If you have been to Croatia then you most likely know this already but, most of the Croatian coast is gorgeous and you’ll find lovely towns all along the Croatian coast. And Pula is one of them. That said, Pula stands out from all the other towns in one specific way, its wealth of Roman architecture.
When you arrive in Pula you’ll find a true treasure trove of Roman remnants unlike anywhere else in Croatia. Among other things you can find a well-preserved floor mosaic, the Arch of the Sergii, the temple of Augustus and the center piece of roman architecture in Pula, the Pula Arena.
The Pula Arena
Once, this magnificent amphitheater was home to the infamous gladiator fights. And although the arena is still used these days, it is now used for more peaceful entertainment.
The arena is the place to go to watch concerts, opera, ballet and sports competitions in a truly unique setting that you won’t find anywhere else.
That said, if gladiator fights are your thing and you want to get an impression of what the gladiator fights were like, that’s possible as well. During the summer months, the Arena hosts gladiator fights every week as part of the historical and entertainment spectacle “Spectacvla Antiqva”. That will give you the chance to revisit the days of 2 millennia ago.
That’s right, the amphitheater is about 2000 years old. It was built in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. And yes, for the history buffs among you, that means it was build during the same time as the magnificent Colosseum in Rome was build.
So why should you visit this particular amphitheater rather than another one somewhere else in Europe? The one in Rome for instance…
The answer to that question is simple. There is just no other one amphitheater like this one.
The Pula Arena stands out from other Roman arenas because it is incredibly well-preserved. It is the only remaining Roman amphitheater that still has four side towers and that has all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved (read all about it on Wikipedia).
So when you visit Pula make sure you set some time aside to visit the Arena. It’ll definitely be worth it.
Btw, if you couldn’t care less about gladiators but you are into wine, make sure to visit the Pula Arena as well. The underground passages that were once used by the gladiators serve a different function these days. They host an exhibition of viticulture and olive growing, in Istria, in ancient times.
The exhibits on show there include reconstructions of machines once used for the production of olive oil and wine (mills, presses, vessels) and amphorae used for storing and transporting olive oil and wine. It’ll give you an idea of how wine was made in the past and the history behind the wines we drink today.
Temple of Augustus
Another of the well preserved Roman structures is the Temple of Augustus. Or rather, well restored.
The Temple of Augustus stood to the left of the central temple while temple of the goddess Diana stood on the right side. The central temple didn’t survive and most of the temple of Diana has disappeared as well. However, you can still see the back side of that temple as its incorporated into the Communal Palace.
In the second world war the Temple of Augustus was struck during an air raid and was almost completely destroyed. But in 1947 it was rebuild and, although no longer a temple, these days the building is used to display items of Roman sculpture.
Roman Floor Mosaic
The mosaic of the punishment of Dirce, aka the Roman Floor mosaic.
It is a bit hard to find but if you follow the signs you should manage.
The mosaic is split into two parts with central frame of the bottom part dedicated to the punishment of Dirce.
This Roman floor mosaic depicts the very moment Amphion and Zethus bring the bull in front of Dirce. She was then tied to the wild bull by Zethus and Amphion who wanted to punish Dirce for her ill-treatment of their mother, Antiope. The bull dragged Dirce to her death.
Afterwards, according to the tellings the god Dionysus let a spring from the place she died and this spring was named for Dirce.
The arch of the Sergii
The arch or the Sergii is a roman triumphal arch that commemorates three brothers of the Sergii family (Lucius Sergi, Lucius Sergi Lepid and Gnaeus Sergi) and is thought to have been build around 28BC.
This arch was build upon an existing city gate (porta Aurea) and it was build as a symbol of the battle at Actium.
Aside from the Roman remntants I mentioned so far there are other Roman ruins (in various states) in Pula as well (f.i. the twin gates and the small roman theater). But I’ll leave those for you to discover when you visit Pula.
I’ll also write more about Pula in upcoming posts so don’t forget to subscribe and learn more about this wonderful town on the Adriatic coast.
Also, Pula is quite touristy and accommodation can fill up quickly so don’t forget to book your hotel in advance.