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Capua is a city in the near by Caserta, The city is often mistaken for Santa Maria Capua Vetere which is the actual old city of Capua, site of the Amphitheatre. The commune of Capua was founded after the old city of Capua (today, Santa Maria Capua Vetere) was destroyed by the Saracens in 841 AD.

Ancient Capua

The name of Capua comes from the Etruscan Capue. The meaning remains unknown. Its foundation is attributed by Cato the Elder to the Etruscans, and the date given as about 260 years before it was "taken" by Rome. If this is true it refers not to its capture in the second Punic War (211 BC) but to its submission to Rome in 338 BC, placing the date of foundation at about 600 BC, while Etruscan power was at its highest. In the area several settlements of the Villanovian civilization were present in pre-historical times, and these were probably enlarged by the Oscans and subsequently by the Etruscans.

In the second Samnite War with Rome, Capua proved an untrustworthy Roman ally, so that after the defeat of the Samnites, the Ager Falerus on the right bank of the Volturnus was confiscated. In 318 BC the powers of the native officials (meddices) were limited by the appointment of officials with the title praefecti Capuam Cumas (taking their name from the most important towns of Campania); these were at first mere deputies of the praetor urbanus, but after 123 BC were elected Roman magistrates, four in number; they governed the whole of Campania until the time of Augustus, when they were abolished. It was the capital of Campania Felix.

In 312 BC, Capua was connected with Rome by the construction of the Via Appia, the most important of the military highways of Italy. The gate by which it left the Servian walls of Rome bore the name Porta Capena -- perhaps the only case in which a gate in this enceinte bears the name of the place to which it led. At what time the Via Latina was stretched to Casilinum is doubtful (it is quite possible that it was done when Capua fell under Roman supremacy, i.e. before the construction of the Via Appia); it afforded a route only 10 km (6 mi) longer, and the difficulties with its construction were much less; it also avoided the troublesome journey through the Pontine Marshes.

Its luxury remained proverbial; and Campania is especially spoken of as the home of gladiatorial combats. From the gladiatorial schools of Campania came Spartacus and his followers in 73 BC. Julius Caesar as consul in 59 BC succeeded in carrying out the establishment of a Roman colony under the name Julia Felix in connection with his agrarian law, and 20,000 Roman citizens were settled in this territory.

The number of colonists was increased by Mark Anthony, Augustus (who constructed an aqueduct from the Mons Tifata and gave the town of Capua estates in the district of Cnossus in Crete valued at 12 million sesterces) and Nero.

In the war of 69 it took the side of Vitellius. Under the later empire it is not often mentioned; but in the 4th century it was the seat of the consularis Campaniae and its chief town, though Ausonius puts it behind Mediolanum (Milan) and Aquileia in his ordo nobilium urbium.

Amphitheatre

Outside the town, in S. Maria Capua Vetere, there is the amphitheatre, built in the time of Augustus, restored by Hadrian and dedicated by Antoninus Pius, as the inscription over the main entrance recorded. The exterior was formed by 80 Doric arcades of four storeys each, but only two arches now remain. The keystones were adorned with heads of divinities.

The interior is better preserved; beneath the arena are subterranean passages like those in the amphitheatre at Puteoli. It is one of the largest in existence; the longer diameter is 170 m (185 yd), the shorter 140 m (152 yd), and the arena measures 75 by 45 m (83 by 49 yd), the corresponding dimensions in the Colosseum at Rome being 188, 155, 85, 53 m (205, 170, 93 and 58 yd).

To the east are considerable remains of baths — a large octagonal building, an apse against which the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is built, and several heaps of debris. On the Via Appia, to the south-east of the east gate of the town, arc two large and well-preserved tombs of the Roman period, known as le Carceri vecchie and la Conocchia.

To the east of the amphitheatre an ancient road, the Via Dianae, leads north to the Pagus Dianae, on the west slopes of the Mons Tifata, a community which sprang up round the famous and ancient temple of Diana, and probably received an independent organization after the abolition of that of Capua in 211 BC. The place often served as a base for attacks on the latter, and Sulla, after his defeat of Gaius Norbanus, gave the whole of the mountain to the temple.

Within the territory of the pagus were several other temples with their magistri. After the restoration of the community of Capua, we find magistri of the temple of Diana still existing, but they were probably officials of Capua itself.

The site is occupied by the Benedictine church of San Michele Arcangelo in Sant'Angelo in Formis. It dates from 944, and was reconstructed by the abbot Desiderius (afterwards Pope Victor III) of Monte Cassino. It has interesting paintings, dating from the end of the 11th century to the middle of the 12th, in which five different styles may be distinguished. They form a complete representation of all the chief episodes of the New Testament. Deposits of votive objects (favissae), removed from the ancient temple from time to time as new ones came in and occupied all the available space, have been found, and considerable remains of buildings belonging to the Vicus Dianae (among them a triumphal arch and some baths, also a hail with frescoes, representing the goddess herself ready for the chase) still exist.

The ancient road from Capua went on beyond the Vicus Dianae to the Volturnus (remains of the bridge still exist) and then turned east along the river valley to Caiatia and Telesis. Other roads ran to Puteoli and Cumae (the so-called Via Campana) and to Neapolis, and as we have seen the Via Appia passed through Capua, which was thus the most important road centre of Campania.

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