The ruins of the ancient theater of Arles were just across the street from the Arena. I don’t think it would have been possible to have a theatrical performance occur at the same time as one of the fights in the arena; the maddened roar of an adrenaline filled crowd would have easily drowned out the voices of the actors. We had read that most of what was worth seeing could be seen through the fence, but we went ahead and paid for admission anyway so we could get a closer look. I’m glad we did, as it was enjoyable to see everything up close, but it’s probably true that it would be passable for most individuals. Then again, admission wasn’t too costly and Arles’ economy does seem to be based primarily on tourism, so you might just go ahead and contribute the locals as well as the the preservation of history.
The theater is still being used today, despite the fact that not much of it is still standing. The original red and blue marble floor is still intact and much of the seating had been replaced with new concrete; the originals that remained has been worn down into undefined slope, making walking around the stadium a teeny bit dangerous for clumsy folks such as myself. It didn’t take much imagination to see that this had once been and incredible place and had probably put the theater in Orange to shame. There were huge pillars, stones, and fragments of massive columns scattered about the ground. The St. Trophime church nearby had actually come and taken and repurposed some of the stone and smaller, still-intact pillars for use in its construction. The pillars can be see in the cloisters. It seated several thousand more people than the Orange theater did had a beautiful red and blue marble floor that still exists today, surprisingly well preserved. Other pieces of the monstrous old theater laid scattered around the plot of land.
There was limited shade at the ruins and we were getting pretty hot, so we found a place to sit under some trees and watched the other people wandering about and smiled as families walked by us and we could hear the shrieks and cries of laughter as the children darted about, completely unaffected by the temperature or sun. One particularly cute family sounded and looked as though they were from Italy. Again, Arles is definitely very touristy, mostly in a way I don’t prefer, but it does make it a fun place to people watch in and my ears and brain enjoyed hearing all the different languages spewing out and trying to identify and interpret them.
We sat and soaked it up for just a bit longer before reluctantly getting back on our tired feet and heading off to check out the old Roman Crypts. We happily discovered that the entrance was in the beautiful, dark, and cool foyer of the town hall. We enjoyed the cool air while waiting in line, though it was a mixed blessing as it seemed to draw even more attention to our aching feet.