Amphitheatre of Pompeii

Coordinates: 40°45′05″N 14°29′42″E / 40.751264°N 14.494970°E / 40.751264; 14.494970 (Pompeii)
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Amphitheatre of Pompeii
LocationPompeii, Campania, Italy
Coordinates40°45′5″N 14°29′42″E / 40.75139°N 14.49500°E / 40.75139; 14.49500
Length135 metres (443 ft)
Width104 metres (341 ft)
Foundedc. 70 BC
Abandoned79 AD, Eruption of Vesuvius
Site notes
Excavation dates1748, 1813-16 [1]

The Amphitheatre of Pompeii is one of the oldest surviving Roman amphitheatres. It is located in the ancient city of Pompeii, near Naples, and was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, that also buried the city of Pompeii and the neighbouring town of Herculaneum. Six bodies were found during the excavations.[2]

Design and construction[edit]


Built around 70 BC, the amphitheatre is one of the earliest Roman amphitheatres built of stone; previously, they had been built out of wood.[3]

Contemporarily, it was known as a spectacula rather than an amphitheatrum, since the latter term was not yet in use at the time. It was built with the private funds of Gaius Quinctius Valgus and Marcus Porcius (a relative of Julius Caesar's rival). The space was constructed shortly after Pompeii's induction as a Roman colony, and an inscription on the amphitheatre honoring the donors, Gaius Quinctius Valgus and Marcus Porcius, cites one of their motives, being, "to demonstrate the honour of the colony," perhaps indicating the amphitheatre's role in establishing Roman influence in Pompeii.[4]

The design is seen by some modern crowd control specialists as near-optimal. The design of the lower entrances for higher-class citizens, who would have been seated closest to the pit, have been noted for their facility in curating unique viewership experiences—viewers would be struck by both the beams of light flooding the dark tunnel and the roar of the crowd as they entered the amphitheatre, creating a highly stimulating and dramatic experience.[5]

Its washroom, located in the neighbouring palaestra has also been cited as an inspiration for better bathroom design in modern stadiums.[citation needed]

The amphitheatre measures 135m long and 104m wide. The arena (pit) is measured to be 6m below ground level. and measures 66.7m long and 35.1m wide.[6] The only internal features of the amphitheatre at Pompeii were a corridor that cut into the base of cavea, the tiered semicircular seating space. This corridor ran the circumference of the amphitheatre and is used to access the arena.[7]

Fresco depicting the riot between the Nucerians and the Pompeians around the Amphitheatre of Pompeii, National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Gladiatorial contests[edit]

The preservation of Pompeii and its amphitheatre have given insights into the gladiatorial culture of Rome. Painted posters on the walls of the amphitheatre have been uncovered depicting gladiators accompanied by slogans and nicknames, evoking shades of the modern posters, billboards, and banners depicting today's sports stars and celebrities. For example, one poster declares a gladiator to be the "Heart throb of the girls."[4] One of the most notable events in the amphitheatre's history occurred around 59 AD, when a deadly brawl occurred between Pompeiians and residents of Nuceria during games in the amphitheatre, resulting in a 10-year ban on such events.[8]


The amphitheater was damaged by an earthquake in 62 AD. The magistrate Cuspius Pansa and his son undertook its restoration.[9]

Modern uses[edit]

The amphitheatre and the riot was portrayed in the Cambridge Latin Course in unit 1.

Aside from being a historical landmark and an object of archaeological study, the amphitheatre has been used for concerts and other public events in modern times. Over a 4-day period in October 1971, Pink Floyd made a concert film at the amphitheatre, titled Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii. David Gilmour, the band's guitarist, returned to perform two concerts at the amphitheatre in July 2016 as part of his Rattle That Lock Tour. Gilmour's 2016 concerts saw the first public performances in the amphitheatre since 79 AD[10] and are featured on the live album/video Live at Pompeii.

In 2015 a temporary museum was installed in the centre of the amphitheater. The pyramidal structure was designed to resemble Mount Vesuvius, and housed the installation "Pompeii and Europe from 1748 to 1943", which displayed casts of 20 victims of the eruption and photographs of the excavations.

In 2018, the venue hosted a live performance to an audience by progressive rock group King Crimson.

In 2023 the Venue was used as a filming location for rapper Travis Scott’s visual album Circus Maximus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Overbeck 1884, p. 178.
  2. ^ Impact of the AD 79 explosive eruption on Pompeii, II. Causes of death of the inhabitants inferred by stratigraphic analysis and areal distribution of the human casualties Giuseppe Luongoa et al., Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 126 (2003) p192 doi:10.1016/S0377-0273(03)00147-1
  3. ^ "Architecture at Pompeii". Archived from the original on 2021-04-29. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
  4. ^ a b Wilkinson, Paul (2017). Pompeii. An archaeological guide. London. ISBN 978-1-78672-269-0. OCLC 1012400454.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ Haug, Annette (2020), "Emotion and the city: The example of Pompeii", Urban Space and Urban History in the Roman World, Routledge, doi:10.4324/9780367809331-4, ISBN 978-0-367-80933-1, S2CID 219743688, retrieved 2022-04-21
  6. ^ Benario, Herbert W. (1981). "Amphitheatres of the Roman World". The Classical Journal. 76 (3): 255–258. ISSN 0009-8353. JSTOR 3297328.
  7. ^ "Pompeii's Amphiteatre".
  8. ^ Tacitus, Publius Cornelius. "Annals 14.17".
  9. ^ Jacobelli 2003, p. 56.
  10. ^ Barton, Laura (2016-07-10). "David Gilmour review – Pompeii rocks again". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2017-11-28.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

40°45′05″N 14°29′42″E / 40.751264°N 14.494970°E / 40.751264; 14.494970 (Pompeii)