Want to see a Roman amphitheatre without all the crowds and air pollution? Go to Pula!
We didn’t have enough time to go to Rome on our way to Cres, and I’m glad we didn’t. The remains of the sixth largest Roman amphitheatre in the world can be found in Pula, and its location by the sea makes it absolutely beautiful.
There is also a Roman Forum in Pula, which I’m interjecting here because I have a picture of it but not much to say, ha ha! It was the Temple of Augustus.
There was no one around when we visited the amphitheatre, except for a German tour group that marched in and marched out in about 15 minutes. We listened to the audio tour and then the girls burned off some steam running around the arena, so we took a little longer.
The ampitheatre was built in the first century AD and is said to have the most intact outer wall of any amphitheatre still standing. Emperor Vespasian was responsible for funding its construction as well as the more well known Colosseum in Rome.
About 23,000 spectators could fill the stands to watch gladiator fights, as well as executions-by-animal of criminals and early Christians. Hunting parties were sent around the known world to bring back the most exotic and fierce animals they could find.
(Personally I would prefer a lion, as they suffocate their prey before ripping it apart).
Gladiator fights were eventually outlawed in the 5th century AD, but the amphitheatre continued to be used throughout the Middle Ages by the Knights of Malta for jousting tournaments.
Unfortunately this secondary use didn’t keep the local population from taking away the stones to build houses and the bell tower for a cathedral. At one point even Venice proposed to remove all of the stones to reconstruct the amphitheatre in the city, but the plan fell apart.
The amphitheatre was eventually protected in the 13th century by a decree that forbid the removal of any more stones.
Today the amphitheatre has been restored, and has seating for 5,000 people. Operas and film festivals are common throughout the summer months. Pula has even held two outdoor hockey games in the arena (who knew it could get that cold here – or that there are that many hockey players!)