Pula: roman colony on the Croatian coastline

The most remarkable monument among them is the Vespasian amphitheatre, popularly called Arena to which many legends and myths are linked.

Pula is a Croatian city placed on the Istrian peninsula, in the western part of the country. Walking in its streets, you can feel the past on every corner, due to the more than 3000 years of history in which there were various occupations and changes of rulers and leaders. One of the biggest rulers with whom the true development of the city started, around the year 45 BC, when Pula started to turn into a Roman colony, was the Roman Emperor named Pietas Iulia Pola.

The city was shaped after the well planned and thoughtfully organized Roman type city streets, houses and all the necessary infrastructures. The importance of the colony is reflected in some of the city’s most important monuments dating from that period. During those times, the city was surrounded by 1600 meters of the wall with 12 entrances to the city, three of them still standing and marking the old borders of the town.

Hercules doors are the oldest of them, very simple and decorated only by reliefs presenting the head of Hercules and a club. More attractive is the Double door that has been used as an entrance to the small theatre, and a golden door, the main entrance to the city, from which only the Arch of the Sergii survived. It is a beautiful triumphal arch, richly decorated, that has been built in honour of a Roman family. The arch was basically bent to the main city doors.

Curiosity about it is that arches were always dedicated to the gods and emperors and never to the simple humans, and by that, we could imagine the greatness and importance of the Sergii family in Roman society. In the inner side of the old town, the Roman houses, theatre and mosaic decorations are hidden between modern houses and streets. The central square called Forum also dates from the Roman period. Of course, the look has changed throughout many years, but there are remnants that tell us how this was a central point of the colony. The temple dedicated to the first Roman emperor, Augustus, and to the goddess Roma, is placed on its northern side.

On his right side, the ruins of Diana’s temple are integrated into the City Hall. The most remarkable monument among them is the Vespasian amphitheatre, popularly called Arena to which many legends and myths are linked. The arena was built in the middle of the 1st century, with a surface of 11466 m2 and an elliptic shape, and it is one of the six amphitheatres in the world that have survived. It is placed outside of the old city walls and it was used for the gladiator games and fights with wild animals. The legend says that the Roman emperor Vespasian cherished and loved his local mistress, Antonija Cenidi, and built the amphitheatre in her honour.

Another legend, more accepted amongst the people, says that fairies built it by carrying stones from Učka mountain. It was used until the 5th century when gladiator games were prohibited. The arena is a unique example of buildings of this type and age, with preserved original elements and details. Nowadays it is used as a place for various manifestations, meetings and concerts. Moreover, of course, to symbolize the ancient history of Pula.

Ana Mirkovic
Students’ Union Croatian Volunteer

Project co-financed by ERASMUS+.