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Most of the people who visit Pula are familiar with the amphitheater and connect Pula with the Roman Empire. Reality is much different. Colosseum is the biggest attraction in Pula, but compared to some other findings around Pula it is just a baby.

How Istria got its name?

Roman didn’t exist when cave near Pula was inhabited. Primitive stone artifact made 800 000 years ago in Šandalja cave is the oldest human-made tool on in Croatia. Between that time and Romans, Istra was very active. Some settlements around Pula are up to 8000 years old, and the city of Pula has been founded 3000 years ago by the ancient Illyrian tribe Histrians.

What does the name Pula mean?

As you can see Histrians are responsible for the name of the whole peninsula Istria, but who gave the name to the city of Pula? 

That is a treat for everybody who loves Greek mythology. 

After Jason and Medea managed to steal the Golden Fleece they escaped over northern Adriatic sea. Colchis were chasing them but failed in their mission. They were scared to return back home without the Golden Fleece so they settled on Istria. Colchis weren’t very creative and named they new home Polai – in their language “The City of Refuges”.  

Roman time

pula historic roman gate

Istria got under the Roman empire in 177 B.C., but the city of Pula reached its peak around 45 B.C. At that time 30 000 people lived in Pula and their city became an important port with the vast surrounding area under their control.

A civil war between Romans made an impact on the whole empire. Pula suffered a lot, in 31 B.C. the city was destroyed.
Some cities never regain their shine after such destruction, but Pula isn’t like most cities. It was rebuilt by the wish of Octavian’s daughter Julia. A lot of classical building got their place under the Sun at that time and Pula was protected by walls. Water system and sewerage were built and Pula once again was a nice place to live.

Post Roman time

Nothing lasts forever, not even the great Roman Empire, so after its fall in 476, Istria was under Ostrogoths. Wild Ostrogoths ruled around 60 years and after them, Pula became part of Eastern Roman empire. Due to Pula’s great geographical position city became a strong port again. After Croats, famously, got to these land in the 7th century, unlike Ostrogoths, they decided to stay. Europe was constantly changing at that time so Carlo the Great ruled Istria and Pula for some time. Pula became the most important city in Istria and woven loyalty to the Venetian republic. Aldo Pula had written city statute in the 13th century thanks to the unpeaceful surrounding city started to lose its shine. Under Venetian republic, city suffered a lot. Diseases and fights led to a rapid decreasing of the population so in the middle of 18th century Pula had only 300 inhabitants. Napoleon crushed Venetians and eventually got his hand on Istria and Pula. His reign didn’t last for long because the Austrian empire took Pula back in 1813. City bloomed again and became the most important and protected military port in the empire. 

Sadly the world was shaking and World War I started. That was a horrible time for everybody so Pula suffered too. After the war finished Italians became rulers of Istria. Same as while it was under Venetian’s Pula withered. It gets even darker under the Nazi’s boot. The city was under terror in every meaning of that world. It looked like nothing can save ancient Pula.

Unbreakable ancient city 

pula arena famous roman amphitheater in istria

The city wouldn’t last for so long if it could be broken so easily and they lived to see their freedom after World War II. 

1947 was the crucial year, Istria and Pula became part of Yugoslavia and shortly after part of  People’s Republic of Croatia. Istria with Pula is part of Croatia ever since and today they are one of the most important parts of our beautiful country.

Unstable past with a lot of ups and downs didn’t wear Pula down. It just made this ancient town stronger and richer. Pula is one of the best places in Croatia when it comes to tradition, history, food, and wine. Visit it and feel from the first hand why is everybody crazy about Pula.