The Amphitheatre of Italica

Italica, the birth place of the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian as well as the poet Silius Italicus, author of Punica, a long epic poem about the Second Punic War, is an ancient Roman town – or rather the ruins of it – near Seville in Spain. The town was founded by Scipio Africanus who settled the veterans of the Second Punic War here. Nowadays the site is most famous for the reasonably well-preserved amphitheatre, which was one of the largest in the Roman Empire.


The photos of the amphitheatre above are mine – but rather than describing the site myself, I have something far more interesting for you: a description by an English traveller from 1835.

One fine morning I walked thither, and having ascended the hill, I directed my course northward. I soon reached what had once been bagnios, and a little further on, in a kind of valley between two gentle declivities, the amphitheatre. This latter object is by far the most considerable relic of ancient Italica; it is oval in its form, with two gateways fronting the east and west.

On all sides are to be seen the time-worn broken granite benches, from whence myriads of human beings once gazed down on the area below, where the gladiator shouted, and the lion and the leopard yelled: all around, beneath these flights of benches, are vaulted excavations from whence the combatants, part human part bestial, darted forth by their several doors. I spent many hours in this singular place, forcing my way through the wild fennel and brushwood into the caverns, now the haunts of adders and other reptiles, whose hissings I heard.

The Bible in Spain by George Borrow

Little changed in nearly two hundred years (apart from the hissing of adders and reptiles which I definitely did not hear).

Links:
A little about the man who defeated Hannibal and founded Italica: Publius Cornelius Scipio (Africanus)
Africa, an epic poem by Petrarch about the Second Punic War and Scipio Africanus (in Latin)
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2 thoughts on “The Amphitheatre of Italica

    1. It’s certainly worth a couple of hours of ramble. It’s on a hill above a village called Santiponce, very near Sevilla. There were frequent buses from Sevilla and it was a short journey only. The amphitheatre is very impressive – apparently it could seat 25 thousand people – and there are some good mosaics left too.

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