Passions & Places



Amphitheatre and Archaeology
Anfiteatro e archeologia

City of Ancona

Le Marche

Ancona boasts a rich heritage from a history that, over the millennia, has left profound marks throughout the city. Starting from the first settlement dating back to the Bronze Age, the peoples spread themselves out over the three hills that form Conero’s headland: Cappucini, Cardeto and Guasco. The strategic position and particular morphology of the region made Ancona a natural port, chosen (really for the elbow shape of its gulf) at the beginning of the 4th century BC by Greek colonies who called the city Ankon and whose culture spread throughout the region whilst they lived here. Today, this is demonstrated by the Corinthian temple dedicated to Venus Genetrix – constructed in the second half of the 2nd century BC – whose remains are still visible in the area below the Cathedral of St. Cyriacus.

In 90 BC the Greek’s domination of the city came to an end and it became a Roman municipality called Ancona, whose port held the post of the Roman fleet’s base following the Illyrian Wars. There are, therefore, many archaeological testimonies linking us to the Roman presence in the region: for example, the evocative amphitheatre – built (perhaps upon a pre-existing Greek theatre) during reign of Augustus (1st century BC –1st century AD) by taking advantage of the natural slopes of the Guasco and Cappucini hills and reconstructed during the era of Trajan (2nd –3rd century AD) – whose perimeter wall and first order of steps are still visible today.

The amphitheatre, originally provided with two entrances (the Porta Pompae, used by soldiers, and the Libitinensis, protector of the passage to the afterlife) and composed of 20 flights of steps set out over three orders, was capable of accommodating up to 10,000 spectators. It was rediscovered in 1810 but the lengthy excavation process only began in 1930, and despite the work still not being completed, in recent times this evocative place has returned to play host to performances of poetry, opera and classical theatre.

Numerous also are the archaeological finds discovered on Lungomare Vanvitelli: confirmation of the military but also commercial importance held by Ancona’s port during the eras of Augustus and Trajan. Recent excavations (carried out between 1998 and 2001) have in fact unearthed several spaces, perpendicular to the coastline, which probably performed the function of warehouses or were designed for the construction and repair of ships. In the same area, finds dating back to between the fourth and sixth century BC have also been discovered, attesting to the use of the port’s structure for purposes different to those linked to the inflow of goods.

Not far from the port stands the majestic Arch of Trajan, a true symbol of Ancona, erected in 115 BC as a tribute to the Emperor Trajan and attributed to Apollodorus of Damascus. It has been perfectly conserved over the centuries, resisting even earthquakes and bombings.

Other traces of ancient inhabitants, parts of the street and a monumental tomb are still visible today on Via degli Orefici and Via Matteotti, whilst remains of the city forum’s ancient colonnade can be observed in the open archaeological excavations in front of Ferretti Palace.

This last elegant building, built in the mid-500s and extended two centuries later (probably designed by Luigi Vanvitelli), houses the National Archaeological Museum of Marche, which boasts a rich collection of historical archaeological finds that come from excavations carried out throughout the entire Marchigian region as well as Ancona itself, with objects from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic periods and the Bronze Age, as well as the prestigious presence of finds dating back the Picentine civilisation and to the beginning of the Roman era.

Special thanks to:

Municipality of Ancona

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