Amphitheatre Flavi




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… The popular tradition linked the devoted resort of its martyrs (the bishop Gennaro, the deacons Procolo, Soss[i]o, Festo, as well as the laics Desiderio, Eutichete and Acuzio) to the Amphitheatre Flavius, since then called “Prison of St. Gennaro”, in memory of the Saint and his Companions. So it is told by all the historians of Pozzuoli.

… Romanelli, author of an excellent guide of the nineteenth-century, indicates that:

Turning right to another street, which was called Campana, it is possible to arrive at the Amphitheatre of Pozzuoli. Known with the name of Carceri (prisons) because here was put in jail St. Gennaro with his companions to be then exposed to the beasts. After few steps through a vineyard it can be seen a huge wall in lateritious work made of little bricks, of a more solid work.

The big pillars of the arches in all its external perimeter rest on huge pieces of volcanic stones, put the one on the other without lime, and without external decoration, like that building which Vitruvio called incertum. According to an ancient tradition, the bishop St. Gennaro and his companions were shut up in some rooms. Today this place is venerated for a chapel which was built  there. Except this piece, everything is ruin."

In Romanelli's witness still echoes harshly the remark of an abandon and of a dreariness, to which ignorance and barbarism reduced the famous Coliseum of Pozzuoli […]. It was a conviction of the scholars that not too far there were the ruins of the covered theatre and of the open one of the ancient Puteoli.

On the contrary, the modern archaeology has recognized in the most ancient ruins, near the railway bridge of the Solfatara, the witness of an amphitheatre of Augustan Age. …

The urban, commercial and demographic expansion of Puteoli makes narrow and impassable the old amphitheatre. It is needed a new one which can face the demand of more pastimes coming from the local population, but also from the many visitors, seamen and business men coming from abroad.

Pozzuoli: l'Anfiteatro Flavio dall'alto.

It was so that the major amphitheatre of Pozzuoli was born. An authentic jewel, which the skilful architects of Vespasian, the same of the  Coliseum of Roma, built in reticulated and lateritious work. Its pomp and its wideness seemed to put it immediately at the third place of an ideal classification, where the first place is occupied by the Coliseum and the second one by the Campano of Capua; but it is placed certainly before the famous amphitheatres of Verona and of Pompeii, of Fidene (collapsed during Tiberius' dominion for overloading of audience!) and of Tusculo, of Terni, of Sutri, of Cagliari and of Piacenza (burned for its structures of precious wood ). It has nothing to envy to the arenas of Arles, Lyon and of Carthago.

It is 147 x 117.44 metres with an arena of 72.22 x 42.33 metres.

The Flavi of Pozzuoli was inaugurated by Tito, shortly after that this emperor inaugurated the Coliseum. …

An elliptic portico rested on a pit of travertine, one step lifted from the road level, surrounding the building. From this portico it was possible to accede to the various entrances of the amphitheatre. There were four principal and twelve secondary entrances which allowed a swift flux and reflux of the audience.

Three were the orders of seats. From the external portico they started twenty flight of steps which took to the higher order (the third one) of the staircase.  It was possible to reach directly the vomitoria or the gallery of the upper floor, to pass then to the vomitoria.

Also the second and the first order were reachable from the external portico, arriving at the intermediate ambulatory through comfortable stairs. To the second seat it was possible to arrive through stairs starting from the intermediate barrel-vaults of the four main entrances. A more inner passage runs under the podium; it was destined for the services, with various openings on the arena.  In the arcades under the cavea beyond the hemicycle, which was reserved to the imperial cult and to the patron divinities of the games, there were also sacella and seats of corporations: for instance, the one of the scabillari and that of the naviculari, the powerful centre of the maritime operators.

It is remarkable also the engraving dedicated to Caio Stonicio Trofimiano, certainly a bigwig of the society of Pozzuoli in that period. On the top of the third order it ran a long line of white columns of decorated marble. The loggia of the attic, embellished with statues and other elements of marble, was demolished in the Middle Ages and its pieces were burnt in the furnaces in order to obtain lime for the constructors of that age. The ashes of the eruption of 1158, as well as the continuous flow of alluvial materials, allowed the preservation of the architectonic elements of the underground passages, so we can have a clear interpretation about the way that the shows worked, especially the venationes (hunting with wild beasts).

Few days before the games, the beasts were transported and kept in the underground passages together with all the necessary mobile equipments needed to lift the beasts shut up in the cages at the level of the openings, which brought them into the arena through special machines and hoists illustrated by Dubois in his work.

The arena of the Amphitheatre Flavi
Picture by Carmine Giaccio

The plan of the amphitheatre was very simple: two long rectilinear corridors ran below the major and minor axes, which intersected in the middle; moreover, an ambulatory ran along the wall of the arena.  The arena, made of four sections, was divided into communicating rooms.

The big rectangular ditch in the middle (43 metres) was used for the preparation of giant settings, during the commemorative demonstrations, of politic or military events which had to be solemnized with parades, sudden projections on platforms, apparitions of group of gladiators, chorus with costumes brought on the surface with elevators disguised with paper-pulp, painted with floral or martial motifs.

These masterpieces of technique and fantasy provoked wonder and enthusiasm: Pozzuoli had surely a particular skill in this field of the show, also for its traditions as Greek city, like Naples.

On the contrary, the Amphitheatre Flavi was never used, and it could have never been used, for the" naumachie" (naval battles), despite the different opinion of Dubois. Amedeo Maiuri discouraged Dubois' thesis putting forward precise technical argumentations, according to which the structures of the arena were unsuitable for the naval representations.

Besides the limpid confutation of the great Maiuri, from the literary sources we know that the naval battles in the Phlegraean Fields had already an equipped seat for their representation in the Portus Julius (between the lakes Lucrino and Averno). …

Fountains (like the one outside, built on a rectangular plan with semicircular  apse), a system of conduits and pools were used for the necessities of men and beasts, for the draining of the waters and for the cleaning of the rooms.

… The Amphitheatre Flavi was built by order of Vespasian, who began the dynasty of the Flavi, after the victory over Vitellius at the end of the civil war, when Puteoli and the naval army of Miseno decided to side with the winner.

The one and the other were rewarded by the emergent imperial dynasty. In Pozzuoli Vespasian wanted an amphitheatre to be built, which though less wide, had to be as much  marvellous as the Coliseum. Vaunt of the Flavi colony of Puteoli, he ordered to write at every entrance – major and minor  – :



as we can read in the great inscription and in the marble fragments of other similar (minor) ones.

The audience, especially the people coming from abroad, had to know that the money used to build the monumental building had been disbursed by the inhabitants of Puteoli and withdrawn from the funds of the town authorities.

Gianni RACE "Baia Pozzuoli Miseno: L’IMPERO SOMMERSO"

Information for the visitor

The Amphitheatre Flavi: ADDRESS: via Terracciano, 75 - 80078 Pozzuoli - NAPOLI


Open everyday from 9.00 am to one hour before sunset.

Telephone and fax: 0815266007.


Free entrance for visitors aged from 0 to 18 and over 65 (valid only for European citizens and for the ones of nationalities which agree to the reciprocity).

Entrance allowed to domestic animals, provided that they are safe for the security of the personnel, of the other visitors and of the archaeological structures in general (use of muzzle and leash).

The guide service is available only on application. Click on GUIDE to book a guided visit or to ask for information about the conducted tour.

It is forbidden to use photographic and cinematographic sets without having asked and obtained the authorization, also in case of amatory or tourist shots for which it is not provided fee payment.

Visitors are invited to assume a respectful behaviour towards the environment. Trespassers will be prosecuted under the laws in force.

It may be dangerous to venture on not authorized routes.

How to reach the Amphitheatre Flavi

Road network:

from Naples (highways)

Enter the Tangenziale of Naples direction Pozzuoli. Exit n. 12 Pozzuoli - Via Campana. Arrived at the cross road with roundabout, turn right entering via Campana direction Pozzuoli. Pass the cross road of Via Capomazza going on straight in direction Napoli. Covering via Domiziana, after about 1 Km. you arrive at the entrance of the Amphitheatre Flavi.

from Naples (downtown - main station of piazza Garibaldi)

Direction Porto - Piazza Municipio. Continue for Mergellina and Fuorigrotta. Here it is possible to enter the Tangenziale direction Pozzuoli, or to go on for via Domiziana as far as arriving in proximity to the centre of Pozzuoli where it is situated the entrance of the Amphitheatre Flavi.

from Rome to Naples - via Domiziana 

Continue for Baia Domizia, Mondragone, Castel Volturno. Then cover the freeway SS. n 7 Quater which takes on the Tangenziale of Naples (Exit Pozzuoli - Arco Felice), or cover via Domiziana (SS. n 7 Quater). Follow indications for Napoli, Pozzuoli as far as arriving at the cross road of piazza Capomazza. Pass the cross road going on straight in direction Napoli. Covering via Domiziana, after about 1 Km. you arrive at the entrance of the Amphitheatre Flavi.