Lyon amphitheatre: the Trois Gaules, gladiators and martyrdom

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The amphitheatre - ©Evan Bench / CC-BY The amphitheatre - ©Evan Bench / CC-BY
Lyon Three Gauls amphitheatre Gallo-Roman Festivities Martyr

The Three Gauls

Lyon was the capital city, the caput Galliarum, the "head" of the 3 Gauls! 3 Gauls? Yes, because the country was divided into 3 province by emperor Augustus; Gaul from Lyon, the Belgian Gaul and Gaul from Aquitaine.

Lyon was a very important place: every year, a special gathering of the "60 Gaulish nations" took place, where stood the old federal sanctuary of the 3 Gauls. This sanctuary was located at the farthest point of rivers Saône and Rhône, when the two rivers met.

We had a theatre, of course, but also an odeon and the federal sanctuary with its huge temple dedicated to Augustus and to Rome. A very important monument! Greek historian Strabo wrote: "This temple, raised by every Gaulish for Caesar Augustus, was built in Lyon city. And there’s a nice altar flanked by the 60 Gallic people names. And also their statues, because every people had their own."

Games and gladiators

During those gathering, they organized magnificent games for people, in the theatre: chariots races, gladiators' fights... They found funerary monuments belonging to 2 gladiators who fought here: Callimorphus, secunda rudis, and Hylas, prima rudis ("fencing master"). You can see those two altars in the Gallo-Roman museum in Lyon...

The theatre

Raised in 19, extended in the 2th century, the theatre could welcome 20 000 people! As an example, Nîmes' amphitheatre welcomed 25 000 people, Rome’s one 50 000 spectators! Plundered by Barbarians, demolished in the Middle-Ages in order to raise house, they planted a vineyard, here...

But did these humble people know that men and women suffered, here, long time ago? Yes: saint Blandine was martyred here in 177, with 48 other Christians. Blandine was Lyon's patron saint. Romans killed her because she was Christian...

They tortured her all day long: the worst torments you could imagine! But, at the end of the day, Blandine was still breathing. So they locked her in a jail far away from the theatre, with others... then they took her in the middle of the arena, where wild beasts would devour her.

But... no way! Animals were not hungry! They didn’t want to touch the young saint. So they took her back in jail. For several days, they went on with torture... until fire devoured here, finally, ending her pain.


And also!