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Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre

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Map ReferenceST39SW
Grid ReferenceST3383090350
Unitary (Local) AuthorityNewport
Old CountyMonmouthshire
The amphitheatre of the legionary fortress at Caerleon (NPRN 95647) survived as an earthwork and was known as 'King Arthur's Round Table'. It was cleared and otherwise excavated amid a blaze of publicity in 1926-7 and is now consolidated for public view. The remains consists of the base of the seating banks around an oval arena. The structure includes passages, stairs, antechambers and a possible shrine. It was built in the later first century AD and was restored and modified several times before falling out of use in the third century or later.

The amphitheatre lies immediately outside the fortress walls in the southern sector of the extramural settlement area, or canabae, (NPRN 301891). Other buildings in this sector included at least one monumental public building, the temple, possibly dedicated to Diana, and a bathhouse, parts of which were recorded in the 1920s excavations and can still be seen (NPRN 310464).

The amphitheatre was built to accommodate the whole of the legion based at Caerleon, some 5,000 soldiers, as well as the denizens of the canabae. Wild beast shows, executions and gladiatorial combat would have been played out in the arena. All had a religious aspect and the amphitheatre was at the heart of Caerleon's public life. The ceremonies in amphitheatre can be associated with those held on the Parade Ground (NPRN 275996) - the only other amphitheatres on military sites in the Wales region, at Chester and Tomen-y-Mur (NPRN 95666), are also found with parade grounds.

Sources: Wheeler & Wheeler in Archaeologia 2nd series 28 (1928), 111-218
Boon 'Isca' (1972), 93-5
Brewer in the Monmouthshire Antiquary 17 (2001), 14-17 NAR ST39SW1.

John Wiles, RCAHMW, 11 December 2007.