Italy – Fiume And Zara

Pola was at the tip end of the Istrian Peninsula. It was for a time the last city in Italy before one reached the frontier of Illyria. If we pass eastward, we find at the point where Istria melts into the long line of the Dalmatian coast, Fiume, which occupies, at the head of Quarnero Bay, a corresponding place to that taken by Trieste on the other (western) edge of the peninsula. That it was a port and a colony in Augustan times, under the name of Tarsatica, would appear from the only standing relic of the ancient city, a much mutilated arch facing the bay, which in its lines speaks of an Augustan origin, as the city gate facing the port, though not the colony arch.

Passing southward along the Dalmatian coast, we come to Zara, about half-way between Fiume and Salona. The Roman city here was called Iader. At present the medieval city, with its unique Byzantine domical church of S. Donato and its florid Romanesque cathedral, rather over-powers the Roman remains, but I was able to find enough data to reconstitute some part of the Augustan lader.

Long before the time of Augustus there had been here a considerable settlement of Italian traders. Augustus gave it city rights and built its walls, with the towers and gates. At each of the main gates was the following inscription: “IMP. CAESAR. DIVI. F. AVGVSTVS PARENS. COLONIAE MVRVM (ET) TVRRES DEDIT.” Several points in this inscription indicate a very early date: the absence of tribunician and consular notations, and the title of parens coloniae, “patron of the city.” One of these inscriptions was carried away from Zara some centuries ago; strayed to Venice in 1721, was bought by the famous Maffei, and is now in his collection in the Museum of Verona. A second one is in the museum of S. Donato, in Zara itself.

The gates themselves have disappeared, and only false hopes are excited by a so-called Roman arch called Arch of Bassus, a bubble I am forced to prick, for it is a medley of pieces put together in the Renaissance, the old inscription belonging to the entrance of the market-place built out of funds left by Melia Anniana, and in honor of her husband, Sergius Bassus. Only the upper part of the arcade, with this inscription, is of Roman work.

I am glad to be able, quite unexpectedly, to resurrect the real Colony Arch of the Augustan City, with the help of information furnished me by Prof. Smirich, who was present when its ruins were excavated in 1884, but who did not realize the significance of the arch. It stood, facing toward the northeast, on the landward side of the city, in a little square near the present Church of S. Simone, close to the ruins of a temple. The excavations were not carried down so far as the original level, which is eight or nine feet below the present street level, but far enough to show the plan and style of the arch, part of which was, however, hidden under the wall of a house. After drawings had been made, and a few architectural fragments removed, the excavation was filled in. The arch was triple, the two central piers being decorated with two engaged shafts, while the two outer piers had but a single shaft in the center of a very narrow face of masonry. The central piers, with their two shafts so closely spaced as to make any sculpture between them impossible, are almost exactly of the proportions of the arch of the Sergii at Pola. The main central arch was surmounted by a gable, as is so commonly the case in other Augustan arches, and the crowning cornice was both rich and exquisite. All the ear-marks are Augustan ; the masonry, of very fine local Meleda stone, is extremely careful and close jointed. The pieces now in the museum of S. Donato are of excellent workmanship. In the Constantinian era the fortifications of Zara were renovated, as were those of Salona, with the use of the typical wedge-shaped towers, and the arch was then brought into connection with the fortifications, if not before. In a letter to the Nation I suggested that it would be interesting to reopen the trench, make a careful survey, and extract more of the architecture. Since then this has been done and the foundations again laid bare.

This is not the only Augustan work at Zara. The Byzantine church of S. Donato, now the museum, was built on a mass of ruins, probably of the Forum and its Capitolium. Some of them are of Augustan character, including a famous inscription to Livia as Juno, but there is nothing left in situ above ground. We can only conjecture that to these buildings belonged a couple of columns still standing in the town squares.

Other sites probably would yield Augustan remains¬óNarona, Burnum, Andetrium, Corinium, Delminium, Epitaurum, Emona. But there has been no activity on the part of the Austrian Government in uncovering their ruins. Only in one case, I believe, at Asseria, were regular excavations of any importance begun, and of these I shall speak in the next chapter.