The city of Pergamon, protected by Zeus, the father of the gods, and protected by the goddess Athena, who represents reason and intelligence; The Pergamon Acropolis is like a golden throne, marked with monumental works of art: It has made its place among the unforgettable in the history of humanity.
Pergamon kingdom covered Anatolian lands from Çanakkale (Gallipoli) to Antalya (Attalia), from Izmir (Smyrna) to Afyon. Its original name is “Pergamon” and but also known as “Pergamum”, “Pergame”, “Pergamu” in various languages in different time periods. Pergamon city and kingdom existed before written history. The structures of Pergamon rising to the Anatolian skies and their rhetorical myths still arouse admiration today.
History of Pergamon
Bergama, known as Pergamon in ancient times, is one of the most important cultural and artistic centers of the Hellenistic period in Anatolia. The city, which was the capital of the Hellenistic Pergamon Kingdom, was the center of the province of Asia during the Roman rule of Asia Minor. The region was located within the borders of Phrygia before the Hellenistic period. It was under the Lydian rule. Later, Persian Ruler Cyrus the second captured the Lydian State and annexed Pergamon city to his lands. In the Battle of Granikos in 334 BC, when the Persian Emperor Darius the Third was defeated by Alexander the Great, the city changed hands once again, and Alexander gave Pergamon to Barsini who was one of the Persian commanders.
Lysimakhos won the battle which took place in between Alexander the Great’s generals after Alexander’s death. Pergamon was turned into an independent state in the first half of the third century BC by Philetairos, the commander of Lysimakhos, who kept the treasures left from Alexander in the Acropolis. However, it was under the protection of the Seleucid Kingdom until the reign of his nephew Eumenes I, who succeeded Philetairos’s death. Eumenes the First defeated the Seleucid army near Sardis in 261 BC and declared the independence of Pergamon as a fully liberated kingdom.
Pergamon, which had good relations with Rome, sided with the Romans during the First Macedonian War. The Pergamon kingdom, which reached the widest borders in its history, extended to Seleukos in the east and the Bithynia State of the Roman Empire in the west. Rome wanted to seize the Kingdom of Pergamon after the Macedonian Kingdom was finally destroyed. This wish of the Roman Emperor came true with the death of Attalos the Third (138-133 BC), who endowed his kingdom to Rome because he had no successor. In 129 BC the Pergamon kingdom came under the complete rule of the Roman Empire.
Pergamon remained one of the most important cities of Western Anatolia after the kingdom was annexed to Rome. The ruins of the old city were discovered by German engineer Carl Humann, who was working on railroad laying in Western Anatolia in the 1870s. The first research and excavation work in Pergamon was started in 1878. Excavations and repair works continue today.
Pergamon and Christianity
Pergamon was the Anatolian center of a heretical pagan sect that worshiped the Roman emperor as he was a god. The phrase from the Holy Bible “The Devil’s throne is there” (Revelation 2:13), was aimed to define the Temple of Zeus which was built on the acropolis of Pergamon and shaped similar to a throne. This city, which played an important role in the spread of Christianity in Asia Minor, is just an hour away from Izmir. John, who lived in Ephesus, appointed Antipas to lead the Pergamon church as a bishop. An angry crowd in ancient Pergamon martyred Saint Antipas by burning him alive in the year 92. During the reign of Emperor Domitian, Christians of Pergamon went through great troubles. Jesus Christ introduces himself as “the one with the two-edged sword” to the believers of the Pergamon Church
Bergama the City of the Firsts
- First parchment was made in Pergamon out of calf skin.
- First Asian library was built in Pergamon in the name of Athena.
- First major hospital which was called Asklepion was built nearby Pergamon.
- First suggestion therapy was applied in the hospital of Pergamon.
- The first natural treatment with music, theatre, sports, sun and mud.
- First pharmacology applications in form of natural remedies.
- First opium model drug was used in Asclepion of Pergamon.
- First medicine and pharmacy symbol as a snake was used.
- The first christian church. One of the seven churches.
Things to see in Pergamon
The Acropolis was built on an extremely steep hill. Approximately 300 meters above sea level. This hill is reached by a road that climbs up by twisting with very sharp turns. Religious, official, social, and commercial buildings are placed together in the acropolis. Pergamon Kings’ Palaces are located on the top of the hill, which has been a place of residence since the first ages. Five water cisterns and an arsenal are also located on this hill. In the lower part of the acropolis is the Temple of Athena. There is also a library and Trajan’s temple here too. The altar of Zeus was carefully placed on the lower terrace of the Pergamon acropolis. One of the steepest theaters in the world is located here. At the bottom, there is the Gymnasium and the Temple of Demeter too.
To the north of the Temple of Athena was the Pergamon library with four galleries. This was one of the largest libraries of the Hellenistic period. It is known that there were 200 thousand books written on parchments which were also known as “Pergamon skin” in the library. Roman soldier and statesman Mark Antony gifted all of the books of the Pergamon library to the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra in 41 BC.
Heroon is a type of shrine dedicated to a Greek or Roman hero and used in memory of the hero’s or in cult worship. They were often erected on the tombs or sarcophagi. As soon as you enter the Pergamon acropolis, the ruins on the left belong to this heroon.
Temple of Athena
The Temple of Athena was built in the name of Athena, the goddess of logic and war, who was considered the protector of the city. This temple probably was the most important spot of the Pergamon Acropolis. The goddess Athena, the protector of the city of Athens, was also considered the protector of the city of Pergamon. All parts of the temple dedicated to the goddess were taken to Berlin and rebuilt there, and today only its foundations remain in the acropolis of Pergamon.
The temple, built in the 3rd century BC at the northern end of the Pergamon theater’s stage, was repaired during the reign of Caracalla (211-217 AD). Although the temple, which was originally made of local andesite stone, was completely covered with marble during the Roman period. Unfortunately, its surviving parts were taken to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
Zeus Altar of Pergamon
The Altar of Zeus was also taken to Berlin, rebuilt, and placed in the Pergamon Museum of Berlin. On the reliefs on both sides of the altar, the war of gods and giants (The Gigantomachy) and the legendary establishment of Pergamon are depicted. Only the foundations of the altar, which is the most beautiful example of Hellenistic architecture, remained in Pergamon today.
The Gymnasium was the largest building complex in the middle parts of the Pergamon Acropolis. Various sports and competitions were held here.
Pergamon theater, which is known to be the steepest theater of the Ancient World, has a capacity of 10,000 people. The theater had a wooden stage, which was made to be disassembled and reassembled whenever is needed. Although it was built in the 3rd century BC, it was overhauled during the Roman period.
Trajan Temple of Pergamon
The temple which was built for the deified Roman Emperor Trajan was built on the highest point of the Pergamon acropolis. There is no doubt that there was a Hellenistic period building here before the temple of Trajan. Emperor Hadrian had a temple built in Pergamum for his deceased predecessor, Emperor Trajan, and the statues of the two emperors were taken from here to Berlin.
Bergama Archeology Museum
Bergama Archeology Museum, which was established as a museum warehouse in 1924, moved to its new building in the year 1936. The museum, which is located in the center of the city and where you can get information about the smallest details of history, is among the places you should visit in Bergama.
Pergamon Church or Red Courtyard
Bergama Church is the only church whose exact location is known among the seven churches mentioned in the Revelations part of the Holy Bible. The people of Pergamon named this church, which was built with red bricks, as the Red Court. It was first made as a temple for the Egyptian god Serapis during the reign of Hadrian. Its original name was Serapion, which means neither on earth nor in the sky. It was later converted into a basilica church.
Asklepion Hospital of Ancient Pergamon
Asklepion Ancient Hospital is one of the structures located near the Ancient City of Pergamon. Asclepion was built around 150 AD. The symbol of the snake entwined with the staff of Asklepios who was the son of Apollo and the god of health in mythology was placed here and it meant this is the temple of Asklepios. The reason why the snake symbol is used as a symbol of medicine was the snake venom used in the treatment of people living at that time.
Bergama Hand-Woven Carpet
Woolen weavings such as carpets, rugs, sacks, saddlebags, and prayer rugs, which are among the most developed handicrafts of the Bergama region, are woven locally on handlooms of Pergamon. Bergama or Pergamon carpets were very popular between the 16th century to the 19th century. Bergama carpets were very famous especially among noble European families, art collectors, and even churches. Since European painters also included Bergama carpets in their paintings, some painting compositions were named after Bergama carpets.
Bergama Turkish Bath
The Bergama Bath, which is a great example of classical Ottoman bath architecture, consists of cold, warm, and hot sections. The bath was built in 1427. Bergama Turkish bath is now in a slightly different situation due to recent additions and paintings placed on the walls compared to its original form.
Old Pergamon Houses
It is possible to come across historical Bergama houses in almost every street of Bergama town. Never forget that the settlement of Pergamon dates back to ancient times. Especially the eastern and northern sides of Bergama are the regions where old stone and wooden houses can be dominantly seen. You can come across the old Bergama houses that shed light on the history of the district while walking around the streets of Bergama.
Kestel dam of Bergama was built between 1983-1988 and it can be seen while climbing the Bergama (Pergamon) Acropolis. If you have time, I recommend you to try the trout grown in the farms in the dam.
Visit Pergamon with Professional Tour Guide
Pergamon is one of my favorite attractions in Turkey. Pergamon offers a great deal of history and things to see at the same time. You will love Pergamon and Asclepion if you are interested in archeology, history, and Holy Bible. I hope one day we can discover Pergamon together. Contact me to hire a professional tour guide to visit Pergamon and nearby attractions and to learn more about Pergamon. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.