Monday, 23 April 2012

A Roman Ampitheater in Pula

The arena in Pula is one of the best-preserved examples of Roman ampitheaters in the world.  Some sources say that a visit here is a better investment than lining up to see the giant in Rome.

It is a must-see.  Add it to your bucket list...

Built from 27 BC -68 AD, during the reign of Caesar Augstus, it dominates the waterfront of the city of Pula.  Hugging the Adriatic, it is an imposing sight.

Established as the cultural, political, and social center in the area, the arena drew crowds to its various sponsored events.  It gave a heightened value and worth to ancient Pula as a site frequented by Emperors and high-ranking officials.

As we arrived, there were numerous tours entering and ogling the perimeter.  Guides speaking every language outed its characteristics in their various tongues - and yet, it wasn't crowded.  We were free to peek and prod and enjoy as much as we desired.

Beneath the floor, tunnels radiate to hidden rooms, holding cells for animals from the gladiator days.  This ampitheater was on the gladiator circuit, and hosted many public fighting events in its hey-day.

Tours of these tunnels are hosted on a tight schedule during the busy tourist season.

Seating inside the arena remains today, a modern equivalent of the ancient arrangement.  Originally, shops and stores were located beneath the seats.  Four towers, preserved as icons of Roman engineering, contained cisterns which were filled with perfumed water.  A huge canopy could be spread over the arena proper to shield spectators from the hot sun or the rain.

In 681, an order was given forbidding the pitting of prisoners against one another in death matches, and the use of wild animals.  Some sources cite Germanus to be a Christian martyr doomed to a terrible fate within the arena walls.
Stone from this site was systematically stolen for other building projects through the intervening centuries.  At one point, the site was all but completely buried. A Venetian senator proposed the removal of its materials to Venice, where it could be rebuilt. A headstone marking the decision of Gabriele Emo, another Venetian senator, to allow the edifice to remain intact stands reminder of an important intervention regarding Pula's best interests.

The arena saw intermittent and varying uses through the centuries.  Today, it is a venue for concerts.  Seating 20,000, it sponsors a full line-up - you can take in rock concerts, ballet, theater, and even a film-festival!

If you are planning a trip to the area, I urge you to check out the concert line-up - an open-air show in a turn of the millennia venue is just not something you get to take in every day.  You can find concert information here.

My thanks for the concert photo go out to the Croatian National Tourist Board.

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