In Croatia, in the south of the Istrian peninsula, lies Pula with its ancient Roman heritage. Pula was a very important city in the Roman period, at which time it was known as Colonia Julia Pollentia Herculanea. It was founded by the Emperor Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) and quickly became an important centre of trade with around 30,000 inhabitants. Reminders of this time can still be seen in today’s city. New finds and old structures frequently come to light during present day construction work.
The most famous Roman building is undoubtedly the enormous amphitheatre which stands in the middle of Pula. It probably dates from the first century AD, the same period as the Colosseum in Rome. The building is 132 by 105 metres, making it the fifth largest in the world, and could hold 20,000 spectators. The external wall is at least 32 metres high and is decorated with two rows of arches with a further series of right-angled openings above them.
The arena is still used for performances of operas and concerts. In the space beneath the amphitheatre is a small museum with artefacts found in the building itself, including a large number of amphorae.
The temple of Augustus
The amphitheatre is not the only structure dating from the Roman period. The Temple of Augustus is another impressive monument. It stands on the place where the forum or central square once stood. This temple was built between 2 BC and 14 AD and was consecrated to the goddess Roma and the Emperor Augustus. It was destroyed during the Second World War but has been almost completely restored.
The Triumphal Arch of Sergius
Pula once had 12 entrance gates but only 2 still remain. There is also one place where a gate once stood but where the Triumphal Arch of Sergius was erected in the first century AD. It was built by command of the noble family of the Sergi. Throughout history the arch, with its richly decorated west face flanked by Corinthian columns, has inspired countless artists and architects such as Michelangelo and Palladio. The arch now forms the entrance to the main shopping area in the centre of Pula.
Translation Alun Harvey