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CIRENCESTER ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  CIRENCESTER AMPHITHEATRE
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Cirencester Roman amphitheatre is believed to have been situated southwest of the Roman town (CORINIVM DOBVNNORVM) walls, on the probable line of the Fosse Way. It survives as an oval earthwork and was excavated in the 19th century and 1960's. The amphitheatre was constructed during the early second century AD within an earlier Roman quarry. It was oval in plan with a central arena measuring 49 metres by 41 metres. The arena floor had a sand and fine gravel surface and was enclosed by earthen seating banks, with an entrance situated at each end of the long axis. The seating banks were up to 30 metres wide and retained by timber and drystone walls. Each bank comprised a series of shallow terraces, retained by a drystone wall, which probably carried seats of wooden planks. The amphitheatre was later reinforced with masonry walls and the outer 21 metres of the entrance passage was vaulted to provide additional seating.

By the later second century, the arena had been rebuilt and two small rooms flanking the entrance added. These have been interpreted as prisons or cages for holding criminals or wild animals. One of the rooms may have also contained a shrine. Excavations indicate that the amphitheatre was out of use by the third or early fourth century when the eastern entrance was demolished and metalled surfaces had been laid. It is possible that this was the site of an extra-mural market. Further activity dating to the fifth or sixth century included the restoration of the entrance, additional street metalling and construction of a large timber framed building within the arena. Outside the amphitheatre quarrying also took place. One of the quarry ditches has been interpreted as a possible defensive ditch, giving rise to the hypothesis that the amphitheatre was used as a fortified retreat at this time. The amphitheatre has been recorded as part of the South Cotswolds NMP.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the English Heritage website.