The Flavian Amphitheater is the third largest Roman amphitheater in Italy. Only the Roman Colosseum and the Capuan Amphitheaters are larger. It was likely built by the same architects who previously constructed the Roman Colosseum.
It was begun under the reign of the emperor Vespasian and probably finished under the reign of his son Titus. The arena can hold up to 50,000 spectators. The interior is mostly intact and one can still see parts of gears which were used to lift cages up to the arena floor.
In 305, the arena was the setting for the persecutions of the patron of Pozzuoli, Saint Proculus, and the patron saint of Naples, Saint Januarius. After surviving being thrown to the wild beasts in the arena, the two were beheadedat the nearby Solfatara.
The elliptical structure measures 147 x 117 meters, with the arena floor measuring 72.22 x 42.33 meters.
The Flavian Amphitheater is the second of two Roman amphitheaters built in Pozzuoli. The smaller and older amphitheater (Anfiteatro minore) has been almost totally destroyed by the construction of the Rome to Naples railway line. Only a dozen arches of this earlier work still exist.
The site of the structure was chosen at the nearby crossing of roads from Naples, Capua and Cumae. It was abandoned when it was partially buried by eruptions from the Solfatara volcano. During the Middle Ages, the marble used on the exterior was stripped, but the interior was left alone and is perfectly preserved. Excavations of the site were performed 1839 to 1845, 1880 to 1882, and finally in 1947.
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.