the one of Rome, and in better condition. It is 148 metres long by 122 metres wide, with tiers up to 35 metres. There is nothing missing which takes away its grandeur. One area of the walls is gone, and this was done in 1695 when a big hole was shot in the wall of the colosseum, in order to uncover the hiding places of dissidents against the Ottomans.
The colosseum was constructed between 230 and 238 CE by the command of the Imperial official Gordian.
The building process is even more impressive considering that the stones were quarried 30 km away at Salakta. In 238 Gordian committed suicide after an unsuccessful rebellion against Rome, where he had claimed to be emperor. With this, the construction of the amphitheatre ended. It was never completely finished, but was of course used
The entry was 8 dinar each and a 1 dinar charge for taking pictures. Give thoughts on walk of site.
We hunted for a snack for me but everyone wanted to grill me some lamb…NO WAY! We ended up in a grocery store and a can of peas and carrots and a few assorted snacks.
We walked the back alleys as the sign for the museum had pointed in that direction. Two direction checks later and a good 15 minute walk and we were there. We had walked most of the town to get there but, there we were, the archeology museum. The cost of entrance was included in the entrance to El Jem. This museum alone is worth your effort get here. I have seen Roman mosaics on three continents and these are by far the very best preserved and most elaborate and colorful of them all. They are truly amazing. Give examples of several.
Rob and I walked the actual site, behind the museum, and were able to see where the mosaics were taken from. It was sprinkling but it actually felt refreshing. The walk through time and history of this community was enlightening. We discovered that at each door threshold there was a mosaic that was the address of the home, telling a bit about the family.
Also, the state had created an example of what a Roman villa ( Afrika House ) was like. It’s foundation up to about 1 meter (3 ft) is original and the rest is recreated. You get a real sense of what the construction and space were like. An attendant walked us around the site and explained the rooms and the reconstruction. He was very proud to have been a part of the preservation. We gave him a tip for his help.