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Jos Strengholt

Pre-Roman Samnite theater found in Pompeii?

It should be noted that while we tend to view Pompeii as an epitome of an idyllic provincial Roman resort-city, the settlement in itself passed through the control of other ‘earlier’ cultures, including the Oscans, Greeks, Etruscans, and Samnites. Pertaining to the latter, archaeologists from London’s Birkbeck College may have found evidence of a pre-Roman theater-like structure, possibly of Samnite origin, dating from circa 4th century BC. The concave traces of this building was coincidentally found next to a 2nd century BC theater that was preserved by the volcanic elements of the Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD.

In terms of archaeology, the various sections of Pompeii do reveal the remnants and influences of cultures like the Greeks, Oscans, Etruscans, Samnites, and even an uncategorized native Italic faction. To that end, some of the permanently settled areas in and around Pompeii date back possibly to 8th century BC. And by 5th century BC, it was the warlike Samnites who came down from the mountainous regions (of Abruzzo and Molise) to conquer large swathes of Campania, thereby making their presence felt in cities like Pompeii, Capua, and Nola.

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