By Dr Joanne Berry
Last updated 2011-02-17
The amphitheatre at Pompeii is the earliest known permanent stone amphitheatre in Italy (and the rest of the Roman world). It was constructed after 70 BC, and belongs to the period of the Roman conquest and colonisation of the town.
An inscription tells us that two local officials, Quinctius Valgus and Marcius Porcius built the amphitheatre at private expense. These men would have expected this act to enhance their personal power and prestige, and we know from graffiti found throughout the town that gladiatorial games were extremely popular.
The amphitheatre could seat around 20,000 people, and served not only Pompeii but also the inhabitants of surrounding towns. In AD 59, there was a riot in the amphitheatre, in which spectators from Pompeii and the nearby town of Nuceria fought each other, with the result that the Emperor Nero banned games at Pompeii for a period of ten years.
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