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The Amphitheatre of Mevania


[image ALT: zzz]

Doesn't look like much, does it?

The story of the Roman amphitheatre of Bevagna is a tangled one. In downtown Bevagna, it all looks simple: there's a street named "Via dell' Anfiteatro Romano" and golly, the remnants of a large curved Roman stone structure debouch onto it. Certainly looks like an amphitheatre, and when you go inside, there's the nice Roman stone arches we all know and love just like at the Colosseum, for example.

Unfortunately that building is not an amphitheatre: according to recent scholarship, it is a theatre. The street name, though official, is in error. (If, by the way, you don't know the difference between a theater and an amphitheater, see this page.)

Ah, but wait a minute: the guidebooks do mention an amphitheatre, and a nice clear archaeological map of the area posted at the Azienda (local tourist office) shows a careful plan of a full amphitheatre about 500 meters out of town towards Foligno, by the side of the Via Flaminia. The Umbria guide published by the Touring Club Italiano has this to say:

Passeggiate. Ai resti dell' Anfiteatro Romano: pochi minuti, percorrendo un breve tratto della strada per Foligno. A un certo punto si vede a sin. della strada la chiesetta della Madonna della Rosa, del 1691: dietro ad essa, raggiungibile in breve per una stradetta tra i campi, è una vasta escavazione ellittica detta Imbersato, avanzo dell' Anfiteatro Romano di Mevania. Recenti scavi hanno portato alla luce resti del muro perimetrale.

Which being interpreted:

Walks in the area. To the remains of the Roman amphitheatre: a few minutes, along a short stretch of the road to Foligno. At a certain point you can see to the l. of the road the little church of the Madonna della Rosa, 1691: behind it, quickly reached by a little road thru the fields, is a vast elliptical excavation, called Imbersato, a vestige of the Roman Amphitheatre of Mevania. Recent excavations have brought to light remains of the perimeter wall.


[image ALT: zzz]
	The walk is pleasant, and the church of the Madonna della Rosa is both easy to find and attractive. From there on, I'd better draw you a map. No, do not ask people for the amphitheatre. They will send you back into town: remember the Via dell' Anfiteatro? Why, everyone knows where that is.

So in this picture, you've just come from far left, offscreen. And yes you do take the stradetta you see here coming off the main road: for all of about 50 yards. Then — you're wearing long pants I hope — you climb into the gently rising plowed field and head for the dark green trees that you see towards the right in the photo illustrating this paragraph: that, my friend, is the Imbersato.


[image ALT: A map marker.]
	 theatre — 
[image ALT: A map marker.]
	 amphitheatre — 
[image ALT: A map marker.]
	 Madonna della Rosa

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

And when you've got there? I saw abso-darnlutely nothing: the Imbersato ("Inversato" with a sound change common in Umbria) is an amphitheatrally oval hole in the ground, invaded by forest and surrounded by fields and a small garbage dump. It is a bit small, smaller than the more obvious amphitheatre in nearby Spello for example, but plausible. On the other hand I've been here twice, and each time neither circumambulation nor ingression nor prospection of this brambly wood evidenced the slightest trace of a building. My friend James found a shard of dubious terra sigillata, more probably modern crockery.

For several years the page you are now reading included this:

The Internet being what it is, some kind soul will probably send me an excerpt of an excavation report, and I will keep you posted.


[image ALT: A stone slab about 40 cm tall, pierced with a hole at the top, and very worn. It may be Roman; it is in situ, in the area of a known Roman amphitheatre near Bevagna, Umbria (central Italy).]

© Yves Breugelmans 2001

And in fact, although I've received no excavation report yet, we can now add to this page a second eyewitness. In October 2001, I got a note from Yves Breugelmans who did go take a look at the Imbersato; his powers of observation, thoroughness, and resistance to nettles were greater than mine, and he reports that:

In Bevagna, where the amphitheatre supposedly is, I found, where the arena wall should have been, a large rectangular upright standing slab with a hole chiselled in it.

I have no idea — yet — what the stone might be, nor whether it is Roman, although I've seen another one very much like it about 8 kilometers away, undoubtedly Roman, with a fragmentary inscription even.

Stray stones or not, the visitor to Bevagna — a beautiful place — should not be taken in by that map at the Azienda: do not expect to see a neatly drawn oval of masonry. Look closely at that map; those lines are mostly dotted. 
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Page updated: 2 May 09