The amphitheater of Pozzuoli, better known as the Flavian Amphitheater, is the third largest in Italy, immediately after that of Rome and Capua. Dating back to the second half of the 1st century. A.D., it is called Flavius because it is deduced that it was built under the emperor Vespasian (70 - 79 A.D.). According to others, however, it was only completed in the Flavian age, but its construction is believed to have begun and partly completed by Nero (54 - 68 AD), probably also in relation to the fact that Puteoli was a Neronian colony in 60 AD.
The undergrounds of the amphitheater are the best preserved in Italy, with their fascinating play of light and shadow. Of great interest are the still visible parts of the gears used to lift the cages that transported the beasts to the arena. On the other hand, in a vast pit there are what appear to be other elements of the scenography of the shows, which were raised to act as a backdrop to the gladiator fights or the bloody hunting of animals.
The basements also housed a complex water channeling system with a central sewer, and a series of skylights placed on the vaults that ensured the lighting.
The arena is the fulcrum of the amphitheater, the place where the shows took place: games with animals, followed by the executions of criminals, gladiator fights or the re-enactment of famous battles. The stands, or cavea, could hold up to a maximum of 40,000 spectators. In the upper area there must have been a portico with columns, now partly preserved in the basement, adorned with a series of statues almost all lost over the centuries.
The famous legend of the martyrdom of San Gennaro is linked to the arena of the amphitheater: imprisoned and sentenced to death in 305 AD, it is said that on 19 September he was taken with his companions to the arena where the beasts were released , probably bears. The latter, however, stopped in the presence of the martyrs, leaving them miraculously unharmed. Less lenient was the judge, who ordered his immediate beheading which took place near the Solfatara, not far from the amphitheater.
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