How the fairies built the Arena

In ancient times, Istria was populated by fairies. They would dance by night in the meadows and forest glades, sometimes they would reveal themselves to ordinary people, but they never did anyone any harm. The fairies of Istrian legend can bestow luck on a person, and they are also often builders.
The stories tell that the fairies built the Arena in Pula. They carried stones all night from the Učka mountains, lay them round and round in a circle and so row by row their city, Divić-grad, came into being. But since fairies are creatures of the night, they could only build until the first cock crowed.

Then the fairies would have to interrupt their work and flee so that people would not see them. Their Divić-grad remained unfinished and that is why the Arena is today without a roof. All over Istria, from Učka to the sea, huge stones remained scattered, the stones that the fairies had been carrying to build into the Arena before they were foiled by the cock's crow. The fairies had to drop the stones on the spot where they were at that moment.

The construction of the Pula Arena, on the foundations of an older amphitheatre from the time of Caesar Augustus, was actually ordered by Caesar Vespasian in the second half of the first century. Vespasian's Arena was dedicated to his great love, a woman from Pula, Antonia Cenida. Built in an elliptical shape, 132 metres along its longer axis, 105 metres along the shorter, more than 32 metres high, the Pula Arena probably provoked awe in anyone visiting Istria. So it was too with the Slavs who, like others, considered it a wonder. So the Arena got its common name, Divić-grad - ‘grad' meaning ‘city', while ‘divić' means ‘wonder' and has no etymological connection with ‘divice', fairies.
It is interesting to note that the Roman builders managed to do what the fairies of legend had not: on the four towers, a device was installed for tightening the velarius, a cloth roof which protected the audience from the hot sun.


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