The Pula Amphitheater: History and Fun Facts
Croatia is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but it’s so much more than just a beach destination.
It will stun you with its pristine nature and jaw-dropping landscapes and offer a memorable experience with its famous music festivals. But Croatia is also home to impressive landmarks, like the Pula Arena.
The Pula Arena is a Roman Amphitheater dating back to the 1st century AD that every visitor should see. As the name suggests, it’s located in Pula, the main city of the Istria region, on the Mediterranean coast.
So, get ready to discover this Roman arena’s origins, history, myths, and legends.
The Pula Arena: Origins and History
Back when the amphitheater was erected, the Balkan area was under the Roman Empire, which had built many cities in today’s Croatia, including Pula.
The arena was initially built with timber under Emperor Augustus when Pula was flourishing into a regional administrative center. Later, under Emperor Vespasian, it was rebuilt with local limestone and expanded to host gladiatorial games.
The Pula arena could fit more than 20,000 cheering spectators. Many of them would bet on their favorite gladiators, who fought to the death to prove their dominance or win their freedom. Because most of them were slaves or criminals forced into the role.
The arena’s structure has remained practically unchanged over the centuries. In fact, it’s the only Roman amphitheater to still have four side towers. It’s also the sixth largest surviving one in the world.
Myths and Legends Surrounding the Pula Arena
This impressive Pula amphitheater is surrounded by several myths and legends.
One of the most famous ones is that a gladiator’s fate was determined by specific thumb gestures. Many movies have shown us that a thumb held up meant approval and spared the gladiator’s life, while a thumb held down meant death. However, several historians have challenged this theory, claiming that the thumb-down gesture actually meant swords down and that the losing gladiator had to be spared.
Another myth surrounding the arena is that Vespasian had it built as a tribute to his local mistress. But then, there’s a local legend, according to which it was built by fairies at night, but they had to leave it incomplete, without a roof at dawn, so no one would spot them.
The Pula Arena Today: A Fantastic Concert and Event Venue
Today, this majestic amphitheater is one of the world’s most iconic venues for concerts and events. So, it’s no wonder superstars like Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, Norah Jones, Andrea Bocelli, and David Gilmour have performed here.
But the arena is not just about music. It also hosts a famous film festival, usually in July or August.
But there’s more. Every week during the summer, it takes spectators back to the Roman era with its Spectacvla Antiqva, a spectacular reenactment of gladiatorial games.
The Pula arena is open every day except on January 1.
January, February, March, November, and December: 9 am to 5 pm
April and October: 8 am to 8 pm
May and September: 8 am to 9 pm
June, July, and August: 8 am to 10 pm.
Tickets to the arena cost 70 Kuna (just over 9 dollars or euros) for adults and 35 Kuna for students and children.
Discover Croatia and the Pula amphitheater with Venezia Lines
Croatia has many things to see and it is a wonderful destination for beach and culture enthusiasts. And if you happen to be in Venice or Istria, Venezia Lines ferries will take you there in no time. Pula, in fact, is one of the ports in the Istrian peninsula served by Venezia Lines, an excellent option if you want to visit the arena or go to one of its concerts or festivals.
More and more people choose our ferries connecting Venice and the Croatian coast. This way, you can travel stress-free to Pula and focus on having a good time exploring its many wonders.
Plus, you can take advantage of our many offers, such as family or group packages, or join the VIP Club to make your vacation in Croatia even more memorable.