When the Romans eventually vacated the fort, much of the material with which it was constructed was looted and used to build the houses of Caerleon, so in many cases only the foundations of the original Roman fortress remain. Archaeological excavation, begun in the early 20th century, revealed some notable features of the fortress, including the baths (equivalent to a modern leisure centre), a barracks, and a huge amphitheatre built just outside the fortress wall. The photographs in this Images of Wales feature illustrate the amphitheatre and barracks.
There were two main processional entrances (portae pompae), at the north and south ends of the long axis of the amphitheatre. Additionally, there were six lesser entrances spaced around the perimeter (see below).
The spectator, clutching his ticket in the form of a lead token, would descend the central steps then mount a stairway at the side, leading out onto the terraces of seats. His seat would probably have been numbered.
Between each pair of stairways communicating with the terrace was a square central room where gladiators or prisoners awaited their turn, and wild beasts would be penned before being released into the arena.
The timber grandstand seated about 6,000 spectators, slightly more than the full complement of the legion. The central arena was 165 feet long by 120 feet wide.
Games were held in the amphitheatre to celebrate religious and military festivals. Like today's sporting stars, top gladiators were expensive to employ, but a star name might be hired for special occasions. Lesser performers such as amateurs were in more plentiful supply, and condemned criminals were sometimes made to fight the gladiators, or battle to the death with beasts such as bears, wolves, wild boars, or bulls.
A short walk from the amphitheatre, and inside the perimeter of the fortress is the Prysg Field Barracks (below). This area was excavated in the 1920s revealing a row of barrack buildings each of which once housed a legion century of eighty men, commanded by a centurion, possibly equivalent to a modern sergeant major. The Second Augustan Legion comprised sixty centuries, requiring a total of sixty barrack blocks.
Each barrack block is divided into twelve pairs of small square rooms plus larger accommodation for the centurion. In the foreground (above) are the bases of circular ovens.
Each pair of rooms would house eight men; one room was used for sleeping, the other for storage of the men's kit.
The Roman fortress and amphitheatre at Caerleon are in the care of CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments which carries out the statutory responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Wales for protecting, conserving and presenting ancient monuments and historic buildings in Wales.
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