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a Pleiades name resource

Creators: N. Purcell
Contributors: Wade Tuttle, R. Talbert, Sean Gillies, Tom Elliott, Jeffrey Becker
Last modified Apr 06, 2019 04:15 PM History




geographic name




  • Archaic (Greco-Roman; 750-550 BCE/BC) (confident)
  • Classical (Greco-Roman; 550 BC-330 BC) (confident)
  • Hellenistic Greek, Roman Republic (330 BC-30 BC) (confident)
  • Roman, early Empire (30 BC-AD 300) (confident)
  • Late Antique (AD 300-AD 640) (confident)

Barrington Atlas: BAtlas 44 F3 Capua

Capua was founded approximately 600 BCE by the Etruscans.  In the following years, it quickly gained power over local communities such as Casilinum, Calatia, and Atella.  Capua was later taken over by the Samnites in 440 BCE.  In 340 BCE, the populace of Capua supported the Latin Confederacy against Rome, but ended up losing the war.  Rome made Capua into a municipium, granting its citizens Roman citizenship without the right to vote in elections.  This allowed Capua to remain self-governed.  It became connected to Rome through the Via Appia in 312 BCE, making it one of the most powerful cities in Italy in terms of trading and population.  In terms of trading, it was most well known for its bronzes, and perfumes such as seplasium.  Capua was called "Altera Roma" by Cicero because of the wealth and opulence the city became known for.

Capua sided against the Romans once again in the Second Punic War.  Livy believed Capua to be Hannibal's own "Cannae", as the luxurious conditions of the city may have softened his troops.  Capua was recaptured in 211 BCE.  As punishment, the Romans rescinded their citizenship rights and their self-governance was replaced with being ruled over by Roman prefects.  As was often the case with recent Roman conquests, settlements were founded nearby; two such settlements, called Volternum and Liternum, were founded in 194 BCE.  

Capua was perhaps most known for its gladiatorial games.  The city was home to the second largest amphitheater in Italy (following the Colosseum) and could hold as many as 60,000 spectators.  Many gladiatorial schools (ludi) were situated in Capua and produced some of the greatest gladiators in the Republic.  The largest ludus in the Republic, belonging to Lentulus Batiatus, produced Spartacus and his followers who went on to organize one of the largest slave revolts in history in 73 BCE.

Capua, though a Roman stronghold throughout the reign of the empire, fell in 456 CE when it was invaded by the Vandals under their leader Genseric.  The little that was left standing in this ancient city was destroyed by Muslim invaders approximately four hundred years later around 840 CE.  The town that currently stands in its place is Santa Maria Capua Vetere, named for the sole church the Muslim invaders spared.