Behind the scene of the theatre stands a large rectangular enclosure, one hundred and eighty-three feet long and one hundred and forty-eight wide, surrounded by a Doric colonnade, having twenty-two columns on the longer sides and seventeen on the shorter. The columns are constructed of volcanic tufa, fluted two-thirds of their height, covered with stucco and painted, the lower part red, and the upper alternately red and yellow, except the two centre ones of the east and west sides, the upper parts of which are blue. The surrounding walls were also covered with stucco, painted red below, with yellow above. On the northern side there was a direct communication with both theatres, and the portico of the building must have been of great utility to the spectators, affording additional shelter from the rains when the porticos of the great theatre might have been crowded.
At the time when this building was excavated (1766 and several following years) it was supposed to be a barrack, and obtained the name of the Soldiers’ Quarters. Afterwards, however, from its situation near the Forum Triangulare, it came to be considered as a market-place, and was called the Forum Nundinarium, or weekly market. But the arguments on which this view rests are far from being convincing. That it was a sort of barrack hardly admits of a doubt, both from the nature of the place and the objects found in it ; but it may be a question whether it was intended for the soldiery or for the gladiators exhibited in the amphitheatre. That a town like Pompeii must have had accommodation for its garrison is evident enough, and the building in question seems excellently adapted for such a purpose. The arms found in it, however, were exclusively of the kind used by gladiators ; not a single soldier’s weapon was discovered, while the paintings and graffiti had also reference to gladiatorial combats. Among these graffiti, traced with a hard point on the surface of the ninth column of the east side, was the representation of a fighting gladiator, with these letters, XX Valerius. It has been detached from the wall and carried to the Museum. From these circumstances, Garrucci designated the place as a ludus gladiatorius or school for gladiators, in which view he has been followed by Overbeck.
From Pompeii. Its history, buildings, and antiquities (1871)