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The Campanian Amphitheater of Capua – history and legend

The Campanian Amphitheater of Capua is an imposing structure that contains the history and grandeur of the ancient Roman city of Capua (located where the present-day city of Santa Maria Capua Vetere stands today). This amphitheater is still one of the most fascinating and well-preserved archaeological sites in Italy.

The history of the Campanian Amphitheater

The Campanian Amphitheatre, whose construction began in the Republican era in the 1st century BC. and was completed in the 1st century AD. during the time of Emperor Augustus, it is one of the oldest known Roman amphitheatres. It was used for entertainment such as gladiator fights, wild animal hunts and theatrical performances. Spectacles were an important form of entertainment for the Roman population, and the amphitheater was one of the most prestigious places to witness such events.

The amphitheater occupies an area of approximately 38,500 square meters and can accommodate up to 50,000 spectators. Its gigantic size and imposing architecture are testament to the mastery and grandeur of Roman engineering. The structure was built in local stone, with meticulous attention to architectural details.

Like many other Roman amphitheatres, the Campanian Amphitheater suffered a slow decline over the centuries. With the rise of the Byzantine Empire and growing political and social instabilities, the use of the amphitheater for performances and games declined. Its stones were often plundered for the construction of other structures nearby.

In the following years, the amphitheater was partly submerged by mud deposits coming from the nearby river, the Volturno, which flooded the surrounding area. This mud covering has helped preserve much of the structure over the centuries.

Spartacus, the rebel gladiator

The Amphitheater of Capua was the stage of one of the most famous and dramatic chapters in Roman history. In the year 73 BC, Spartacus, a former Thracian gladiator, escaped from the ludus (gladiator school) of Capua along with other gladiator slaves, starting one of the most famous slave revolts in Roman history.

This small group of armed slaves took refuge on Vesuvius, where they began to fight against the Roman troops sent to suppress them. Spartacus quickly emerged as the undisputed leader of the rebellion. His charisma and strategic skill gathered more and more followers, including many rebellious and disinherited slaves. Although Roman forces sent armies to quell the rebellion, Spartacus managed to defeat them in a series of clashes. The rebellion became known as the “Servile War” or the “Slave War”.

Despite his victories, Spartacus was unable to maintain unity among his followers. In 71 BC, Spartacus and his army were finally defeated in a crucial battle against the Roman army led by general Crassus. After the defeat, thousands of rebels were captured and brutally crucified along the Appian Way, as a warning against future acts of rebellion.

Despite his death, Spartacus became a symbol of the struggle for freedom against oppression. His story has been told in numerous literary works, including Howard Fast’s famous work “Spartacus” and the television series “Spartacus.” His courage and determination continue to inspire those fighting for justice and freedom everywhere the world.

The Amphitheater of Capua has also been used as a film set for many other films, including “Ben-Hur” (1959) and “Gladiator” (2000).

Open to the public

In recent decades, the Campanian Amphitheater has been the subject of important restoration works and remains open to the public for visits and cultural events. These conservation efforts have brought much of the ancient amphitheater back to light and shown visitors the grandeur of Roman architecture.

Today, visitors can explore the Campanian Amphitheatre, admire its majestic ruins and appreciate its historical importance. Guided tours provide in-depth insight into the history and architecture of the amphitheater, taking visitors back in time to the golden age of Capua and the Roman Empire.

In addition to the central part of the amphitheater, some of the underground corridors that were used for shows are still visible. These corridors were connected to a series of galleries and rooms that housed the animals and gladiators before the fights began. The complexity and ingenuity of this underground system testifies to the organization and efficiency of the ancient Romans.

The amphitheater of Capua is an unmissable stop for lovers of archeology and Roman history. With its magnificence and timeless charm, this ancient monument reminds us of the incredible legacy left to us by the Romans and transports us back in time, immersing us in the grandeur of ancient Capua.