Just as the crowds in Conqueror’s Blade: Colosseum delight in being entertained by fearsome gladiatorial combat, so too did their inspiration—the Ancient Romans.
The infamous Colosseum wasn’t the only amphitheatre where Romans would watch spectacles such as public executions and gladiatorial games. Around 230 amphitheatres have been located across the full expanse of the Roman Empire, including in countries such as modern-day Austria, England, Spain, and many more. The vast majority have, of course, been found in Italy.
Colosseum photographed from above during the summer, Rome
These large, open-air theatres, which could be oval or circular, were equipped with raised seating and were known as “amphitheatrum”, meaning "theatre all around". A Roman amphitheatre is made up of three parts—-the arena (fighting area), the cavea (rows of stands or seating), and the vomitorium (archways at arena level and within the cavea for exiting in large swathes).
Let’s take a look at a few lesser-known (but just as important) Roman amphitheatres.
The Amphitheatre of Pompeii was the first arena built by the Romans in 70 BC. It survives to this day, despite being buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. At its prime, it could hold 20,000 people, and its walls remain a key insight into the gladiator culture of Ancient Rome. Painted posters were found by archaeologists promoting their fighters, and even describing one gladiator as a "heartthrob of the girls." As we know, gladiators could become celebrities of their time, and these discoveries in Pompeii proved crucial in understanding their status.
The Roman amphitheatre of Italica is the fifth-largest Roman amphitheatre and still stands today in present-day Santiponce in Andalusia, Spain. Constructed in 117 AD under the reign of Emperor Hadrian, the brick and stone theatre could hold up to 25,000 spectators. Italica mainly played host to bloodsports including gladiator battles and animal hunting games.
Italica Amphitheatre in Andalusia, Spain
Verona Arena is the third-largest amphitheatre in Italy to survive and can hold up to 22,000 people within its 44 levels. Built in 30 AD, it is remarkably well-preserved and still used to this day for open-air opera performances and concerts. It has played host to many shows and games over the centuries, from gladiator fights to jousting tournaments. Even today, the arena continues to amaze crowds with its range of events. Famous faces and household names who have held concerts there include Pink Floyd, Muse, Whitney Houston, Radiohead, and dozens more. It will also host the Closing Ceremony for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Verona Arena in Piazza Bra, Verona, Italy