Richborough Roman Fort and Amphitheatre

History of Richborough Roman Amphitheatre

Richborough is a key site in the history of Roman Britain, used during the entire length of the occupation from the invasion of AD 43 until the end of Roman rule in 410. 

Aerial view of Richborough Roman Fort and Amphitheatre - the amphitheatre survives as low earthworks
Aerial view showing the site of the Roman Ampitheatre at Richborough, with the fort in the background

It developed from an early fortification to a civilian town and port before returning to military use with the building of a Saxon Shore fort as a protection against Saxon raiders.

It has been suggested that the amphitheatre was constructed in the late 3rd century. It provided the inhabitants of the town with a place for entertainments such as wild animal hunts and gladiatorial combat. Romano-British amphitheatres were usually not elaborate structures.

Excavations in 1849 and recent geophysical survey of the area indicate an arena surrounded by sloping banks of mixed clay and mortar, which would probably have been used as a support for wooden seats.

Description

Today the amphitheatre survives as an elliptical hollow measuring 60 metres by 50 metres (197 feet by 164 feet), which represents the central arena.

It is surrounded by a bank 12 metres (39 feet) wide and rising to a height of about 2 metres (7 feet). At the narrow ends of the elliptical plan there are two obvious entrances, while on the north-west and south-east sides there are indications of additional entrances or architectural features, possibly towers.



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Further Reading

Wilmott, T, Richborough and Reculver (English Heritage, guidebook, London, 2012)

Note

The text on this page is derived from the Heritage Unlocked series of guidebooks, published in 2002–6. We intend to update and enhance the content as soon as possible to provide more information on the property and its history.

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