Pula Arena - History and Facts | History Hit

Pula Arena

Pula, Istria, Croatia

Pula Arena is a dramatic first century AD Roman amphitheatre in Croatia.

Peta Stamper

27 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Pula Arena

Pula Arena, also known as Pula Amphitheatre, is a dramatic historic Roman amphitheatre in Pula, Croatia. Built in the 1st century AD, Pula Arena was constructed during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian who was also responsible for founding the Colosseum.

Able to accommodate approximately 20,000 spectators, Pula Arena would have played host to gladiatorial battles under the Romans and the tournaments of knights in medieval times. Today, the amphitheatre is such a monument it is depicted on Croatia’s 10 kuna banknote.

Pula Arena history

Built between 27 BC and 68 AD the amphitheatre marked the prosperity of Pula as it became a Roman regional hub known as Pietas Julia. The amphitheatre was constructed outside of the town walls along the Via Flavia – the road between Pula, Aquileia and Rome. During the reign of Augustus, the theatre was built first in timber but was soon replaced under Claudius by a small stone model. It was in 79 AD however during the reign of Emperor Vespasian that the arena was enlarged to accommodate gladiatorial fights, finally completed in 81 AD.

The outer walls were made with limestone and the part facing the sea was built with 3 stories (providing great views) while the other sides had only 2 stories since the amphitheatre was built on a slope. The cavea – main seating area – could accommodate 23,000 spectators, separated from the arena by iron gates. Underneath the arena a network of underground passages were built to release animals, fighters and festival scenes from.

During the later middle ages the arena was used for grazing cattle although this was sometimes interrupted by the occasional tournament held by the Knights of Malta or a medieval fair. In 1583, the Venetian Senate proposed taking apart the arena and rebuilding it in Venice but this idea was rejected, marked by a headstone celebrating Gabriele Emo’s opposition to the plan. In 1709, stone was taken from Pula Arena to build belfry foundations for Pula Cathedral.

In 1932 the arena was adapted for modern entertainment, seating around 7,000.

Pula Arena today

The Pula Arena is the only remaining of its kind to have all 4 side towers completely preserved. Now restored with a capacity over 7,000 people both seated and standing, Pula Arena’s shows are far more docile in nature than their ancient predecessors.

Stop to catch an opera, film festival or a concert – previous players have included the Foo Fighters, Elton John and Leonard Cohen. Several ice hockey games have also been played on site. Or just wander around this incredible immense ancient site and imagine the thriving social centre as it was 2,000 years ago.

Getting to Pula Arena

Sat on the seafront, Pula Arena is easily found on foot. Otherwise, buses on the red, blue, purple, brown, grey and yellow lines will take you to FLAVJEVSKA 1-B stop, right outside the arena. For those driving there is parking 50m away at Parking Karolina next to Titov Park.

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