Pula


Pula has a population of 58 900. This city and port, situated on the southwest coast of Istria, lies on a plain which stretches along the coast. The bay, which is 4 km wide, is deep and safe for navigation and protected from winds by the surrounding hills. There are about 2,350 hours of sunshine annually. Prehistory. Pula is the oldest town on the Eastern Adriatic coast. lt was first mentioned by the Greek writers Callimachos and Lychophron in the third century BC, and they link the foundation of the town with the legend about the Argonauts. According to Lychophron, when Jason and Medea had taken the golden fleece, they fled up the Danube (Danube- Hister) to the west and “by the gravestone of the blond haired Harmony, snakes founded the city of the Fugitives, which they called in their language, Pula”. Palaeontological finds show that the history of Pula goes back unbroken for 3000 years, a kind of continuity rare in the history of mankind. Archaeological sites and digs around Pula go 40,000 years back in time (the cave on Sandalj hill and the Neolithic settlement on Briuni). In Pula itself the remains of gigantic city walls were discovered near the Kastel. In the 11th century BC Pula was a settlement of the Illyrian tribe, the Histri. Their settlement was situated on the hill in the centre of the town (Kastel) and was built according to the standards of Illyrian architecture, 1.e. the layout of the houses followed the configuration of the terrain and went in ever decreasing circles towards the centre, the peak of the hill. The name “Pola” is of pre-Roman origin and means town or a spring of fresh water. The Triumphal Arch of the Sergii was built between 29 and 27 BC in honour of the three Sergii: Sergius Lepidus, Gaius Lucius Sergius and Gneius Sergius who held high military and civil offices in the Empire. The arch was placed at the entrance to the main street, alongside the city gates, and it has three covered archways. When the city gates were demolished in 1826 and 1829 the arch remained standing alone. It is decorated only on the city side. Beside the pilasters there are slender columns with Corinthian capitals; the archways the arch are decorated with winged Victories (the goddess of victory), adorned with wreaths. The frieze is decorated with putti bigae and Roman and barbarian weapons. The arch was built at the expense of Salvia Postum in memory of her close family. On the corners and in the centre there used to be statues of the three Sergii. This triumphal arch is a unique honorary and memorial structure from ancient lstria and as such has always attracted a great deal of attention from scholars and artists: sculptors, architects and painters. Sketches of the monument have been found amongst the works of Michelangelo, Sangallo and Piranesi, Cassas Adma and many others painted it. The Temple of Augustus stands on what is now the Republic Square. It is a well-balanced rectangular building, standing above a wide staircase. A huge entrance hall opens onto the square, with four columns across the front and one on each side. The walls are built of large, regularly shaped stone blocks. Over the capitals in the entrance hall there is an architrave, and above it a particularly beautiful frieze. The words of the inscription on the frieze were cast in bronze.

The Twin Gates date from the 2nd century AD Their solid pilasters are decorated with smooth columns, above which an architrave joins together the two archways which make up the gate. The Archaeological Museum is reached through this gate. Beyond the museum, on the slopes of the hill where the Kastel (castle) is situated, there is a theatre, dating from the 2nd century AD. Its foundations are intact, as are its semi-circular orchestra and the semi-circular auditorium. The building, which was 62 m long, was entered through three huge gateways. The podium could be reached from various angles and the orchestra was reached from two sides. The auditorium was divided into two levels by an aisle.

The Chastisement of Dirca. Mosaic on the courtyard side; a large floor mosaic was discovered in 1959, dating from the 2nd century AD. It is divided into 40 decorated areas. In the central area of the eastern side of the mosaics, a figural composition of the mythological cycle “the Chastisement of Dirca” is dominant. The remaining areas are decorated with rosettes, fish, dolphins and birds.

The Arena a three storey high Roman amphitheatre. In terms of architectural conception size and preservation, this is the most outstanding monument remaining from ancient Pula. It is the sixth largest remaining amphitheatre in the world. The fourstoried Coliseum in Rome and the amphitheatres in Capua Verona, Arles and Catania are larger. Since the amphitheatre in Pula is in better condition than the one in Verona, and higher than those in Capua, Arles and Catania, it could be said that, after the Coliseum in Rome, it is the most magnificent structure of its kind in the world. The Arena (the word comes from the Latin “arena” meaning sand) is circular, 132.45 rn X 105 m and 32.45 in in height. It is built of Istrian stone. The central part of the Arena measures 67.90 X 41.60 m. The outer wall consists of foundation stones, then two storeys of arcades of 72 arches. The upper storey has 67 square windows and on top there is a cornice rnade of blocks of stone At its peak it held 23,000 spectators. It was not only the scene of staged fights for the entertainment of the masses, but also a place for business, social life and entertainment. lt is thought that the foundations of the first, smaller amphitheatre were laid by Emperor Augustus at the beginning of his reign. They were extended by Emperor Claudius, and the final version dates from the reign of Flavius (AD 69-81). Old legends have it that the Arena was finished and decorated by Emperor Vespasian to fulfil the wishes of his lover in Pula, Antonia Cenida. Croatian folk legends tell how the Arena was built by fairies (hence the old name “Divic-grad”, the town of the fairies) during the night, and when they heard the cock crow they left it unfinished, which is why the Arena has no roof. Some special features of the Arena are the four stone towers, and on the northwest side, a reservoir with water to supply the fountains. In AD 404 gladiator fights were banned and the arena became a cattle market. In the Middle Ages it was a source of building materials for medieval Pula and the surrounding villages In 1583 the Great Venetia Senate decided to demolish the amphitheatre, take the stones to Venice and reconstruct it there. The demolition was prevented by the Venetian Senator Gabriele Erno, to whom a plaque was placed on the north western tower as a sign of gratitude.