Ancient Capua was founded by the Etruscans around 800 BC the site corresponding to the current S. Maria Capua Vetere, near Caserta, but an intense and continuous occupation of the area since prehistoric times, and also in the Bronze Age and Iron Age is attested by the remains of huts and the tomb of his necropolis. The city could not escape the Samnites in the V century BC and then to the control of Rome. By the Roman period remains Old Amphitheatre Campano, the first amphitheater of the Roman world, second in size only to the Colosseum in Rome, much like the architectural point of view so much as to suppose that it was used directly as template for the construction of this. During excavations in September 1726, on the southern gate of the amphitheater, was found an inscription, integrated by the archaeologist Alexei Symmachus Mazzocchi, bearing the following inscription:
“COLONIA JULIA FELIX AUG AUGUSTA CAPUA FECIT DIVUS Hadrianus RESTITUIT imagines ET Columnas ADDI CURAVIT IMP CAES T Aelius Antoninus Hadrianus PIUS AUG DEDICAVIT” or “The Colony Augusta Capua did, the divine Hadrian Augustus restored and cared for adding the statues and columns , the emperor Caesar Augustus T. Elio Adriano Pius devoted himself”.
The inscription was on display under the arch of the Church of St Eligius in Capua, while today it is preserved at the Museo Campano in Capua. With this inscription was possible to reconstruct the history of the amphitheater. Believed to have been built by a colony conquered by Augustus after the battle of Anzio, around the I century BC (According to some historians, was built between the first and second century AD on the ruins of an amphitheater above and in this case then what would be the oldest amphitheater in Pompeii.) Was restored by Emperor Hadrian in 119 AD and the Emperor Antonino Pio inaugurated it in 155 AD.
The structure is elliptical. The major axis measuring 170 meters while the minor axis was 139 meters, the total height was 46 meters, with four levels, all of the Tuscan order, the keystones of the eighty arches of the three lower floors were decorated with busts of gods. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the amphitheater was destroyed by the Vandals of Genserico and by the Saracens, as the city during the war of succession of the Duchy of Benevento dell’841. It was used as a fortress by the regents of the Lombards and by the late ninth century, was extensively plundered to create the castle. The operation was barren wilderness: the large boulders were destroyed to remove the bronze and lead in uniting them and used the smaller stones to pave the road.
Capua was the birthplace of the revolt of the gladiators, belonging to the famous School of Gladiators present in this place headed by Spartacus, born as a result of inhumane conditions to which they were subjected the gladiators. The battle ended with the complete defeat of the rebels: Spartacus met his death on the field and 6,000 prisoners were made to crucify by Crassus along the Appian Way, a road built by the censor Appius Claudius in 312 BC to connect Rome with Capua.
Museum of Gladiators
Next to the amphitheater there is the Museum of the Gladiators. In the first room there are three of the keystones that decorated the outside of the amphitheater: a male head with Phrygian cap identified with Mithras or Attis, a woman’s head with a diadem, identified as Juno, a head of Minerva with helmet and attic the cast of the bust of the Volturno, whose original is in the Museo Campano. At the center of the room is a plastic reproduction of the current state of the building and its original appearance. In the showcases there is a wide selection of ceramic fragments found in the area of the amphitheater and sculptures such as shelves, parts of the marble balustrades which adorned the auditorium, the heads of Hercules, Athena with Corinthian helmet, of Apollo and a goddess, maybe Diana belonged to the statues adorning the arches of the upper floors. There are also casts of gladiatorial weapons discovered at Pompeii, two helmets, a pair of shin guards and a shoulder strap. The diorama placed between the showcases is a combat between gladiators and wild beasts: the retiarius are recognizable, with net and trident, secutor with helmet and short sword, with the trace griffin on the helmet and the curved sword (sica) and that Venator facing a lion. The second room has completely rebuilt the decoration of one of the vomitoria, access to the auditorium, located on the bottom is embossed with the procession of magistrates and lictors, depicted in the act of entering into an amphitheater to fill their places.
Among the topics represented stand out scenes of sacrifice, a depiction of the amphitheater under construction and mythological scenes: the labors of Hercules, two fragments with the Dioscuri, the punishment of Prometheus, the punishment of Marsyas, Mars and Rhea Silvia, a fragment with Maenads and a dancing with Apollo, whose characteristics indicate that the period of execution of the sculptures the age of Adriano.
The cult of Mithras has Eastern origins, and specifically of Persian origin, was almost certainly brought to Rome by the prisoners of war and then to be gladiators.
The Mithraeum of ancient Capua was built between the II and III centuries. A.D. Has a cycle of frescoes of exquisite workmanship and a rectangular room of about m underground. 12 long and 3 wide, vaulted with skylights letting in the light originating from outside, 6-pointed stars painted green and reddish, with a pavement in earthenware. With small tanks and wells for ablution, on which sat the initiated to the cult ceremonies were also supported and where food and oil lamps. The back wall is decorated with a fresco, representing the god Mithras slaying the bull, a young Mitra, dressed in oriental costume, red and richly decorated, around six figures representing the sun, the moon, the ocean, land and two archers ministers of God ( Cautes and Cautopates). It can be said that these paintings represent the only complete cycle of the Mithraic cult .
The Mithraeum was uncovered in 1922 during the course of an excavation for the construction of a building in an alley off of Peter Morelli, then located in the vicinity of the Capitol, the main bore of the metropolis Capuana.
The presence of this shrine is to assume that the cult of Mithras had many followers in Capua, as surely linked to the presence of the gladiators in the area, from whose movements are supposed fact that the cult came into Italy.
In the middle is the god Mithras slaying the bull, the animal depicted in near rump, which in turn is represented in white and with a grimace of pain and legs bent; side there are the torchbearers with Phrygian dress, armed with bow and arrows. Furthermore, the lower you are the representations of the Ocean, from bearded head, and Earth, with greenish hair which symbolize the vegetation, respectively on the left and one on the right, while high in the sky are representatives left the Sun with a red cape with a crown of rays from a beam directed toward what part the god Mithras, but we left the Moon with long hair and a scythe.
An amazing archaeological tour in one of the largest roman cities; the city where rebellious Spartacus started the gladiators riot against the Empire.
Tour Price: 120€
Tour type: Archaeology and History tour; Private tour; Walking tour.
Duration: 2 hours
Maximum travelers: 12 (a small group garantee a better quality service) Tours for larger groups can be arranged on demand.
Main visited places: the Roman Amphitheater of Spartacus, The Gladiators Museum of the ancient Capua and the Temple dedicated to Mitra of Santa Maria Capua Vetere.
What’s not included: Entrance ticket (2,50€); Trasportation (If it can be arranged with Mercedes Limousine, Mini Van or Bus, , Hotel pick-up or drop-off)
Kid Friendly: Yes
I can arrange an itinerary for wheel chairs and your needs.
tel: +39 3284134719