Roman Amphitheater Arena Locate On Map
Roman Amphitheater Arena - Tourist InformationAmphitheater in Pula is the larges and best preserved monument of antique engineering in Croatia. If we compare it to over 200 Roman amphitheaters, the cape of the Pula Amphitheater is the best-preserved and rare example of unique technical and technological solutions. It is the 6th largest Roman amphitheater in the world, and the only amphitheater in the world that has all three architectural rows completely preserved. Pula amphitheater is located side by side with a Coliseum in Rome, Arena in Verona, amphitheaters in Pompeii, Nimes and Arles in France and El Dejm in Tunisia. It is surprising that the Arena as the undisputed culture treasure of Croatia and the world is still not inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Description of the construction
Wall cape with large semi-circle openings is constructed from local limestone. Inner parts of the foundation that were not visible, as well as the walls of interior technical hallways, passages and steps were built from small stones connected with mortar, with plastered surface. Stone used for building the amphitheater was brought on a site from a queries around Pula that were just by the coast, because the large blocks used for construction of the imposing auditorium and the outer cape was easiest to transport by sea to the Pula port. There are several queries around Pula and most famous is Vincuran that is even today known by name Cave Romane.
It is a exceptionally geometrical structure, it has an elliptic shape that is 132 m long, 105 meters wide and 32 meters high on the seaside. To simplify the construction and make it more stable the east part of the construction with only two floors i placed on a natural high ground. Western part of the amphitheater, turned towards the sea, is three floors high. Central part of the Amphitheater is the battleground or the arena and is 69 x 42 meters in size and was separated from the auditorium by a 1,2-meter wide ditch covered with plates. There were 2 main entrances to the arena in the direction of its longer axis and several side entrances. The name arena comes from the Latin harena, which means sand, as they were covered in sand in Roman times that was also used to cover the animal and human blood stains.
Auditorium was located just above the arena itself and was spreading like and elliptic funnel in concentrically stepped rows of stone seats. Steps connected the floors. The auditorium was covered by a canvas and was able to receive about 23000 people that could follow the gladiator and similar fights, usually bloodthirsty scenes with beasts.
There were total of 15 passages into the amphitheater. In 4 towers on the outer façade there were dual steps that were used to access the upper levels. Each of those 4 towers had two water tanks and devices to spray scented water on the auditorium. Under the fighting arena in the direction of its longer axis there was a room where ceiling was supported by columns and pilasters, this was a place where props were located. Under the arena there was also a system of channels used for collection of waters that were drained into the sea. There are findings of corridors that lead to the northeast, they probably connected the amphitheater with a gladiator building that was in its vicinity whose remains were never found.
Rooms that housed the beasts were located on the ends of the underground amphitheater room that stretched in along the longer axis of the amphitheater in the north-south direction. Beast rooms were connected by a passage with the central underground room. Next to the pawed atrium on the south side of the amphitheater there was a small platform and the sanctuary of the goddess Nemesis. The festival hall was located on the western end and it could be accessed from two entrances from the seaside trough a narrow vaulted hallway. On both sides of the festival hall there were honorary halls and in front all of them, right next to the terrace support wall there was a small shrine, most probably dedicated to Mitra.
Because of its specific construction, on the Pula amphitheater you could study the traditional ways and building methods in antique period, that makes it unique and significantly different than any other in the world. What particularly stands out are the carriers that were used to cover the viewers with a cover to protect them from rain and the sun, that is confirmed by rarely preserved elements of construction on the Pula example.
The construction of the Arena itself has taken place in several stages during the 1st century AD. It is considered that already in the time of emperor Augustine rule there was a construction there on the same place, only that it was smaller and made mostly out of wood. At the time of the Flavian dynasty rule (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian) in the second half of the 1st century the arena was additionally expanded and the wooden parts were replaced with stone and the arena takes its today's shape. There are no more detailed information about the exact time and duration of construction, or of the people who built it: historical as well as archaeological sources about its basic purpose are scars. It is interesting that in approximately the same time, the Roman Coliseum is being built.
It is not completely know why did Romans choose Pula to build this monumental construction. One legend says that the Amphitheater in Pula was built by emperor Vespasian in honor of its mistress Antonia Cenida that had land in Pula.
There are no indisputable historical records for killing first Christians, but the later legend of St. Germanous tells us that his was judged in the amphitheater in year 284 AD and that the soldiers later took him away from the town to behead him. To its original purpose the amphitheater was used until the 5th century when emperor Honorius forbade gladiator fights. Fights between the convicted men, especially those on death row, and with wild animals were continued until year 681 AD when they were banned as well.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and during the Middle ages amphitheater was mainly used for pasture of cattle that fed the local population, and sometimes fairs and knight tournaments in organizations of the Maltese knights were held in the Arena. Beside that, during the Venetian rule, Arena was used for holding of fairs, but as the economy of Pula declined in the 14th century because of the decrease in population so did the significance of the Amphitheater diminish. But still, because of Pula couldn’t develop as a town, port and a intermediary hub because of the malaria, led to almost complete stall in building construction, and maybe that is what saved the outer wall cape of the Arena that stands there today.
Several different times trough history Pula amphitheater was in danger of completely disappearing. People throughout the history used stone blocks built into the amphitheater to build and repair their own homes. They even took out the iron bars that gave the outer wall additional strength. Large blocks of auditorium steps, there must have been several thousands of cubic meter of stone there, were used as a construction material, so the Arena basically became a large and easily available warehouse of finely processed stone. Patriarch of Aquileia determined a fine for all those who use the arena stone from the amphitheater. In 1458 the Pula city council forbade usage of any material from the Arena as well as sale of parts of the construction, after the large part of the Arena was literally built into the palaces and squares of Venetians. In the year 1583 the Venetian Republic had an idea of dismantling the Arena and then rebuilding it in Venice. Luckily the respectable Venetian senator Gabriele Emo opposed this insane plan so the Arena didn’t move. In the 17th century the arena was again in danger when the Venetians suggested to the military builder Antoine De Villeu that just erected the fort on the centar hill, to use the material from the Arena to build the fort on the island of St. Andria in Pula bay. But the De Ville opposed this heartedly in his letter to the ruler of the Venetian Republic. The last time the amphitheater was used as a stone source was for Pula cathedral in 1709 for its foundations.
Reconstruction of the Arena
General Auguste Marmont, the French manager of the Illyrian provinces started to rebuild the Arena. In year 1816 architect Pietro Nobile by order of Franjo I. of Austria continued the reconstruction of the Arena. In the year 1932 they rebuilt the auditorium on just one side of the amphitheater, but that part as well was just a half of the original, that was divided into two floors. The Arena so became a place for theater production, military ceremonies and public gatherings. In its state today it can hold 5000 viewers. The last reconstruction of the Arena was in the middle of the 80’s. It is considered that the inexpert reconstruction in the 80’s was the reason why the Arena isn’t on the UNESCO world heritage list today. There is currently a new reconstruction on the way and it should last approximately 20 years.
Arena is a first rate tourist attraction of Pula today as well as of entire Croatia. But it is completely underused in the tourism sense. Arena has approximately 300000 visitors a year and it earns about 1 million euro. For comparison, 5 million people a year visit the Roman coliseum and it earns about 32 million euro.
Arena is a magnet for popular world musicians with stars as Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, Andrea Bocelli, Jamiroquai, Anastacia, Manu Chao, Elton John, Zucchero and many other playing here.
In the area underneath the arena there is a permanent exhibit of reconstructions of oil and wine production machines and amphorae that were used as packaging to transport oil and wine. The name of the exhibit is the olive and wine growing in Istria at the antique times.
With the Art installation of the “Tie around the Arena” in 2003, the photo of the longest tie on the world wrapped around the Arena traveled all around the world. The tie was 808 meters and 800 kg heavy and entered the Guinness book of world records.