The Pula Amphitheater “Arena”
One of the city with the Amphitheater was COLONIA JULIA POLA POLLENTIA. In ancient time, Pula also had two more theaters. The smaller one was inside the city walls, and the bigger was outside. The larger could receive almost entire population of the city (around 4000-5000 people), but the events were very attractive to the people in the surrounding villages. Smaller theater was on the slopes of Kaštel hill, not far away from the walls. The construction, as the entire urban structure, was adapted to the terrain configuration.
The Pula Amphitheater “Arena” and two Theaters
The most important evidence of Roman presence in Pula is the Pula Amphitheater, the Arena as it is called by the locals, which is the best preserved monument from ancient times in Croatia.
Around 62 meters of well-preserved harmonious building is still visible today, with its scene building, half-round orchestra and half-round seats on the stairs, which were partially cut into the hill. There were three monumental entrances into the building, and many of the stairs were marked with the names of their leaseholders. The shows were performed during the state celebrations in September (“ludi romani”) and November (“ludi plebei”). Bigger theater and its scene were outside of the city walls, on the western side of the hill. It was also, as many other structures, adapted to the terrain of Zara hill. Few elements were preserved, so its initial form must be left to imagination. In the beginning of the 17th century there were still visible parts of the high walls, but they were ruined by the thunder-strike and the following fire.
The central ancient monument in Pula is the Roman Amphitheater called Arena. Pula Arena is one of the best preserved amphitheaters of the Roman Empire, and is often compared to the Colosseum in Rome, Arena in Verona, amphitheater in Pompeii, Nimes and Arles in France and El Jemo in Tunis. The term “amphitheater” means the shape of two theaters (amphi-theatron), which is dual half-round auditorium of Greek and Roman theaters. The layout of the amphitheater is elliptical or some other geometric shape (polycentric circle). The Amphitheater that we see today was built in the time of the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian (69-79). The Arena could have hosted around 20.000 people. From the stairs that surrounded the central area, the arena, they could have watched gladiator fights and violent scenes from fights with the beasts. In the Roman social system, the shows in the amphitheater had a pragmatic function, and they were being held by officials for entertainment, according to the state politics “Panem et circenses” (bread and games), which were followed by giving away the grain, wine and oil, along with fun that were supposed to take the minds of people from the worries of everyday life.
The fights were being held on a flat area – the arena, which is a corrupted form of the word “harena” which means sand. Thus the whole amphitheater is called the Arena, because of the fighting area which was covered with sand, so the remains of the blood from the people and animals could be easily removed. The gladiators were professionals, most commonly slaves or convicts, which fought individually or in groups, one against each other or against wild beasts. There aren’t any signs of killing Christians in the Pula Arena, but the legend of St. German states that he was trialed in the Amphitheater, and was later dragged outside of town where he was decapitated. The stone for building the amphitheater was being deported from the quarry near Pula, which was located near the coast, because the huge building stones for the auditorium and outer facade were easier to deport via sea to the city harbor. There are many quarries around Pula, but the most famous was Vinkuran, which is today known as „Cave Romane“. The inner part of the foundation that was not visible such as inner hallway walls, passages and stairs, were built from small rocks with plaster. Outer side has 72 semi-circular arcades in the ground and the first floor, while the second floor is built with square openings. The blocks were tied with iron bars sealed with lead.
The biggest tie in the world and the Pula Arena
In the 17th century, the Croats used a special bandanas around their necks as a part of their traditional uniforms. It was common for the girls to give the bandanas to their men when they went to war, as a sign of their fidelity. In time, the tie, as a symbol of elegance and glamour entered Europe. In Pula Arena, on the 18th October 2003, arrived the biggest tie in the World. “Kravata oko Arene” was 808 meters long and 25 meters wide, and built from 9015 square meters of red fabric, and symbolized the tie as a part of Croatian and World heritage. For the creation of this piece of art, there were 120 km of thread, 450 kg of fabric and more than 300 hours of sewing used. The most challenging part was to tie a knot, which was tied at 21 meters of height, and was 9 meters deep. However, around hundred children was there to help stretch the tie all the way to the Pula boardwalk. Today, Arena, this monumental ancient structure, because of its imposing size and preservation, stands as a symbol of Pula.
Gladiator fights in the Pula Arena – Days of Antiquity / Pula Superiorum
Pula is a city with 3000 years old history, with a huge cultural legacy from Roman times. The most important evidence of Roman presence in Pula is the Pula Amphitheater, the Arena as it is called by the locals, which is the best preserved monument from ancient times in Croatia. It is known that gladiator fights were being held in the roman amphitheaters around the World. Who were the Romans? How did they live and what did they eat? Who were the gladiators and why were gladiator fights being held? “Days of Antiquity – Pula Superiorum” is a festival which is being held in Pula in June and gives you the answers to all these questions.
During the festivities, Days of Antiquity – Pula Superiorum, the visitors were given a chance to be part of the life in Roman times with distinctive musical and theatrical performances and exhibitions, ancient fashion shows, ancient scenography and costume design, rich gastronomic offer and hand-made artefacts on the ancient fair on the main Pula square – the Forum. The main goal of this festival is to show the residents of Pula and many visitors who come in the summer, the spirit of forgotten Roman times, and to reveal a major part of a thousand-year old history of the town and its surroundings.
Festival Days of Antiquity / Pula Superiorum is being held on multiple locations in Pula:
- The Forum
- The Arena
- City of Graz park and other locations