Top 10 Roman Empire monuments in Pula
First of all, when we see the title, there are some questions that pop our mind. For how long has the Roman Empire ruled Pula and Istria? What kind of traces has it left? How did Pula look like during the reign of Rome? Which are the best preserved Roman monuments you can see these days? Top 10 Roman Empire monuments in Pula that locals recommend you, will help you gain insight into the life and rule of ancient Rome.
The Roman name for Pula was Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola or Colonia Iulia Pollentia Herculanea. That name was established when the town was rebuilt after the war in 31st BC on demand of Octavian’s daughter Julia.
Pula’s ground plan had the shape of a spider web because of its hills – that was unusual for Roman’s colonies. In that period, Pula was surrounded by walls, but these days we can easily walk in the street of Pula and enjoy in visiting Roman’s traces.
These are top 10 Roman Empire monuments in Pula:
1. AMPHITHEATER – ARENA
What would Roman’s urban settlement be without a place intended for a crude show? The legend says that Arena was a gift from the emperor Vespasian to his lover – free slave Antonia Cenida. But another folk tale says that fairies made the Arena (Divić-grad) during the night. They left Arena without a roof because they lost their magic power after the sunrise. No one could prove these stories, so whom do we trust? One thing is certain – Arena used to be a place for entertainment, but also a place for demonstrating cruelty and power of Roman authority over the disobedience, slavery, lunatics, and criminals.
The arena is under the protection of Archeological Museum of Istria which maintains ancient customs . Most noteworthy: you can see a reconstruction of the real gladiator fight every summer season. Don’t miss that spectacle with truth fighters! Also, after the show, you can drink some good Istrian wine (like Romans used to drink) in wine bar Tappo that is near Arena.
2. TRIUMPHAL ARCH SERGIJEVAC – PORTA AUREA
The monument Triumphal Arch of patrician family Sergijevac used to present one of the 12 gates of Pula, but today is a freestanding inheritance. Historical sources say that it was built in the honor of the deceased brothers from Sergijevac family. Salvia Postum Srgijevac raised the Triumphal Arch or Porta Aurea to prove love for her husband, son, and uncle. Today, Porta Aurea stands on the central position of the Portarata Square and also leads you to the Prvomajska street where you can also walk through the town. Furthermore, if you get tired of walking through the center you can relax nearby – in bistro Alighieri and eat some brunch.
3. THE TWIN DOORS
One of the main entrances to the Pula is preserved today – the Twin Doors (from II or III century) leading to the Archaeological Museum of Istria. According to the existing data they had a decorative function of the entrance to the antique theater. The theater is still there – behind the Archaeological Museum of Istria.
4. DOOR OF HERCULES
Another historical trace from the age of 47. and 45. BC. the door of Hercules represents the evidence from the time Pula emerged as a town with urban structure. That architecturally modest doors are made of stone block. At the top of the damaged openings, we can see the head of Hercules and his cudgel. Next to the cudgel is inscription with names of two Roman’s clerics – Gaius Cassius Longinus and Lucius Calpurnous Pisu. Roman’s Senate sent them to build colonies in Pula and to rule it. Today, doors are the entrance of the Circolo – The Italian community.
5. SMALL ROMAN THEATER
Evidences that Pula was highly culturally developed are the remains of the Roman’s Theater on the slope of Kaštel (behind the Archeological Museum of Istria). That theater (built in the I. Century) could receive about 5.000 people – the entire Pula’s population of that time. Constructors divided the space into the scene and the prosperous for actors, on the orchestra and the auditorium.
The main square of the ancient city – Forum is very well preserved. It used to be the center of civil gatherings because there were: the main market place, fairground, court, administrative offices, and also public events. The tradition of public gathering at the Forum is still alive – the place abounds with cultural events and coffee bars that provide a clear view at ancient monuments.
7. TEMPLE OF THE EMPEROR AUGUSTUS
Romans made this wonderful temple in the honor of Roman goddess Roma and the emperor Augustus. It represents an example of early Roman sacral architecture, and because of its rich ornaments, the influence of late Hellenistic art is visible. The pillars are made of smooth marble, on top of which are the classic Corinthian capitals. The leaves of akanta are beautiful. On the main wreath, there are relimefs of vine, fruit and bird motifs. Artists derived them with very fine technique. The temple is located on the northern side of the Forum.
8. COMMUNAL PALACE
The communal palace that stands on Forum contains the entire history of Pula in the architectural stratigraphy of antiquity, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and also Baroque until these days. Therefore, these are the continuous municipal headquarters that point to the special significance and influence of antiquity of Pula Heritage.
9. DIRKA’S PUNISHMENT – MOSAIC
The mosaic presents legend about Dirka, actually, Dirka’s punishment. Dirka was injured because of her jealousy and malice – she was caught in her own trap. Dirka’s envy motivated her to spit against her cousin Antiopa (Dirka was jealousy because of Antiope’s love affair with Zeus). Men on the mosaic are sons of Antiope and Zeus – Amifon and Zet. Dirka condemned Antiopa to prison jail and chased her sons into the wildwood. Zeus helped Amifon and Zet – he sends a shepherd to take care of them. After many years, Antiopa meets her sons on Dionysius celebration. Dirka notices that, and she orders Amifon and Zet to bring a bull and tide Antiopa on bull’s horns – Dirka’s exclamation was that Antiope is a runaway slave. Therefore, Zeus spotted her intent and told Antiope’s sons the truth. Finally, in the end, Amifon and Zet tide up Dirka to a bull.
Mosaic is available for visitors near the church Saint Maria Formosa. This is certainly unique!
10. REMAINS OF ROMAN VILLAS ON ISLAND VIŽULA (NEAR MEDULIN)
Modern people did not invent wellness centers. Archaeologists know this very well – they discovered new evidence on the Peninsula of Vižula in Medulin. Also, they found the remains of the ancient villa which reveals a lot about late antiquity lifestyle of the Romans. Furthermore, they found system core for heating water, air, and furnaces. There was also a system for heating and circulating air – central heating of that time.
There is no doubt that you will enjoy your vacation in Pula even more!