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Tolosa (Toulouse)


The amphitheater at Toulouse-Purpan. Photo Michel Gybels.
The amphitheater at Toulouse-Purpan.
Tolosa: (Greek Τολῶσσα): capital of the Volcae Tectosages in southern Gaul, modern Toulouse.

History Excavations

The Complex

Purpan and Ancely are the names of two quarters of Toulouse, built on the Lardenne Plateau, which is separated from the main city in the east by the river Garonne and from the countryside in the west by the river Touch.
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In the middle of the first century CE, a sanctuary developed in Ancely. It included a temple, public baths, seasonal housing, commercial zones, and numerous wells. Since it was close to the confluence of the Touch and Garonne rivers, the site may have been dedicated to the worship of water. The amphitheater at Purpan was probably erected as an annex to the sanctuary. The complex was abandoned at the very end of the fourth century.

Toulouse-Purpan: Amphitheater and Baths

The main entrance to the amphitheater is located to the north of the arena and is 4.20 meters wide. The arch reproduces the height of the curved vault, which once covered the entry passage. The almond-like arena is sixty-two meters long by forty-six meters wide. Underneath this surface lies an underground network of drains, which leads to a vast ruined well in the center. This well catches the rainwater and allows for the rapid drainage of the arena, even today.



The amphitheater of Toulouse-Purpan is constructed on a filled structure, unlike those in Arles, Nîmes, and the Colosseum in Rome, where a hollow structure composed of vaults and pillars supports the tiers. The cavea (the rows of seats intended to receive the public) is fifteen meters wide. This area is separated from the arena by a wall and bound at the outside by a high wall covered in brick. The cavea is divided into equal segments compartmentalized by twenty-three arched horizontal corridors, the vomitoria.

Abandoned at the end of the fourth century, the amphitheatre came to serve as a quarry. In this manner, the monument was completely stripped of its brick facing. 

The natatio at Toulouse-Ancely. Photo Michel Gybels.
The natatio at Toulouse-Ancely.

Satellite photos can be found here (Purpan amphitheater)

Toulouse-Ancely: Roman natatio

About five-hundred meters from the amphitheatet are the south thermae who were preceded by a palaestra including a natatio that is to say a swimming pool. Fairly well preserved, it has been possible to maintain it in the cellar of a building in Ancely.

The natatio, which is well-preserved, is open during the guided visits of the amphitheater or on appointment for students and groups. For further information contact the Musée Saint-Raymond.
History Excavations
© Jona Lendering
& Michel Gybels for
Livius.Org, 2013
Revision: 17 Aug. 2013
Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other