The Pula Arena is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. It is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the World. A rare example among the 200 surviving Roman amphitheatres, it is also the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia.
The Arena was built between 27 BC and 68 AD, as the city of Pula became a regional centre of Roman rule, called Pietas Julia. The name was derived from the sand that, since antiquity, covered the inner space. It was built outside the town walls along the Via Flavia, the road from Pula to Aquileia and Rome.
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.
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.
In the Middle Ages the interior of the Arena was 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 opposition to the plan is currently visible on the second tower.
In 1709, 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 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 arena was adapted for theatre productions, military ceremonies and public meetings. In its present state, seating capacity is around 7000 and 12,500 for all standing events.
The arena is today used as a venue for many concerts.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.