A humbling aspect of frequent travel is that occasionally you find yourself at some prominent place that…well…I’m sorry, but I never heard of it.
On this trip that place was the city of Pula, a busy port on the Adriatic, just a day’s sail from Venice. Long a ship-building center, it is now in Croatia. I say “now” because when I was growing up and not hearing about it, it was in Yugoslavia.
At one point in its history Pula was part of the Venetian hegemony. And long before that it was an especially prominent part of the Roman empire. Today as evidence of its continued international outlook, young folks are required to be equally proficient in both the Croatian and Italian languages.
For the intellectually curious cruisers on the Aegean Odyssey, however, it is the Roman ruins scattered liberally around the city that are the big attraction, especially its well-preserved amphitheater, a beneficent gift to Pula from the emperors Claudius and then Vespasian. Historians now say it was dedicated, as were most such entertaining diversions, to keeping the masses continually entertained and happy with life in the colonies.
One of the lecturers on our ship, described Rome’s coliseum as “a superdome of slaughter.”
Despite a persistent drizzle, our bunch turned out to stand in the center of the structure which was a scaled down version of the original coliseum. Not to put it down in any way, it is considered the sixth largest such structure. That’s in a world in which more than 200 have been identified.
Our guide described the excesses of the Roman thirst for dramatic and bizarre entertainment, all of which were emulated here in Pula. Another guide said that occasionally even woman were tapped to serve as gladiators.
One of our audience said that was hard to believe, prompting a response from a wag in the crowd:
“Are you kidding?” he said. “I married one of them!”
In the final analysis, wet and formerly wild Pula rated just a half-day on our ship’s itinerary. In the early afternoon, we set sail for another Croatian metropolis, Split, a city I have heard of. But only barely.
April 15, 2012
Photos by Robert W. Bone