One of the best preserved of all Roman theatres lies only 10 miles away from our "home" in St. Cécile-les-Vignes. It was built early in the 1st century AD. The theatre played a large role in the life of the citizens of this time, as they spent much of their free time there. The Roman authorities used the theatre as a means to spread the Roman culture to the colonies as well as distracting them from political activities.
Many of these productions lasted all day. Mime, pantomime, poetry readings and the "attelana", (a farce of sorts) was the dominant form of entertainment. The entertainment was open to all and free of charge.
As the Roman Empire declined during the 4th century, by which time Christianity had become the official religion, the theatre was closed as it was regarded as uncivilized by official edict in AD 391. After that, the theatre was abandoned completely. It was probably pillaged by the Visigoths in 412 and like most Roman buildings was stripped of its better stone over the centuries for reuse. It was used as a defensive post in the Middle Ages. During the 16th-century religious wars, it became a refuge for the townspeople. Currently every summer opera performances still take place in July and August. We will learn much more about the theatre as we tour this magnificent structure.
We will also visit the Triumphal Arch of Orange. Current research suggests that it was built during
the reign of Augustus 27 BC-AD14. It was built along the via Agrippa (Roman roads in Gaul) and was constructed to honor the veterans of the Gallic Wars and the Legio II Augusta. It was later reconstructed by emperor Tiberius to celebrate the victories of Germanicus over the German tribes in the Rhineland.
In the middle ages the arch was built into the town's walling to guard the northern entry point to the town. It has been designated a UNESCO site and is the oldest surviving example of a design later used in Rome itself.
The visible pock marks or holes are supposedly left by practicing medieval crossbowmen with little appreciation for art or history.