London's Roman Amphitheatre


The London Roman Amphitheatre is an ancient arena that was used for gladiatorial games and other public spectacles in the Roman city of Londinium. The amphitheatre was constructed in the 1st century AD and was one of the largest in Roman Britain, capable of seating up to 6,000 spectators. It was a quite surprising discovery as the amphitheatre was found within the old Roman city walls, whereas the majority of ancient amphitheatres were located on the outside.

The History of London’s Roman Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre was built on a site near the River Thames in AD70, and was oval in shape, measuring approximately 100 meters long and 80 meters wide. It was initially from wood, being replaced with stone in the early 2nd century. It had a sand-covered arena where gladiators would fight each other, wild animals, and condemned criminals in front of a raucous crowd.

The amphitheatre was in use for several hundred years, and was a central part of Roman entertainment and culture in Londinium. It was used for a wide range of events, including gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, public executions, and mock sea battles. St. Augustine, writing in the 4th century AD, describes the infectious power of the crowd’s mood on even the most disapproving visitor:

he opened his eyes, feeling perfectly prepared to treat whatever he might see with scorn… He saw the blood and he gulped down the savagery… He was no longer the man who had come there but was one of the crowd to which he had come.

The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book VI, Chapter 8

After the decline of the Roman Empire, the amphitheatre fell into disuse and much of it used for building materials. It was gradually buried beneath layers of earth and debris. It was largely forgotten until its rediscovery in the late 20th century.

The Discovery of London’s Roman Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre was discovered in 1988 during the construction of new Art Gallery building project. Archaeologists were able to excavate the site and uncover the remains of the amphitheatre, which had been buried for centuries beneath layers of rubble and debris. In 2002, the doors to the amphitheatre opened for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

Visiting London’s Roman Amphitheatre

Today, the remains of the London Roman Amphitheatre are open to the public and can be viewed at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London. The site provides a fascinating glimpse into the daily life and culture of the Romans who lived in London nearly 2,000 years ago.

Opening Times: Mon to Sun 10:30am – 4pm (Last entry 3:45pm)

Cost: Free

Sites near London's Roman Amphitheatre

Visiting London's Roman Amphitheatre