The Amphitheater of Capua: the first gladiator school

Santa Maria Capua Vetere, simply known as Capua in Antiquity, was one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire. Indeed, Cicero called it Alter Roma (the “other Rome”) and in the 1st century BC Emperor Augustus had an amphitheater built here to celebrate a center so great it rivaled Carthage and o Corinth.

The Amphitheater of Capua, or Amphitheater Campano, could hold an audience of up to 40,000 people, and was the second biggest arena after the Colosseum. It was where the first gladiator school was founded by Gaius Aurelius Scaurus in 105 BC, to prepare the fighters Rome used to train the men in its legion. This is where Spartacus made a name for himself, before famously taking part in the Third Servile War where slaves rebelled against the Roman Republic. In his “De Vitae Caesarum”, Suetonius noted, “There was a famous gladiator school in Capua, made up exclusively of slaves of great strength and stature, who were trained to give life to violent shows where only the winners had a chance at survival”.
The Amphitheater of Capua shaped the great gladiators known as “Iuliani” (and later “Neroniani”), who belonged to the gladiator family founded by Gaius Julius Caesar in 49 BC.

After Rome fell, the amphitheater was pillaged and, in the 9th century, turned into a quarry of marble and other construction material: it was not until the 1800s that the site was seen for its historical value. Freed from the earth that covered it in the early decades of the 20th century, the Amphitheater of Capua is now open to visitors as one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Campania, showing much of its original splendor.

Amphitheater of Capua
Piazza I Ottobre, 36
Santa Maria Capua Vetere (CE)

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The Amphitheater of Capua: the first gladiator school

Santa Maria Capua Vetere
Piazza I Ottobre, 36


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