The amphitheatre at Pompeii (Photo © Mary Ann Sullivan, see below) was the first Roman stone amphitheatre, built around 80 BC according to the OCD, probably soon after Sulla imposed a colonia on the ancient city. It was called spectacula by its builders. It seated around 20,000 people. It was closed by the Senate in AD 59 after a riot.
Tacitus, in Annals 14.17 reports:
[14.17] About the same time a trifling beginning led to frightful bloodshed between the inhabitants of Nuceria and Pompeii, at a gladiatorial show exhibited by Livineius Regulus, who had been, as I have related, expelled from the Senate. With the unruly spirit of townsfolk, they began with abusive language of each other; then they took up stones and at last weapons, the advantage resting with the populace of Pompeii, where the show was being exhibited.
And so there were brought to Rome a number of the people of Nuceria, with their bodies mutilated by wounds, and many lamented the deaths of children or of parents. The emperor entrusted the trial of the case to the Senate, and the Senate to the consuls, and then again the matter being referred back to the Senators, the inhabitants of Pompeii were forbidden to have any such public gathering for ten years, and all associations they had formed in defiance of the laws were dissolved. Livineius and the others who had excited the disturbance, were punished with exile.
The theatre was destroyed during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, but seems to have been reopened in some form thereafter.
Jim Duffy, with whom we will chat tomorrow about his book Sand of the Arena: A Gladiators of the Empire Novel, sent me an image of ancient Pompeii, and for good measure a family snapshot in front of the Colosseum in Rome. Click on the images to enlarge.
Photos © James Duffy
Amphitheatrum (Smith Dictionary of Roman and Greek Antiquities)