Topophilia, El Jem.


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Africa » Tunisia » El Jem
January 13th 2013
Published: January 13th 2013
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Collisseum at El JemCollisseum at El JemCollisseum at El Jem

I have circled my uni pals to give an idea of the scale of this place
No matter how many photographs you look at of El Jem, and no matter how many words of "helpfulling travelling very" advices you read, El Jem will only ever have one decent thing in it; a dobbing huge massive Roman sports stadium.

The ruins are flipping immense.

With Ancient Roman built environment back drops such as El Jem it's no surprises that movie directors working on a tight budget loved filming their epics in Tunisia. The Pythons, for example, fimed much of "The Life of Brian" in country.

With a lick of paint and a few canvas sheets it's possible to turn Tunisia into an ancient Rome, a spaghetti west or a warring futuristic satellite planet - and still have change leftover to buy a bag of chip shop scratchings on the way home.

In 1984 (the same year my Geography Honours Degree university class arrived on our first forray into Africa) we'd scoffed on our diet of mythic films. So. Rather than show you another gazilion photos of El Jem shot from every angle and focal length, I will instead trip you through some film quotes that El Jem evokes.

"I'm Spartacus"

"Excuse me.
Are you the Judean People's Front?"

"Your eyes are full of hate, forty-one (aka Mr. Hur). That's good. Hate keeps a man alive. It gives him strength."

"The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor. A striking story. But now, the people want to know how the story ends. Only a famous death will do. And what could be more glorious than to challenge the Emperor himself in the great arena?"

That morsel is so good that we'll have an encore...

"My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North. General of the Felix Legions. Loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

... cue the Wagner.

"Tell me, are Christian wives so ugly that no one looks at them?"

"Two things only the people anxiously desire - bread and circuses."

"What happened, gentle Greek?"

I think they are all cracking quotes to use wuth your mates when you are strutting the arena - even if a couple are definitely on the wrong side of P.C.

El Jem. What theatre. What an imagination starter. What a stage. But El Jem makes me wonder why modern parents get nervous and "violence inducing" worried about giving their kids a water pistol for Christmas yet they have no vacation qualms at all in watching their little Tarquins and Jamies run riot in an ancient Roman slaughtering pit.

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