Verona was built up in the first stage of the Roman Empire’s expansions because of its strategic location on the river Adige. It was used as a base for controlling the northern territories, and it was at the center of many important roads. Built in the first century by Flavian emperors, the arena was located on the border of the urban area, just outside the city’s walls. The structure is perfectly in line with the city’s road network. This is the third largest arena in Italy after Rome’s Colosseum and the arena at Capua. It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of this type. It measures 139 metres long and 110 metres wide, and could seat some 25.000 spectators in its approximate 50 tiers of marble seats. The current two-story façade is actually the internal support for the tiers; only a fragment of the original outer perimeter wall in white and pink limestone from Valpolicella, with three stories remains. The interior is very impressive and is virtually intact, and has remained in use even today for public events.
The ludi (shows and gladiator games) performed within its walls, were so famous that they attracted spectators from far beyond the city. There were processions, circus acts, dancing and music, but, above all, the citizens came to see blood sports. Fierce wild animals were brought in to be hunted, and condemned prisoners were executed in different ways – even Dante describes one of these cruel fights in the Inferno. When Emperor Honorius prohibited the gladiator games in 404 AD, that was the end of the Arena of Verona and the amphitheatre stood empty for centuries.
Read the entire article & many other interesting interviews here, in the 3rd issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.0