The closer we get to Italy, the more prominent Roman footprints become. Nowhere is this more evident than in Pula, famous for its well preserved Roman monuments from the time it was known as the colony of Pietas Julia.
Most famous from this time, is the extraordinarily well preserved amphitheatre, one of the six largest in existence today. Originally built by the ruler Claudius in a smaller size, it was enlarged as a gladiatorial area to hold a crowd 23,000 in 79 AD, under Vespasian’s rule.
It’s still in use today, albeit at a much more sedate pace, for concerts and film festivals.
With its pleasing elliptical shape and elegant three storey lines, it’s very beautiful. Unusually, this arena still has its floor intact preserving underneath, a display space for archeological finds from the amphitheatre including many amphora and a display of an ancient method of olive oil production.
Gladiators were oiled up for performance and oiling one’s skin formed a standard part of grooming at the time. Gladiators it seems, were not only prized for their skill in the arena – if you were so inclined and had a spare afternoon, it was considered perfectly reasonable for ladies of good standing to avail themselves of gladiatorial skills of the boudoir nature. For a negotiated fee, of course. And what did you do today, honey? 😁
The amphitheatre has an unusual feature – fours towers designed to catch water, which would be scented and sprayed into the stalls. It’s thought the towers might also have supported sail like structures for shade.
We’re here at the same time as a choir and so enjoy a lovely musical interlude that does a good job in offsetting the arena’s blood thirsty past.
We see the holding pen where the poor animals were kept prior to battle – I hope they good a few good bites in before they met their sad ends.
This lion has no doubt seen a great deal.
We’re spoilt for choice when it come to other Roman monuments – there’s the Twin Gate from the 2nd century, which once formed part of the city walls.
We see the beautiful Temple of Augustus from the 1st century, with its clean, simple lines – it stands in the town square now, but it was once the site of a Roman Forum.
Next to it is the Town Hall (c1295)
and nearby is the Cathedral dedicated to Blessed Virgin Mary, and its bell tower.
The Cathedral was founded in the 5th century with stones from the amphitheatre. The facade we see today is largely from the 17th century, but aspects of the original building are still retained.
Unfortunately we miss seeing the Gate of Hercules and the Arch of the Sergii – I’m not sure why, probably a combination of poor map reading/failure to prepare adequately/distracted by my bear ice-cream.
We do find, after a bit of searching a magnificent, virtually intact, 2nd century Roman mosaic floor depicting the mythological “Punishment of Dirce” where she is being tied to the horns of a bull. She does look rather relaxed about it – I think I’d struggle a wee bit more.
It’s late afternoon by this stage and we’re both a bit “monumented out”. There’s time to walk back along the harbour, around the amphitheatre one more time. I finally manage to capture it all in one frame in what’s probably the shot of the day.
Later, we drive to a nearby beach that’s our stop for the evening.
It’s a another white stone beach, set up for families, zoned for swimming. We spend a quiet evening under the gentle scent of pine trees.
I’m adjusting to the concept of being on the home stretch, I’m still very emotional about seeing my uncle yesterday. These thoughts occupy me late into the night.