The Amphitheater of El Jem was built in circa 238 CE in the Roman city of Thysdrus to house spectator events common to ancient Roman culture. Thysdrus was founded by the Romans in 46 BCE and became one of the centers for olive oil production in Roman Africa. The structure is estimated to have seated about 30,000 spectators and was built completely from stone blocks. The basement of the arena is sixty five meters long and is flanked by two vaulted galleries which have a series of rooms that housed wild beasts or served as quarters for the gladiators. Openings to the basement are visible from the arena floor which reveal that animals were lifted in the arena from the rooms below. This monument is the third largest amphitheater in the ancient Roman world.
The Amphitheatre of El Jem bears outstanding witness to Roman architecture, notably monuments built for spectator events, in Africa. Located in a plain in the centre of Tunisia, this amphitheatre is built entirely of stone blocks, with no foundations and free-standing. In this respect it is modelled on the Coliseum of Rome without being an exact copy of the Flavian construction. Its size (big axis of 148 metres and small axis 122 metres) and its capacity (judged to be 35,000 spectators) make it without a doubt among the largest amphitheatres in the world. Its facade comprises three levels of arcades of Corinthian or composite style. Inside, the monument has conserved most of the supporting infrastructure for the tiered seating. The wall of the podium, the arena and the underground passages are practically intact. This architectural and artistic creation built around 238 AD, constitutes an important milestone in the comprehension of the history of Roman Africa. The Amphitheatre of El Jem also bears witness to the prosperity of the small city of Thysdrus (current El Jem) at the time of the Roman Empire.