Pula Arena (#9)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Today we continue examining the list of 52 Ancient Roman Monuments which had been claimed as a “must see” by Touropia Travel Experts. The last location we had checked out was #10 – Aqueduct of Segovia.

Today we’re headed back to Dalmatia as we explore #9 – Pula Arena!

Interior of Pula Arena

The Pula Arena is the name of the amphitheatre located in Pula, Croatia. The Arena is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have 4 side towers and with all 3 Roman architectural orders entirely preserved.

The amphitheatre in Pula is the 6th largest (of 200 surviving) Roman arena in the world, and one of the best preserved ancient monuments in Croatia. Built between 27 BC – 68 AD, it could seat over 26,000 spectators.

Restored arched walls at Pula.

The Arena was built as the city of Pula became a regional center of Roman rule, called Pietas Julia. The name was derived from the sand that, since antiquity, covered the inner space.

The amphitheatre was originally built in timber during the reign of Augustus (2–14 AD). It was then replaced by a small stone amphitheatre during the reign of Emperor Claudius.

It was built outside the town walls along the Via Flavia, the road from Pietas Julia to Aquileia and Rōma.

In 79 AD Vespasian enlarged the Arena to accommodate gladiator fights, and this was completed in 81 AD under Emperor Titus. This timeline was confirmed by the discovery of a Vespasian coin in the malting.


A Christian called Germanus was martyred in the Arena in the 4th Century. The amphitheatre remained in use until the 5th Century, when Emperor Honorius prohibited gladiatorial combats.

It was not until 681 that combat between convicts, particularly those sentenced to death, and wild animals was also forbidden. It was also in the 5th Century that the amphitheatre began to see its stone plundered by the local populace.

Close up view of the interior.

In the Middle Ages the interior of the Arena was used for grazing, occasional tournaments by the Knights of Malta and medieval fairs. By the 13th Century, the patriarch of Aquileia forbade further removal from the Arena.

In the 15th Century many stones were again taken from the amphitheater to build houses and other structures around Pula. Fortunately, though, this practice was stopped before the whole structure was destroyed.

In 1583 the Venetian Senate proposed dismantling the arena and rebuilding it within Venice, but the proposals were rejected. Today, a headstone celebrating the Venetian Senator Gabriele Emo’s opposition to the plan is currently visible on the 2nd tower.

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pula.

In 1709, stone was once more taken from Pula Arena, this time for the belfry foundations at Pula Cathedral. This was the last time the Arena was used as a source of stone.

General Auguste de Marmont, as French Governor of the Illyrian Provinces, started the restoration of the Arena. This was continued in 1816 by the Ticinese architect Pietro Nobile, commissioned by the emperor Francis I of Austria.

In 1932, the amphitheatre was adapted for theatre productions, military ceremonies and public meetings. In its present state seating capacity is between 7,000 and 12,500 for all standing events.

Pula Arena as it sits amongst the town.

Today it is used to host a variety of festivals and performances during the summer months.

The arena is used as a venue for many concerts including: Luciano PavarottiĐorđe BalaševićAndrea BocelliPatrizio BuanneJose CarrerasDino MerlinJamiroquaiAnastaciaEros Ramazzoti, Maksim MrvicaNorah JonesZuccheroZdravko ČolićAlanis MorissetteSinéad O’ConnorElton John2CellosStingMichael BoltonSealIl DivoTom JonesGibonniManu ChaoOliver Dragojević, Plácido Domingo, and Leonard Cohen and David Gilmour.

The arena has also been used for cinematic works such as Titus, a 1999 film adaptation of Shakespeare‘s revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus by Julie Taymor.

Medveščak vs. Vienna Capitals played in the Pula Arena.

Two professional ice hockey games were played there on 14 and 16 September 2012. KHL Medveščak, a Zagreb-based Erste Bank Eishockey Liga club, hosted HDD Olimpija Ljubljana and the Vienna Capitals.

The amphitheatre is depicted on the reverse of the Croatian 10 kuna banknote, issued in 1993, 1995, 2001 and 2004.

Reverse of a 10 Kuna banknote.

We hope you enjoyed today’s travel and look forward to having you back again. Be sure to stop by soon for we never know where we’ll end up, or who with.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Džin, Kristina. Mirko Žužić, ed. Arena PulaZagreb: Viza MG d.o.o. Remetinečka cesta 81, Zagreb. ISBN 978-953-7422-15-8.

Mlakar, Stefan. “The Amphitheatre in Pula”. The Archaeological Museum of Istra, 1957.

Turner, J. Grove Dictionary of ArtOxford University Press, 2 January 1996. ISBN 0-19-517068-7.

Arena (Colliseum) of Pula

Archaeological Museum of Istria

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