The Flavian Amphitheater located in Pozzuoli is the third biggest structure
of its kind after the one in Capuano and, of course, Rome’s famous Colosseum. Built
in the 1st century AD, it could seat an audience of up to 40,000 people. Some
historians claim Emperor Vespasian started it and Titus completed it, while others believe Nero
oversaw the entire construction process.
The amphitheater originally had three overlaying levels, four major entrances and 12 secondary ones. It was the center of urban life, and home to a number of professional associations, of which various inscriptions are a clear trace. The underground level was seven meters below the surface; to this day, the remains of the mechanisms that brought the elaborate sets and fierce wild animals to the arena are visible.
The Flavian Amphitheater, indeed, was one of the places of Christian martyrdom. One of the most famous anecdotes that have been passed down over the centuries regards Saint Januarius, now patron saint of Naples – where he is known as San Gennaro. Led into the arena after being sentenced to death, the holy man was brought to the wild beasts – but they refused to attack him and, instead, crouched at his feet. A church was built in 1689 to commemorate the event, but unfortunately it was destroyed in the 14th century, leaving only a small chapel. The miraculous episode is also the focus of a beautiful painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, now in the Cathedral of Pozzuoli.
Corso Nicola Terracciano, 75