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Ancient hooligans

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Pompeian fresco showing the clash of fans in the arena
Pompeian fresco showing the clash of fans in the arena

It seems that stadium excesses are the invention of our times. However, as early as 2,000 years ago, the ancient Romans faced similar problems. In 59 CE in Pompeii, there were riots at the local amphitheatre between the locals and the fans who came from nearby Nuceria.

Tacitus states in his Annales that it started with verbal abuse, then stones were used, and finally, the crowd took their swords.

About the same time a trifling beginning led to frightful bloodshed between the inhabitants of Nuceria and Pompeii, at a gladiatorial show exhibited by Livineius Regulus, who had been, as I have related, expelled from the Senate. With the unruly spirit of townsfolk, they began with abusive language of each other; then they took up stones and at last weapons, the advantage resting with the populace of Pompeii, where the show was being exhibited. And so there were brought to Rome a number of the people of Nuceria, with their bodies mutilated by wounds, and many lamented the deaths of children or of parents. The emperor entrusted the trial of the case to the Senate, and the Senate to the consuls, and then again the matter being referred back to the Senators, the inhabitants of Pompeii were forbidden to have any such public gathering for ten years, and all associations they had formed in defiance of the laws were dissolved. Livineius and the others who had excited the disturbance, were punished with exile.

Tacitus, Annales, XIV.17

Many people died in the clashes, and the central administration became interested in the matter – the authorities in Rome prohibited the organization of any competitions in the Pompeian amphitheatre for a period of 10 years. However, the ban lasted only three years, as it was withdrawn in 62.

  • Tacitus, Annales, XIV.17

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