El Djem (Latin Thysdrus) is a town in Tunisia which is home to some of the most impressive Roman remains in Africa.
Roman Thysdrus prospered especially in the 2nd century, when it became an important centre of olive oil manufacturing for export.
By the early 3rd century AD, when the amphitheatre was built, Thysdrus rivalled Hadrumetum (modern Sousse) as the second city of Roman North Africa, after Carthage. However, following the abortive revolt that began there in 238 AD, and Gordian I's suicide in his villa near Carthage, Roman troops loyal to the Emperor Maximinus Thrax destroyed the city. It never really recovered.
El Djem is famous for its amphitheatre (often incorrectly called "a coliseum"), capable of seating 35,000 spectators. Only Rome's Colosseum (about 45,000 spectators) and the ruined theatre of Capua are larger. The amphitheatre at El Djem was built by the Romans under proconsul Gordian, who was acclaimed Emperor at Thysdrus, around 238 and was probably used for gladiator shows and chariot races (like in Ben-Hur).
Until the 17th century it remained more or less whole. From then on its stones were used for building the nearby village of El Djem and transported to the Great Mosque in Kairouan.
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Video: Global Treasures - El Djem - Tunisia.
The ruins of the amphitheatre were declared a World Heritage Site in 1979.