Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lyon's Theatres Romains de Fouviere

While enjoying a nutella and coconut crepe, courtesy of a street vendor, and watching university students strolling down Vieux Lyon, baguettes in hand, I did not expect to encounter Rome. Most people underestimate the reach of the Roman emperors, and exactly where and who fell under their influence. Lyon was no exception, and is in fact, home to the largest Roman ampitheatre in France. Built by the Order of Augustus in 17 to 15 B.C.E., this theatre gives one a breathtaking view of the city of Lyon. Not only did this theatre see use a couple thousand years ago, but it is currently home to plays and music festivals. Unfortunately I was not able to partake in one of the many events hosted here, but the opportunity to listen to a play or a concert while under the stars and overlooking the glittering city must be a experience of a lifetime.

The climb up the Fouviere Hill can be mitigated by taking a funicular. Or if you are up for old-fashioned Olympic training, hoof it up the winding, narrow, brick-covered streets that seem to wind forever until you reach the ruins. Old walls and columns poke out between the lush grass and lead the way to the ampitheatre itself. Wooden fillers help the visitor maintain an even gait when descending towards the stage.

The stage itself still contains much of its marble and porphyry, and is backdropped by broken marble columns which once contained a temple to the goddess Cybele. Cybele has been worshipped in many cultures, from Anatolia to Greece to Rome. She is most frequently known as Rome's Magna Mater, or "Great Mother". Her worshippers performed rites full of ecstatic dancing, and other practices which would offend a 21st century human's sensibilities.
In sculpture, Cybele appears similar to Hera, complete with throne and diadem, though she can also be depicted in a chariot being pulled by lions, such as the fountain in the Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid. She demands respect, and so does this ampitheatre, which is a must visit, if you ever find yourself strolling the streets of Lyon.

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