The city of Orange is located in the Provence region of southern France. Two large monuments which reflect the glory of the Roman Empire are still there.
The Triumphal Arch stands at the entrance to the city. In the 1st century B.C., the Roman Empire was seeking to expand its territory into Northern Europe. Orange was one of the bloodiest battles during the conquest of Gaul. Scenes from the battle are carved onto the Triumphal Arch.
The huge theatre in Orange made it clear that it was now considered to be part of the Roman Empire. It seats 10,000 people and the stage measures approximately 130m in width. Roman theatres always had a large building behind the stage. The one in Orange is the equivalent of a modern ten-storey building.
The walls were decorated with various carvings and columns, and a statue of the Emperor had pride of place in a special niche in the center at the top. As the emperors succeeded one another the heads of the statues were changed while the bodies remained the same.
In the wings of this theatre are the remains of two three storey buildings. Each floor was divided into many smaller rooms which were used as storage and dressing rooms. Musicians also used the rooms nearest the stage to play in, thereby adding the mystical effect of music which seemed to emanate from thin air.
The curtain in a Roman theatre was dropped into a ditch which had been specially dug in front of the stage. A hole in the back wall was used both as an entrance for the actors as well as a niche for placing a torch to light the stage if necessary
The theatre in Orange is currently being restored after several centuries of erosion. Work is being done to restore the roof. In Roman theatres the audience was shielded from the sun by cloth awnings while the stage had a wooden roof.
However, Roman glory did not last forever and the theatre was eventually abandoned. The entire seating area was buried under a thick layer of sand, which protected and preserved it from the ravages of time. It was only in the 19th century that it was excavated and found to be in near perfect condition.