Roman amphitheatre of Catania
Roman Amphitheatre of Catania
In the beating heart of the historic centre, Piazza Stesicoro, the splendours of Roman Catania re-emerge through the amphitheatre, a portion of which that was brought to light in the early twentieth century can be seen.
Most of the structure lies under the adjoining Via Neve, Via Manzoni, Via del Colosseo and Via Penninello. Its ruins served as a foundation for the buildings that overlook the square, such as Villa Cerami, headquarters of the Department of Law, or surround it, such as the church of San Biagio and Palazzo Tezzano.
Originally the building stood on the outskirts of the city, along the road that connected Catania to the hinterland, and near the acropolis on which the Monastery of the Benedictines now stands. The structure was mainly built of lava stone and developed around an elliptical arena with radial walls, pillars and vaults. The arches were constructed with large rectangular red bricks; the cavea was probably made from limestone blocks and some parts of it were covered in marble. The building was also embellished by columns, statues and bas-reliefs, while at the top a system of beams and stone blocks supported the fabric cover (velarium) that protected the spectators from the rain and sun.
While it was small in size at the time of its construction in the second half of the first century CE, Catania’s amphitheatre was enlarged around the middle of the second century CE to accommodate over 15,000 spectators, becoming one of the largest in the Roman world.
At the end of the empire in the fourth century CE, the building fell into disuse and traders and craftsmen took it over, who remained active until the sixth-seventh century CE. It was then reduced to becoming stone quarry and, during the War of the Vespers, the Angevins used its ambulacra to penetrate inside the city; the external arches were then subsequently walled in and the ambulacri filled with rubble. After the earthquake of 1693, it was progressively covered, causing memories of it to disappear until excavations started in the early twentieth century.
The section brought to light is now open to the public and 3D reconstructions offer visitors the opportunity to observe the building as it probably originally looked.
See the trailer of the virtual reconstruction of the Roman Amphitheatre of Catania.
Learn more about the
Archaeological and Landscape Park of Catania and the Aci valley with the izi. Travel audio tour.
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