Saturday, 8 October 2011

Roman Pula

As you wander through the streets of Pula, there are many striking remnants of its great Roman history, the most spectacular being the ampitheatre occupying a large space just outside the main centre.
Constructed between 27 B.C and 68 A.D from limestone, the structure is still in remarkable condition and is just as breathtaking as its Italian counterparts. In fact, it is the only remaining Roman ampitheatre in the world to still have four side towers and three Roman Orders preserved in their entirety. It is located outside the town walls on the Via Flavia, the road that linked Pula to Rome and Aquileia. It was used up until the 5th century A.D for gladatorial combat until the emporer Honorius forbade it. However, the use of convicts and wild animals were still used there up until the 7th Century A.D.
Today the magnificent structure is still being used regularly. For around 40 Kuna (5 GBP) you can take a look around for yourself, or for a little extra, some headsets to guide you around with in depth detail. Underneath the ampitheatre, there are many archaeological exhibits found in the area all of Roman origin. 
There are also concerts held on a regular basis. Many notable artists have performed shows here including Elton John, Norah Jones, Anastasia and Sting to name a few, and recently, the premiere of the latest (and last) installment of Harry Potter (And The Deathly Hallows - Part 2) was shown to a crowd of around 6000 locals (beats your local cinema anyday eh?!).

The Temple of Augustus, named after the Emperor (you guessed it!) Augustus and probably built within his lifetime around 2 B.C and 14 A.D,  resides beside the Communal Palace in the Forum square, metres from Pula's scenic harbour. It has served a variety of uses, such as a temple, church, a store and a granary. Almost completely destroyed by bombing in 1944, it was reconstructed in 1947.

Another notable structure is the Arch of Sergii (The Golden Gate). An imposing structure built around 29 to 27 B.C honours the three Sergii brothers whose family had high standing in Pola (as Pula was known in Roman days). The gate and accompanying wall was pulled down sometime during the 19th century as the city expanded outside of these walls. These days numerous performances are held in the square which is located next to Giardini.
The twin gates stand below Pula's archaeological museum. These gates and their walls were destroyed and reconstructed many times through the ages and is the oldest part of this Roman defensive system having being built around 45 B.C, roughly around the time that the Roman colony became established in Pola.

Also, an interesting Roman mosaic depicts the mythical scene of The Punishment of Dirce (Amphion and Zethus are tying Dirce to an enraged bull, since out of envy Dirce had been cruel to their mother Antiope), was uncovered shortly after the second World War underneath some houses that were destroyed. Tucked away behind a building further down the shopping street of Via Sergia, a small sign guides you to it (if your observational skills are up to scratch!). This is estimated to have been created sometime around the 3rd century A.D.

For more archaeological finds dating throughout history, highlighting Pula's rich heritage, be sure to check out the Archaeology museum located by Carrarina Ulica above the Twin Gates. Being on top of a hill, if you walk around, you can find spectacular views across the harbour (I highly recommend a picnic at this point!).
For any budding historian, or if you have children who are studying Roman history at school, Pula is definately a place not to be missed. Definately worthy of an A grade I'd say!


  1. Hi Travelling Manc...I live in Australia but my parents acme form Pula...once Pola, Italy pre-WW2..My mother sang in this ampitheatre as a young girl and then went on to study Opera for nine years..her career was cut short by the War and marriage to my father and then migration to Australia..Many displaced persons left this city !

  2. Wow, really? It must have been amazing to sing in the ampitheatre. I hear alot of Croatians migrated to Australia because of the war. I know a Australian guy here in Prague who's parents migrated from Croatia. Do you travel back now to Pula? It is a very special place to me, I go there twice a year and hope one day I might live there, I can dream anyway! Nice to hear from you and your wonderful story :)