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15 Ancient Structures Still in Use Today

Arles Amphitheatre

Built by the Romans in 90 A.D., the Arenes de Arles in southern France has 120 arches and can accommodate 20,000 people. Originally a venue for chariot races, today spectators flock to the arena for concerts, plays, and bullfighting. No matter why you might find yourself there, you'll feel like a real ancient Roman! It's truly a sight to behold. 

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Mosque of Uqba

An ancient place of Muslim worship, Mosque of Uqba was constructed in 670 A.D. Considered an architectural masterpiece, its marble-paved courtyard, opulent prayer hall, columns, stone walls, towers, and minaret cover nearly 97,000 square feet.

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Hagia Sophia

Originally an Orthodox church, the Hagia Sophia—or Santa Sophia—was built in 537 A.D. When Istanbul’s Byzantine empire gave way to the Ottomans in 1453, the church became a mosque. In 1935, it was made into a museum and has become one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions.

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Sean's Bar

Owned by Boy George for a stint, Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland started serving pints around 900 A.D. A 1970s’ renovation unearthed wattle and wicker—woven construction materials popularly used in the 10th century.

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Theatre of Epidaurus

Known for its incredible acoustics, the Theatre of Epidaurus was designed by Polykleitos the Younger and built in a canyon in 340 B.C. Originally a venue to celebrate Asklepios, the god of healing, today you can enjoy both ancient and modern performances at this open-air playhouse.

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Syracuse Cathedral

Visit the Italian island of Ortigia and you can see the Syracuse Cathedral—a 7th century A.D. church built on top of a 5th century B.C. Greek temple. Although bricks now fill the space between them, the 12 original columns of Athena’s temple are still visible.

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Tower of Hercules

A lighthouse in Galicia, Spain—La Torre de Hercules—has been lighting the way for sailors on the Atlantic Ocean for more than 1,900 years. Romans expertly crafted the massive three-floor structure entirely from stones, and no adhesive was used.

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The Pantheon

Rome is home to The Pantheon—a temple built by Emperor Hadrian in 126 A.D. It was converted to a Catholic church in the 7th century, and Pope Boniface IV named it St. Mary and the Martyrs. Mass and weddings are regularly held in this building today.

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Caravan Bridge

The arched Caravan Bridge was erected in 850 B.C. over the River Meles in Izmir, Turkey. If you’re in the neighborhood, ask a taxi driver to take you to “Sarnic,” as it’s known locally. Like Homer, you’ll be able to cross the world’s oldest continuously functioning bridge.

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Proserpina Dam

It is estimated that Merida, Spain’s Proserpina Dam was built by Romans around the 1st or 2nd century A.D. to transfer water to a neighboring city. Today, farmers use the ancient gravity dam for crop irrigation.

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Nanchan Temple

China is home to many Buddhist temples, but Nanchan is one of the oldest. It was constructed in the Shanxi Province in 782 A.D. The temple’s Great Buddha Hall is the oldest known wooden structure in the world.

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Jokhang Temple

In the 7th century A.D., the Tibetan King (Songsten Gampo) built Jokhang Temple to honor his two brides—one from China and one from Nepal. Also known as Qokang Monastery, Tibet’s most sacred shrine attracts worshipers and tourists from all over the world.

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Santa Sabina

Sitting above the Tiber River, Rome’s Basilica of Santa Sabina was built in 432 A.D. The modestly decorated church has been the headquarters of the Dominican order of Roman Catholic priests since 1222.

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Ponte Fabricio

This ancient bridge is 18 feet wide and nearly 68 yards long. Named Ponte Fabricio after its commissioner, it crosses the Tiber River in Rome and has been in continuous use since 62 B.C.

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Sky City

Constructed in 1150 A.D., the buildings that make up present-day New Mexico’s Sky City housed members of the Acoma Pueblo tribe. Long-known for their thin-walled pottery, the Acoma continue to live and work in these sturdy adobe structures.

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