|About the museum:
The Archaeological Museum of Istria is the successor of the City Museum (Museo civico della Città di Pola) founded in 1902, and the Royal Museum of Istria (Il Regio Museo dell’Istria) founded in 1925. The Museum has operated in the building of the former Austrian gymnasium (secondary education school built in 1890) since 1930, and under its current name since 1947. It is located on the eastern outskirts of the prehistoric hill fort and the ancient colony of Pola. The museum is accessed through the Twin Gates (Porta Gemina), past the lapidarium, a park, and then via a wide staircase. The remains of the Small Roman Theatre are located immediately behind the museum building.
The permanent collection displays the development of life in Istria from prehistory to the Middle Ages.
The collection of stone monuments comprises items from Antiquity (from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD), Late Antiquity, and the Middle Ages (from the middle of the 4th century to the 9th century AD). Most of the artefacts are Roman inscriptions, medieval architectural decorations, and stone church furniture from Pula and its surrounding area.
The first floor of the museum is dedicated to the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Copper, and Bronze Ages, and particularly to rich finds from the necropoleis of the Histri from the last millennium BC. Prehistoric material from Istria, dating from the Early Stone Age to the Roman period, is exhibited in units following chronological order throughout five halls. A necklace made of amber beads, a bronze sceptre, ceramic urns, an Etruscan urn from the site of Picugi near Poreč, a “fertility goddess”, and a horseman from the site of Nesactium are among the most significant of the exhibited items. Prominent among the metal finds are fragments of a bronze situla depicting a naval battle, cistae, and other vessel shapes, also from Nesactium.
The exhibited items from the Roman period include ceramic lamps, pottery, glass and metal items, marble statues, fragments of architectural decorations, and mosaics from Roman buildings.
The exhibition of Late Antique and medieval archaeological finds is housed in the last two halls on the second floor. There are jewellery items and costumes from Slavic necropoleis (Buzet, Vižinada and other towns) and different metal, glass and ceramic items from Early Croatian graves in Pula and Istria (Žminj). Prominent among them are: a polychromatic mosaic from the south tomb chapel of the Maximian basilica (mid 6th century AD) and a fragment of an arch with wattle and an inscription (from the Church of St. Eliseus near Fažana).
The museum has published a specialised review, Histria Archaeologica, since 1970.
In addition to the main building, which houses the prehistoric, ancient, medieval, and Modern Age collections, the museum also houses collections at different locations in Pula (the Amphitheatre, the Temple of Augustus, and the Franciscan monastery) and in Nesactium.
The amphitheatre is a very particular Roman building of large dimensions in the form of an ellipse. It was used for the staging of gladiatorial combats, wild animal fights, and other games popular throughout the Roman world. The construction of the most monumental building in the history of Pula was probably started during the reign of Emperor Augustus. The exterior circuit of walls, with large arched openings on two stories, stylistically dates to the reign of Emperor Claudius, in the first half of the 1st century AD. The third story was built in about 80 AD, marking the last building phase and the completion of the amphitheatre, and is attributed to Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus.
This geometrically regular structure is 133 m long, 105 m wide, and reaches 32.5 m in height where the walls face the sea. The spectator area could accommodate 20,000 people. It extended around the very arena where combats took place, and ascended in concentric rows of stone seats. The four side towers had dual staircases leading to the upper stories.
A permanent exhibition about olive cultivation and viticulture in Istria in Antiquity can be viewed in an underground area of the amphitheatre. The exhibited stone items are originals, brought from sites such as Barbariga, Betika and others, while the wooden elements of oil mills and presses have been reconstructed according to the descriptions made by Roman writers.
The last segment of the exhibition presents the land and sea transport of Istrian products to different, often distant, markets.
The Temple of Augustus
The Temple of Augustus is a well preserved Roman temple built between 2 BC and 14 AD. It is located in the north-west of the Forum, adjacent to the City Hall. The temple consists of a large, closed main room (cella), and a smaller portico with four frontal columns and one side column on each side. It was originally dedicated to the goddess Roma (the personification of the Roman state) and the Emperor Augustus, who was venerated as a deity. The temple houses Roman stone monuments (sarcophagi, funerary monuments, architectural elements, fragments of imperial statues, portraits, and other items) and small sculptures (votive bronze figurines, marble figures, fragments of reliefs, and votive ceramic sculptures).
Nesactium or Vizače is an archaeological park with preserved architectural remains from Antiquity and Late Antiquity. The site is surrounded by a belt of archaeologically investigated defensive walls. A once rich prehistoric necropolis is located at the very entrance to the city, between the Roman gates and the prehistoric gates. The excavated urns and funerary gifts found in graves indicate multiple layers of inhumation from the 11th century BC until the Roman conquest. Local products and imported luxury goods attest to the connections between the Istrian culture (with Nesactium at its centre) and other cultures from all over the Mediterranean and Central Europe.
After the siege laid in 177 BC, the Romans destroyed the city and built a new one in its place. The new city had well organised urban architecture. A forum with three temples, spacious thermae, and other public and private buildings were erected on the central plateau. The remains of luxurious private buildings can be observed on the slopes, while a rich necropolis extended along the road leading to Pula. Items of high artistic value reflect the impressive cultural level the city reached during the Roman period.
With the gradual decline of the Roman state, visible changes took place. The city was transformed from an ancient municipium into a fortified Late Antique settlement. The luxurious thermae were converted into residential quarters and production facilities, while their southern facilities were turned into two basilicas.
The northern basilica and the larger southern basilica represent a valuable contribution to the understanding of early Christian archaeology. The city survived the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity but could not resist the barbaric attacks in the early 7th century AD.
The history of investigations at the site of Nesactium is presented in a building located at the site.