DDue to its peripheral position, the amphitheater of Carthage marked the western entrance to the ancient city and, together with the circus and the Baths of Antoninus, formed the largest public monuments. It hosted the most popular shows in North Africa, dedicated in particular to animal exhibitions and hunts (venationes), gladiatorial combats (gladiatorum munera), and, to a lesser extent, capital punishement known as "condemnation to beasts” (damnationes ad bestias), in which the condemned person was killed by wild animals.
The use of a very rare technique in ancient Tunisia (opus reticulatum) in the construction of parts of this monument was the main clue to the dating of its first phase of construction, around the middle of the first century, in the Julian or Flavian period. However, the amphitheater, as we know it today, is the result of the second phase of construction that took place a century later. when the monument lost its original function as a space dedicated to entertainment around the 6th century, it underwent several phases of reoccupation, including a probable defensive function during Late Antiquity and then as a place of refuge for people.
The archaeological excavation campaigns initiated by the ‘White Fathers’ provided an opportunity to associate the amphitheater with Christianity. In 1893, Cardinal Lavigerie erected a column at the southern end of the arena and a chapel to commemorate a major event that marked the early days of Christianity in North Africa at the beginning of the 3rd century: the condemnation of five Christians from Thuburbo Minus (Felicity, Perpetua and their companions) to be delivered to the beasts in the amphitheater.
The monument derives its splendor from its dimensions (156 x 128 meters), which place it among the four largest amphitheaters in the Roman Empire, and from its façade, which was laid out in three tiers of richly decorated arcades, as described by medieval Arab chroniclers and geographers. Its capacity reached 30,000 spectators, following its extension in the middle of the 2nd century.
Original structures, little known in the amphitheaters of the Roman world, are preserved under the arena. These are underground structures whose main function was to bring animals, fighters, and sets to various parts of the arena using hoistsة during the performances. The presence of this underground part is limited in Tunisia to the amphitheaters of Uthina (Oudhna), Thuburbo Minus (Tebourba), and Thysdrus (El Jem).