The amphitheatre is sited in the most easterly corner of the city, presumably because the area was still free of buildings at the time and because the earth fill against the city walls could be used to support the eastern part of the cavea. . . . The amphitheatre was used exclusively for sports, gladiatorial contests and spectacles involving wild beasts and drew crowds from the neighbouring area. Posters advertising the games and illustrating the programme appear frequently on the walls of Pompeii. The spectacles were passionately participated in by the crowds and various gladiators became highly popular, as witnessed by the inscriptions.
As with some sports today, support could be fanatical. During one particular gladiatorial contest in AD59, fighting broke out in the crowd between factions from the colonies of Pompeii and Nuceria. According to the historian Tacitus (Annals XIV, 17): ‘it arose at a show arranged by Livineius Regulus. During the exchange of taunts abuse led to stone throwing, and then swords were drawn. Many Nucerians were taken home wounded and mutilated; many bereavements, too, were suffered by parents and children… Livineius and others held responsible for the disorders were exiled.’ Because of the violence the Senate prohibited Pompeii from holding similar events for a period of ten years but this measure was revoked three years later after the earthquake of AD62.
AD 79: Destruction and Rediscovery
A Roman basilica was a large public building where business and legal matters were discussed. The basilica of Pompeii was built in 130-120 BC and is one of the oldest examples of such a building. It had three naves and it was situated at the south-western corner of the Forum; its entrance was on its eastern narrow side and its layout resembles that of an early church. A raised loggia at the western end of the building was most likely the site of the tribunal. Archaeologists believe it was preceded by wooden stairs. Two small rooms under the loggia might have been used as the temporary prison. Lawyers without customers, teachers without pupils, artists without commissions and other jobless citizens spent their days at the basilica hoping to find a way to make some money. Some of them, perhaps during a particularly idle day, wrote graffiti on the walls complaining they were not invited to dinner by anyone or that Venus did not help them in courting a woman, notwithstanding the offers they had made to the goddess.
Rome in the Footsteps of an XVIIIth Century Traveller
Behind the scene of the theatre stands a large rectangular enclosure, one hundred and eighty-three feet long and one hundred and forty-eight wide, surrounded by a Doric colonnade, having twenty-two columns on the longer sides and seventeen on the shorter. The columns are constructed of volcanic tufa, fluted two-thirds of their height, covered with stucco and painted, the lower part red, and the upper alternately red and yellow, except the two centre ones of the east and west sides, the upper parts of which are blue. The surrounding walls were also covered with stucco, painted red below, with yellow above. On the northern side there was a direct communication with both theatres, and the portico of the building must have been of great utility to the spectators, affording additional shelter from the rains when the porticos of the great theatre might have been crowded.
At the time when this building was excavated (1766 and several following years) it was supposed to be a barrack, and obtained the name of the Soldiers’ Quarters. Afterwards, however, from its situation near the Forum Triangulare, it came to be considered as a market-place, and was called the Forum Nundinarium, or weekly market. But the arguments on which this view rests are far from being convincing. That it was a sort of barrack hardly admits of a doubt, both from the nature of the place and the objects found in it ; but it may be a question whether it was intended for the soldiery or for the gladiators exhibited in the amphitheatre. That a town like Pompeii must have had accommodation for its garrison is evident enough, and the building in question seems excellently adapted for such a purpose. The arms found in it, however, were exclusively of the kind used by gladiators ; not a single soldier’s weapon was discovered, while the paintings and graffiti had also reference to gladiatorial combats. Among these graffiti, traced with a hard point on the surface of the ninth column of the east side, was the representation of a fighting gladiator, with these letters, XX Valerius. It has been detached from the wall and carried to the Museum. From these circumstances, Garrucci designated the place as a ludus gladiatorius or school for gladiators, in which view he has been followed by Overbeck.
From Pompeii. Its history, buildings, and antiquities (1871)