The Roman city Pietas Julia (now Croatian Pula) was a thriving urban center. Trade contributed to this especially because the settlement was erected (even before the arrival of the Romans), on the bay which is an excellent natural port. It was precisely thanks to the economic importance of the Romanum Pietas Julia that it developed, which also resulted in the construction of more and more impressive public buildings, such as temples, baths and cultural facilities.
By far the most impressive object, including civitas, was the amphitheater.
Construction of “Pulska Arena”
The amphitheater in Pietas Julia was built between 2 and 14 CE, during the reign of Augustus, where wood was used as the building material. A small stone amphitheater was erected on the wooden site during the reign of Claudius. However, the shape of the building, as we know it today, is owed to another ruler – the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian. Vespasian commissioned the expansion of the amphitheater in 79. Legend is that he was prompted to do so by Cenida, his lover. Due to the death of the emperor, his son and successor Titus ended his work.
For the construction of the Amphitheater the white limestone was used. Similarly to other objects of this type in the empire, it was built on an elliptic basis, while the base axes were 132.45 and 105.10 m. The building was erected on a slope, therefore, from the sea it has three floors, and from the land side two. The lower storey consists of 32 arcades, while the middle one is made up of 72. The highest level has the character of a wall with 64 rectangular openings. The Games in this arena could also be watched by probably 23, 000 spectators who could enter it through 15 gates. The external wall has the highest point 29.4 m high.
In the perimeter of the walls there are 4 towers in which the cisterns were built. Water from these could be used to power fountains or, if necessary, to sprinkle the audience. Under the arena, however, a series of underground passages were made that allowed wild animals or gladiators enter onto the arena.
The Amphitheater was built outside the walls of the city, at the road leading to Aquileia, and then to Rhymia Via Flavia. Placing this type of facility outside the city protected the civitas from spilling into the streets of riots, which often erupted during the games.
In the fourth century in the arena of Pietas Julia died Germanicus from Smyrna, also known as Saint Germain, who was thrown to the beasts during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius.
After the fall of Rome
After the introduction of a ban on the organization of gladiatorial fighting, and then the ban on capital punishment by throwing prisoners for the beasts, the arena was abandoned and as many similar objects for centuries served as a local quarry. The ending of that “theft” was in the 18th century. However, fortunately for the amphitheater in Pula, demolition started from the inside, not from the outside (as in the Flavian Amphitheater in Rome), hence up to today the complete outline of the outer walls has been preserved, along with all four towers. It makes the Pula Arena one of the three best-preserved Roman amphitheatres (it is also one of the six largest).
The amphitheater in Pula is open to the public. In the summer months there is organized Spectacula Antiqua, in which viewers have the opportunity to watch reconstruction of gladiator fights.