But there was no convenient hill to build into, so a larger portion of it was free standing. And as is so often the case the upper levels have, with a small but interesting exception, not survived.
Arles has several surviving features that Lugdunum lacks.
Roman theaters had a front curtain that could be pulled up and down in front of the stage. They operated on ropes that came down from an overhang of the stage roof. This curtain* was called a Aulaeum and was quite heavy. It required lead counterweights that would run down into a deep trench in the ground, as here:
|The straight rail like structure is a track on which modern stage equipment moves|
The Theater at Arles is more heavily reconstructed than Lugdunum. It owes its survival to the above mentioned defensive value, and to its partial incorporation into the garden of a convent. Indeed, it still has a peaceful, cloistered sense about it. Spend a few minutes admiring the many structural fragments laid out for your contemplation:
Practical tips for a visit. There is an admission fee. Usually you would have paid at the next door amphitheater for a ticket allowing admission to both sites. I was there late in the day, but it was clear that the attendant was trying to shoo everyone out a half hour or more before closing time. Like Lyon/Lugdunum the facility is still in use for live performances, and some elements of the stage are often covered by modern structures.
*The term curtain with respect to theatrical productions is fairly recent, and would seem to come from the Curtain Theater, an Elizabethan playhouse in Shoreditch. It got its name from a nearby plot of land called Curtain Close. For an interesting look at the archeology of the Curtain and its neighbor The Theater, have look at Digging for Shakespeare