Capua, a city of Italy, in the province of Caserta, on the river Volturno, 14 m. from its mouth in the Mediterranean, and 15 m. N. of Naples; pop. about 12,000. The city is strongly fortified, the works having been remodelled and strengthened in 1855. The cathedral and the church of the Annunziata are splendid edifices, and contain many antique bass reliefs, and there are ancient inscriptions under the arch of the piazza de' Giudici. In 1803 the city suffered considerably from an earthquake. In i860 it was besieged by a portion of the army of Victor Emanuel, and surrendered Nov. 3. - Ancient Capua lay at a distance of 2 m. from the modern city. Its origin and early history are obscure. It was founded or colonized by Etruscans, according to some authorities as early as 800 B. C., and was originally called Vulturnum. It fell under the temporary sway of the Samnites in 423, from whom it received its present name. In 343, when threatened by the same people, the citizens called in the aid of the Romans, and were shortly afterward compelled to acknowledge the supremacy of Rome. It successfully resisted Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, but after the battle of Cannre (216) the popular party deserted Rome and opened the gates to the Carthaginian general.
The winter spent by the Carthaginian troops in Capua demoralized them greatly, and was considered by the Romans the main cause of Hannibal's ultimate defeat. For the extravagance and effeminacy of its inhabitants, Capua bore a reputation similar to that of Sybaris and Sardis. it was famous for its manufacture of perfumes, with which the unguentarii or perfumers of Capua in later times supplied the whole empire of the West. It was early celebrated for its gladiatorial exhibitions, and from Lentulus's school of gladiators in this city Spartacus, the leader in the servile insurrection, first broke loose with 70 companions. The desertion to Hannibal was punished with utmost severity by the Romans, when they again enteved Capua (211). The local magistracies were abolished, and a Roman prefect was appointed to rule over the city. Julius Caesar procured the passage of a law during his consulship, in 59, in accordance with which 20,000 Roman citizens were settled in the environs of Capua. This circumstance conferred a new era of prosperity upon the city.
The barbarian invasions were fatal to old Capua. Genseric and his Vandals devastated it in A. I). 456. Narses restored it, but it sank again after the conquests of the Lombards in southern Italy. It was finally destroyed by the Saracens about 840, who reduced it to ashes. A few years afterward Bishop Landulphus induced the inhabitants to return and establish a new city on the site of ancient Casilinum. This was the origin of modern Capua. The ruins of the amphitheatre, built of tiles and faced with white marble, are an object of attraction to antiquaries. The remains of old Capua have been described by Rinaldo in his Memorie istoriche delta citta di Capua (Naples, 1753), and in Rucca's Vetere Capua (Naples, 1828). The site of old Capua is now occupied by the large village of Santa Maria di Capua, or Santa Maria Maggiore.
Remains of Amphitheatre at Capua.