Capua, a word anyone who has been watching the hit series Spartacus over the past few years, is well aware of, the place where it all began. It is a very good show, especially when you need your blood, sex, and war fix. But where exactly is Capua in the world and how did Sparticus’s story come about?
Capua, just North of Naples Italy was founded in 800 B.C. by the Etruscans 50 years before Rome! Rulers of Capua changed frequently over the years. After the Etruscans came the Samnites (440 BC). In 340 BC they went to war with Rome. Rome defeated them and they fell under Roman rule being connected to Rome by the Appian Way (Via Appia in Italian) (312 BC). During the Second Punic War Capua sided with Carthage against Rome (218-201 BC). Again they were defeated by the Romans and taken back. (211 BC). Spartacus, the slave leader, came into existence and began his revolt in 73 BC. The Vandals under Gaiseric sacked Capua in AD 456. Later Muslim invaders (c. 840) destroyed everything except the church of Sta. Maria.
The Significance of the Appian Way. Did you know that the Appian Way was one of the most important ancient highways? As you are leaving the walls of Rome, the gate leading to the highway had the words Porta Capena etched upon it. This is the only case that was found with which a gate of Rome bears the name of the place to which it led. (Most likely because all roads lead to Rome. Har Har.)
SPARTUCAS’s STORY. Little is truly known about the man, myth, and legend, but according to the Encyclopedia Britannica Spartacus was a Thracian by birth (this race subjugated by the Romans), who served in the Roman Army for a time, became a deserter and bandit, and was captured and sold as a slave.
Owned by a man referred to most commonly as “Vatia” he was taken to a gladiator training school in Capua where he eventually escaped among 70 other trainees in 73 BC, taking refuge on Mount Vesuvius. There they set up a base camp of sorts and rebels began joining his cause. Soon they were taking over Southern Italy. Their numbers continued to grow until they were in the 90,000s at which point Spartacus and his men started pushing North. As he headed for the Alps and higher into Europe his men refused to leave Italy and they headed back down South to Luciana, with the hopes of reaching Scicily.
Unfortunately he was thwarted by a new Roman commander sent against him, Marcus Licinius Crassus. At this point Spartacus’s army divided and over time began to fall, the Germans and the Gauls first. Spartacus himself ultimately fell fighting in battle. Pompey’s army intercepted and killed many slaves who were escaping northward, and 6,000 prisoners were crucified by Crassus along the Appian Way.
Before all that we’re going to head back to the Amphitheater where Spartucus started fighting in the city of Capua, Italy.
How to get there?!
Seriously, it was very easy to find. We put in Capua into the GPS (leaving from Naples per my usual starting point) and once there, we just looked at the map and saw a big green area right in the town that said Capua Amphitheater Ruins and Museum. We Parked right next to the ruins on a strip where there really weren’t many cars. It wasn’t busy at all.
As I looked around I saw a bunch of older Italian men standing outside at 2 different outdoor playing courts, bundled up and enjoying life to the fullest. Most likely because they were right next to Greek Ruins from 800 BC but I knew instantly what they were doing… playing Bocce! A game similar to both shuffle board and curling if you have ice.
After the excitement of the Bocce games we headed down towards the ruins, realizing that there really wasn’t anybody else there. We had this ancient amphitheater all to ourselves!
Walking up, there was a ticket counter but no one was manning it so we were able to walk right t by for free. It was a bit of a dreary day and there was barely anyone around so I guess they weren’t really charging an entry fee.
Looking out across the arena area. Just trying to think back to when a man’s life was so disposable for the entertainment of a town. Some men lived for the fight. Some men didn’t even stand a chance before they were picked up as slaves and taken to a training school.
As we continued to wander among the ruins, my mind kept wandering back to the days of battle where men fought men and animals for glory and status. I guess you can say it brought me back to Gladiator, or the quote by Theodore Rooselvelt given in his “Citizen of the Republic” Speech in Paris 1910.
The Man in the Arena
As we looped around the arena checking out all of the different crevices, we made a decision. It was easy to see that there were steps leading down underneath the arena but they were all blocked off. Luckily I was with an adventurous guy and we decided that we were going to try to find a way down there while simultaneously eluding the one lone gate guard that was patrolling the area.
With one last look back up from whist we came, we quietly shuffled down the last set of steps stepping lightly onto the cement below. My first thought was “hmmm it is very quiet down here” That was short lived when we walked a few steps and disturbed a patch of pigeons. They started flying around cooing, as they resettled on the rafters above. Just so you know pigeons are more privileged then us all, living underneath ruins built in 800 BC. How does that make you feel?
As we walked about I couldn’t help but think this is how horror stories start. There could be a mass murderer down here. What if we get separated and A leaves me for dead to save himself?! My mind started to run wild. My heartbeat sped up. I thought I might have an adrenaline rush. In the classic flight or fight scenario I was ready for flight this time. Luckily I calmed myself down and continued walking silently through the columns.
What if you were standing beneath this grate while someone drags a dead carcass across slow-going as they strain under the weight. As they pass above, the blood leaves a trail, dripping through the grate, spattering on your shoulder.
With one last look, we made our way back to the steps leading up out of the ruins (Don’t worry we left a trial of breadcrumbs along the way so we’d find the steps we came down once again). Once we walked back up to the main area we headed towards the outside and walked around. The guard was none the wiser.
Heading back to the car shortly after, we beat the rain by a minute. Heading home in the late afternoon for a quick nap before dinner.
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.