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Pula Arena

Coordinates: 44°52′23″N 13°51′00″E / 44.873°N 13.850°E / 44.873; 13.850
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Pula Arena
The arena at Pula, Croatia, retains its complete circuit of walls.
Pula Arena is located in Croatia
Pula Arena
Shown within Croatia
LocationPula, Croatia
Coordinates44°52′23″N 13°51′00″E / 44.873°N 13.850°E / 44.873; 13.850
TypeRoman amphitheatre
Founded27 BC – AD 68
PeriodsRoman Empire
TypeProtected cultural good of national significance[1]
Reference no.Z-863

The Pula Arena (Croatian: Pulska Arena; Italian: Arena di Pola) is a Roman amphitheatre located in Pula, Croatia. It is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers entirely preserved. It was constructed between 27 BC and AD 68,[2] and is among the world's six largest surviving Roman arenas.[2] The arena is also the country's best-preserved ancient monument.

The amphitheatre was depicted on the reverse of the Croatian 10 kuna banknote, issued in 1993, 1995, 2001 and 2004.[3]


The Arena was built between 27 BC and 68 AD,[2] as the city of Pula became a regional centre of Roman rule, called Pietas Julia. The building is named after the sand (Latin harena) that once covered the inner performance area. It was built outside the town walls along the Via Flavia, the road from Pula to Aquileia and Rome.[4]

The amphitheatre was first built in timber during the reign of Augustus (2–14 AD). It was replaced by a small stone amphitheatre during the reign of emperor Claudius. In 79 AD it was enlarged to accommodate gladiator fights by Vespasian and to be completed in 81 AD under emperor Titus. This was confirmed by the discovery of a Vespasian coin in the malting.[4]

In legend, Saint Germanus, of whom little is known, was tortured in the Amphitheatre in or around 290, and subsequently martyred outside the city, on the road to Nesactium. 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 forbidden. In the 5th century the amphitheatre began to see its stone plundered by the local populace. By the 13th century, the patriarch of Aquileia forbade further removal from the Arena.[4]


Restored arched walls at Pula

The exterior wall is constructed in limestone. The part facing the sea consists of three stories, while the other part has only two stories since the amphitheatre was built on a slope. The maximum height of the exterior wall is 29.40 m (96.5 ft). The first two floors have each 72 arches, while the top floor consists of 64 rectangular openings.[5]

The axes of the elliptical amphitheatre are 132.45 and 105.10 m (434.5 and 344.8 ft) long, and the walls stand 32.45 m (106.5 ft) high. It could accommodate 23,000 spectators in the cavea, which had forty steps divided into two meniani. The seats rest directly on the sloping ground; The field for the games, the proper arena, measured 67.95 by 41.65 m (222.9 by 136.6 ft). The field was separated from the public by iron gates.[5][6]

Exterior during the blue hour

The arena had a total of 15 gates. A series of underground passageways were built underneath the arena along the main axis from which animals, ludi scenes and fighters could be released; stores and shops were located under the raked seating. The amphitheatre was part of the circuit of the gladiators.[6]

Each of the four towers had two cisterns filled with perfumed water that fed a fountain or could be sprinkled on the spectators. The amphitheatre could be covered with velaria (large sails), protecting the spectators from sun or rain (as attested by rare construction elements). Below the arena was a system of canals which collected rainwater and effluent and drained into the sea.[6]

This amphitheatre, through its conservation, has served as an example for the study of ancient building techniques.

Later use[edit]

In the Middle Ages the interior of the Arena was often used for grazing, occasional tournaments by the Knights of Malta and medieval fairs. In 1583 the Venetian Senate proposed dismantling the arena and rebuilding it within Venice. The proposals were rejected. Today, a headstone celebrating the Venetian senator Gabriele Emo's [sh] opposition to the plan is currently visible on the second tower.

In 1789, stone was taken from Pula arena 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 governor of the Illyrian Provinces during the First French Empire, 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 arena was adapted for theatre productions, military ceremonies and public meetings. In its present state, seating capacity is around 7,000 and 12,500 for all standing events.

Present day[edit]

The arena is used as a venue for many concerts. Performances have included ones by Foo Fighters, Luciano Pavarotti, Đorđe Balašević, Plácido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli, Nina Badrić, Hillsong United, Patrizio Buanne, Jose Carreras, Dino Merlin, Jamiroquai, Anastacia, Eros Ramazzotti, Maksim Mrvica, Norah Jones, Zucchero, Zdravko Čolić, Alanis Morissette, Sinéad O'Connor, Elton John, Dua Lipa, 2Cellos, Sting, Michael Bolton, Seal, Il Divo, Tom Jones, Gibonni, Manu Chao, Oliver Dragojević, Leonard Cohen, Grace Jones, Moderat, David Gilmour, Arctic Monkeys and Frank Zivkovic. It has a capacity of about 5000 spectators, and also hosts operas, ballets, sports competitions as well as the Pula Film Festival. The arena is open to the public daily, and the underground passages house exhibitions of viticulture and olive growing in Istria.[7]

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. On 8 July 2019, a football match was played between the former players of FC Bayern Munich and the Croatia national football team as part of a tourism partnership deal between FC Bayern Munich and the Istria Tourist Board signed in 2018.[8] Two professional ice hockey games were played there on September 14 and 16, 2012;[9] KHL Medveščak, a Zagreb-based Erste Bank Eishockey Liga club, hosted HDD Olimpija Ljubljana and the Vienna Capitals.


Interior of Pula arena

See also[edit]


  • Turner, J., Grove Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, USA. New Ed edition, January 2, 1996. ISBN 0-19-517068-7.
  • Mlakar, Stefan, The Amphitheatre in Pula, The Archaeological Museum of Istra, 1957.
  • Džin, Kristina. Mirko Žužić (ed.). Arena Pula. Zagreb: Viza MG d.o.o. Remetinečka cesta 81, Zagreb. ISBN 978-953-7422-15-8.


  1. ^ "Arena (Amfiteatar)". Registar Kulturnih Dobara. Retrieved 2023-06-07.
  2. ^ a b c Kristina Džin: 2009, Page 7
  3. ^ Croatian National Bank. Features of Kuna Banknotes Archived 2009-05-06 at the Wayback Machine: 10 kuna Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine (1993 issue), 10 kuna Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine (1995 issue), 10 kuna Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine (2001 issue) & 10 kuna Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine (2004 issue). – Retrieved on 30 March 2009.
  4. ^ a b c "Arena u Puli" (in Croatian). Istrapedia. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Arena u Puli" (in Bosnian). Istra.net. Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Marušić, Branko (1979). Pula and Its Surroundings. Turistkomerc. pp. 55–56.
  7. ^ "Arena – Amphitheater". Pula.info. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  8. ^ Dimitrova, Monika (10 June 2019). "A football match will be played for the first time inside Pula Arena". www.themayor.eu. TheMayor.EU.
  9. ^ Leahy, Sean. "Here's what hockey in a Roman amphitheatre looked like (Spoiler: It was awesome)". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved 18 September 2012.

External links[edit]