Romans in Istria
Romans in Istria
The Romans introduced a new type of organization in Istria, just as throughout entire Europe they were the first to start the urbanization, building roads and connecting towns, thus greatly encouraged the development of trade. Istria is famous as a region rich in high quality stone, a fact well known to the Romans, so today there are numerous places along the west coast of Istria that were once Roman quarries from which stone was taken to erect their magnificent buildings. The Amphitheatre of Pula-Pola was also built from local lime stone. The Romans brought the exploitation of stone nearly to perfection through the new way of building, stone dressing, decoration, etc.
Large parts of the best land were turned into state properties (ager publicus) which were then peopled by Roman colony and retired soldiers-veterans. Many estates belonged to emperors, members of their families and friends. They erected villae rusticae which served as homes or summer residences and for manufacturing various products. Numerous sites, nearly 300 classical sites have been registered in Istria; speak of the kiln workshops and those for the production of earthenware, for making and dyeing cloth, brickyards and workshops for amphorae of which the one in Červar near Poreč supplied amphorae for emperors.
Most of the preserved Roman monuments are found in Pula. The Temple of Augustus dedicated to goddess Roma and Emperor Augustus was built between 2 BC and AD 14. It stood in the Roman Forum, also the name of the present day square, where a small collection of Roman sculpture made of stone and bronze is now displayed.
Hercules’ Gate was incorporated into the ancient city walls, probably the first monument that the Romans erected after coming to Pula, as well as the Twin Gates named for the two arches and built between the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The Triumphal Arch of the Sergi, drawn even by Michelangelo when he visited Pula-Pola in the 16th century was built in Corinthian order about 30 BC. Particularly interesting is the Small Roman Theatre within the city walls, as distinguished from the large one which stood outside the city walls, but has not been preserved.
The magnificent Amphitheatre, used primarily for gladiator fights, was built during the Emperor Vespasian rule in the 1st century. It was constructed in the form of an ellipse and could embrace about 20,000 spectators. The underground rooms of the Amphitheatre house the permanent exhibition 'Olive and Wine Growing of Istria in the Classical Antiquity' with reconstructions of machines for producing olive oil and wine (mills, presses and vessels) as well as numerous amphorae used for oil and wine transportation.
There are numerous archaeological sites with Roman remains on the Brijuni Islands. In those times Brijuni belonged to only one owner whose economic basis was the commercial production of salt and building stone at the local quarry.
On the eastern coast of Veli Brijun, at Verige Bay, the largest Roman residential complex in Istria was found. It consisted of a villa rustica as the nucleus of the complex, peristyle of a representative area, two atriums surrounded by rooms and portico with loggias 80 m long and 6.2 m wide which ended with a large terrace with a magnificent view of the sea and entire bay.
Three temples were dedicated to Neptune (god of the sea), Mars (god of war), and probably Venus (goddess of love). A large portico connected the temples with the library. There were also thermae, terraces and gardens. The complex displays a refined unity of architecture and landscape and the high level of Roman builders’ artistic skills.
The town of Poreč is exceptional because of its urban layout. In the 2nd century BC it was a Roman castrum, a military settlement with a regular physical arrangement with two characteristic main Roman streets - cardo and decumanus. The rectangular arrangement of Roman streets is still perfectly visible whereas decumanus remains the main longitudinal road even today. In this street today, there is the Regional Museum of Poreč whose interesting exhibit covers everything from prehistory until the 19th century. Roman exhibits are particularly represented.
The Marafor Square stands in the one time Roman Forum and on its western side are the remains of three temples: Neptune’s, Diana’s and the so-called Large Temple.