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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC


1st c. AD

Almost there! One of our final stops is Pompeii's amphitheatre.

It is one of the oldest amphitheatre known in the Roman world.

It could seat 20,000 people and would attract crowds from Pompeii and neighbouring cities.

Its layout is considered "near optimal" by experts today.

It was a gift by two wealthy Pompeiians to the city.

Gladiators would become true rockstars in Roman society.

Graffiti across town show their popularity :

"Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls"

"May he who vandalises this picture (of two gladiators) incur the wrath of Pompeian Venus"

There were also adverts throughout town promoting the games :

"D.L.S.V, perpetual priest of Nero... offers 20 pairs of gladiators and... his son offers 10 pairs of gladiators, on 28 March. There will be a hunt and awnings."

Gigantic awnings would be drawn to protect the audience from the sun.

You can still see the large rings that secured the masts today.

Roman games were extremely violent.

It was extremely unlikely for a gladiator to survive more than 10 combats.

Games could see up to 40 gladiators fight over several days.

Can you see the two corridors leading out from the pit? One was where the fighters would come in, the other was where they would be dragged out by hooks if they died.

At the height of the Roman empire, 400 amphitheatres were responsible for 8,000 gladiator deaths a year - either slaves, captured soldiers or paid volunteers.

For the inauguration of the Colosseum alone, 9,000 animals were killed.

The audience could be rowdy too.

In 59 BC, a massive fight broke out between Pompeiian and Nucerian supporters, with many casualties.

This led to the Roman senate imposing a 10-year ban on gladiator combats.

Graffiti around Pompeii commemorate the event - and boast of Pompeii's victory!