Pompeii Amphitheater

 Pompeii Amphitheater


Pompeii Amphitheater

Location: Regio II

Insula 6

Pompeii AmphitheaterThe Amphitheatre of Pompeii is situated South of the Via dell' Abbondanza in an Eastern corner of the city near the Sarno Gate entrance. It measures 104 by 135 meters in width and length and was completed around 80 BC. Construction of this site was commissioned by two city magistrates M. Porcius and C. Quintus Valgus. The site was chosen since this part of the town had no structures and no older blocks had to be torn down to make way for a new construction. The arena was dug 6 metres (20 feet) below earth level and earthworks supported the thousands of seats for spectators. After Pompeii was struck by an earthquake in 62 AD it was reconstruction using money of Caius Cuspius Panse and his son Caius Cuspius Panse. Their statues once stood here.


The amphitheater of Pompeii had huge staircases for citizens to enter in such a way that people entered through the doors at the top of the auditorium. Two entrances to the amphitheater from the ground level led directly from the streets of the city of Pompeii. Through them, the gladiators entered the arena right from the street. There was also one narrow door in the middle of the oval arena. Corpses of dead gladiators or executed criminals were apparently taken out through them. Pompeii arena, unlike other late Roman amphitheaters, had no underground quarters.


The outer walls of the Amphitheater of Pompeii were covered with posters and graffiti praising the gladiators and recording the outcome of the battles. So the Thracian gladiator Celadus was described as a “hero” and “girls' favorite”. The area around the amphitheater turned into an area of taverns and snack bars for spectators. Signs painted on the walls of the arena, denoting leased spaces indicate that temporary booths that were installed outside the walls of the arena. They sold souvenirs, food and drinks.


Pompeii Amphitheater is one of the first such permanent structures within borders of the Roman Empire and one of the best preserved arenas from a time period. It was a centerpiece of public life. All social levels of Pompeii citizens came here to view bloody sport of gladiator battles. Occasionally it witnessed sacrifices of criminals and all those who somehow broke the law of the land. The external wall is largely gone, by the internal part of the arena is well preserved. Unlike other amphitheatre it largely escaped looting by the locals who often used ancient structures for quarrying stone.


Places for spectators (cavea) were divided into three levels. The first level (ima cavea) was closest to the arena. These first 5 rows were intended for the most distinguished spectators. Here they got through the tunnel from the lower floor. The second level of the rows (media cavea) consisted of 12 rows. They also walked along the corridors from a low level, but after the stairs they were divided and went to the necessary levels of the amphitheater. And the last rows (summa cavea) occupied the last 18 rows. This part of the amphitheater had its own separate staircase, and since the reign of Emperor Augustus, these seats were intended for women.


Pompeii arena however was not the only place for fights. Gladiator sport was very competitive in the Ancient Rome as much as basketball or soccer today. Often fans and supporters of one gladiator school or gladiator would fight another in all out brawls. Just like modern soccer hooligans today. One of these fights were described by ancient Roman historian Tacitus in his greatest work "Annals".

Амфитеатра в Помпеях

About this time [AD 59] there was a serious fight between the inhabitants of two Roman settlements, Nuceria and Pompeii. It arose out of a trifling incident at a gladiatorial show....During an exchange of taunts—characteristic of these disorderly country towns—abuse led to stone-throwing, and then swords were drawn. The people of Pompeii, where the show was held, came off best. Many wounded and mutilated Nucerians were taken to the capital. Many bereavements, too, were suffered by parents and children. The emperor instructed the senate to investigate the affair. The senate passed it to the consuls. When they reported back, the senate debarred Pompeii from holding any similar gathering for ten years. Illegal associations in the town were dissolved; and the sponsor of the show and his fellow-instigators of the disorders were exiled.

Tacitus, Annals (XIV.17)


However, the moratorium was terminated only after 3 years. All the same, the amphitheater and the gladiator fights were a lucrative affair.

Реконструкция Амфитеатра в Помпеях


Types of Gladiators that fought in Pompeii


Andabatae were gladiators that were simple loin cloth on their bodies. They were protected by a helmet with no eye holes and a short sword.


Bestiarii (singular bestiarius) were men who fought against animals. Technically these were not gladiators since they didn't fight humans. Many of these type fighters were convicted criminals who were condemned to die (damnatio ad bestias or condemned to beasts). The probability of them being killed was incredibly high. Over time this type of combat became incredibly popular with Roman crowds and various different people from various paths of lives began to join its ranks.


The Dimachaeri (singular dimachaerus) were gladiators that fought with two short swords. The term was derived from Greek and literally meant "dual knife". Their defenses ranged from minimal to heavy armor, which included scale armor, mail shirt, helmets and other types of armor. They became particular popular in the late Roman period between 2nd and 4th century AD.


Equites were gladiators that usually fought against other riders. They wore some body armor and tried to kill the enemy with a traditional gladiator sword (gladius) or a spear.


Essedarii were a type of gladiators that rode Celtic chariots into their battles. It is hard to say when they first appeared on a floors of Ancient Roman arenas including that in Pompeii, but it is possible that it marked conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC.


Hoplomachi were hoplite style gladiators. They were special types of helmets with a stylized griffin on the crest. They defended their bodies with round shields and fought with long spears. They were often paired with Thracians and Murmilliones.


Thracians was a nation from the modern day South Bulgaria. They carried a broad rimmed helmet, square shaped shield (parmula 60*65 cm), curved Thracian sword (known as sica) and armoured greaves. They often faced against hoplomachi and murmillones. They were trained to reach exposed back of their enemies and blow wounds to unsuspecting enemies.


Murmillones fought with a short gladiator sword (gladius) and a large Gallic shield. Their helmets had a stylized fish on the crest (the mormylos or sea fish). They often fought against Hoplomachi, Thracians and Retiarii.


These were Roman version of a gladiator clown. They usually participated in the beginning of the show or during intermission. They wore protection that was similar to other gladiators, but instead of real weapons they staged mock fights with wooden weapons.


Provocatores wore helmets without their crests. They were protected by a breastplate, a greave on the left leg, linen or leather around their arms and possibly a rectangular shield. They wore swords and staged mock fights with other Provocatores for the entertainment of crowds.


Retiarii were one of the most exotic and well distinguished types of Roman gladiators. They were a distinct trident, fish net and a dagger to kill the enemy. Occasionally they wore a small shield (known as galerus). Otherwise they were completely defenseless. They usually were paired with Murmillones and Secutores.


Samnites were historic enemies of the Roman Republic from the earlier centuries of conquest of the Apennine Peninsula. They were well protected with a heavy helmet, short sword and a rectangular shield. They lost much of their popularity during the Imperial Roman period.


Secutor or plural Secutores carried a helmet with two small eye holes for face protection, short gladiator sword and a shield into their fights. They were called Secutor or Followers in Latin. They usually faced the Retiarii.


Laquerii were lightly armoured gladiators that were rope/  noose that made a lasso.