Santa Maria Capua Vetere

An amazing ancient Roman amphitheater in the Campanian countryside

l"anfiteatro romano di Capua
The ancient Roman amphitheater at Santa Maria Capua Vetere. (Photo by Stanley-goodspeed)
There are actually two ancient Roman sights here: the amphitheater and a nearby Mithraic temple.

The amphitheater

At the edge of this little town in the Campanian interior lie the hulking remains of the largest amphitheater in Italy after Rome's Colosseum. Though much of its 560- by 460-foot bulk has been pillaged for building materials over the centuries, the carcass that remains of this grand sports arena, in what was once southern Italy's richest city, is impressive.

Under the floor of the ancient Roman amphitheatre at Santa Maria Capua Vetere.
Under the floor of the ancient Roman amphitheatre at Santa Maria Capua Vetere. (Photo by Dom De Felice & Carla Nunziata)
Capua dates back to the Oscans (who peopled this region before even the Etruscans), and though it put itself under Roman rule in 343 BC, it was always a little rebellious. Capua even gave safe harbor to Rome's great enemy Hannibal in the 3rd century BC.

You can still wander the vaults under the grassy floor of the amphitheater where in 73 BC a gladiator named Spartacus began his slave revolt against Rome (no, not Russell Crowe; Kirk Douglas).

Some finely carved fragments of statuary and friezes lie scattered about the entrance to the site.

The site is open daily 9am to 6pm (4pm in winter).

The Mithraeum

Ask at the amphitheater's ticket office for someone to accompany you to the Mithraeum, an underground temple to the cult of Mithras, a Persian god very popular among the lower Roman classes and military men from the AD 1st to 3rd centuries.

This sanctuary preserves a relief and some remarkable frescoes of the god sacrificing a bull (blood was important to the Mithraic cult; scholars think that the troughs along the walls of this structure were used by worshippers to wash in fresh blood).  

Tips & links

Details

Santa Maria Capua Vetere
tel. +39-0823-798-864 or 0832-170-1762
www.comune.santa-maria-capua-vetere.ce.it

Open Tues–Sun 9am–one hour beofre sunset
Adm

Planning your day

See this as part of a day trip along with the Caserta. Together, they'll take a half a day.

How to get to Capua

From Naples you can take a Rome-bound train 8 times daily (2 on Sunday) that stops at Santa Maria Capua Vetere (50 min.). A bus also runs from Caserta to Santa Maria Capua Vetere (15-20 min.).

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Details

Campania tourism information:
www.incampania.com


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