Everyone knows that sport fans can get violent in their excitement… there is even a Wikipedia article listing violent spectator incidents in sports. This being an aspect of human nature, it is not surprising that the custom of berating and clobbering the opposite team’s supporters goes back to earlier times. Still, I was quite amused when I saw this fresco in the archeological museum of Naples:
This picture, from the wall of a house in Pompeii, depicts a memorable historical event from AD 59, which is described by Tacitus in his Annals (Book XIV, 17):
About the same date, a trivial incident led to a serious affray between the inhabitants of the colonies of Nuceria and Pompeii, at a gladiatorial show presented by Livineius Regulus … During an exchange of raillery, typical of the petulance of country towns, they resorted to abuse, then to stones, and finally to steel; the superiority lying with the populace of Pompeii, where the show was being exhibited.
And indeed, the fresco shows the agitated fans running inside and around the stadium, with some first victims already on the ground. The actual casualty count was higher by far:
As a result, many of the Nucerians were carried maimed and wounded to the capital, while a very large number mourned the deaths of children or of parents.
The outcome, in fact, was dire for the Pompeiians: the emperor (the infamous Nero) delegated to the senate, and the ruling was that
the Pompeians as a community were debarred from holding any similar assembly for ten years, and the associations which they had formed illegally were dissolved. Livineius and the other fomenters of the outbreak were punished with exile.
Nothing new under the sun…