The city of Bergama and the archaeological site
of Pergamon (or Pergamum) are located in
the Bakırçay (Kaikos) river basin, a fertile area
of ancient Mysia, approximately 100 kilometers/
62 miles north of Izmir.
Before the Persian
invasion of 546 BC, the region of Pergamon was
domination. After the death of Alexander
the Great (323 BC), one of his generals, Lysimachos,
chose Pergamon, a stronghold where he built a
citadel, to deposit his vast fortune (9,000 talents
of gold) amassed during the wars. Upon his death,
one of his lieutenants, Philetairos (282-263
BC), used this fortune and strategic place to
found the independent dynasty of the Attalid
kings. Rapidly, Pergamon became the capital
of a flourishing Hellenistic
kingdom. Attalos I (241-197 BC) and
Eumenes II (197-159 BC) extended the kingdom
to the rich provinces of Mysia, Lydia, Pamphilya,
Phrygia. Its numerous architectural splendors
and high cultural level made the city prominent.
As regards trade, Pergamon was the rival of Ephesus.
On the artistic and intellectual plane, it was
the rival of Alexandria (they both had the most
important libraries in the ancient world, that
of Ephesus coming 3rd) and Antioch
(Antakya). When the Ptolemies prohibited the export
of papyrus to Pergamon, the use of sheep or goat
skin, already long established in the city, was
improved and a new writing material, the “Pergamene”
(later evolved into the word parchment) was born.
The finest parchment, made of calf, was known
as vellum. More flexible than papyrus and more
easily folded, allowed scribes to transition from
writing on scrolls to writing in books.
When Attalos III bequeathed his possessions
to the Romans in 133 BC, Pergamon retained its
cultural and artistic pre-eminence but declined
in political importance.
During the Roman period,
Pergamon played an important role in the early
history of Christianity and was among the “Seven
Churches of Revelation”. In the 3rd century,
with the weakening of Roman power, the city went
into economic decline. In the Byzantine period,
although it became a bishopric, Pergamon lost
much of its importance. In the winter of 716-717,
the city was sacked and burnt by the Arabs. In
order to rebuild the fortifications, many ancient
monuments were destroyed to provide building materials.
In the 11th century, the city became a stronghold
on the frontier between the Seljuk Sultanate
of Rum and the Byzantine
Empire. Following the Fourth
Crusade, in 1212 the city fell for a short
period to the hands of the second Latin Emperor
of Constantinople, Henri of Hainaut. In the early
14th century, the Seljuk
Karasıoğulları took control of Pergamon which
finally became an Ottoman possession during the
reign of Orhan
I. Thereafter the city on the acropolis was
abandoned and fell into decay, while the new town
of Bergama grew at the foot of the hill.
From 1875, excavations were led by German engineer
Carl Humann who brought to light archaeological
marvels, of which the “Zeus Altar” (180 B.C.)
which was taken to Berlin.
The ancient city of Pergamon consists of three main
parts: the Acropolis, the Red Courtyard and the
Acropolis, where social and cultural activities
took place, is most impressive overlooking the city
of Bergama. It comprises:
or monumental entrance whose foundations are visible,
was erected by Eumenes II.
- The palatial residences of the kings of
Pergamon had lavish peristyle houses. They extended
along the east wall of the citadel. The northernmost
section, dating back to the reign of Philetaerus,
was later turned into barracks. The sections from
north to south were the palaces of Attalus I, Eumenes
II and Attalus II. Mosaics have been found in the
rooms of the southernmost palace.
The Trajaneum, situated at the highest point
of the acropolis, is the only Roman monument on
the upper fortress. In the first building phase,
the temple was surrounded
by walls which were taken down by Hadrian to erect
side halls whose capitals and entablature
correspond to the older north hall. As the measurements
of the former columns had been kept, the new columns,
too low, had to be placed on short shaft
parts with integrated bases. The upper two thirds
of the side hall columns were fluted in order to
increase the height by an optical effect. Statues
were erected facing the temple on the pedestals
standing between the columns.The north hall was
connected to a row of old rooms located behind it.
Because of their wall paintings, they were called
"hellenistics chambers". The east hall
ends in an apse.
The construction of the temple was started under
Trajan (98-117 AD) and completed under his successor
Hadrian (117-138) who enlarged it. The temple, dedicated
to the cult of both emperors and Zeus, was built
on a high marble covered podium. On the slope of
the hill, parallel supporting walls covered with
barrel vaults, forming a passage way, were built
in order to support the large platform in front
of the temple. In the Middle Ages, the wall facing
the valley was included in the Byzantine fortifications
and restored several times. Parts of the substructures
were used as cisterns.
Between 1976-1994, restoration works were carried
out by the Istanbul Department of DAI (Deutsches
Archaologisches Institut) in cooperation with Turkish
specialists and architects, archaeologists, stonemasons
and experts from the whole of Europe. New excavations
also revealed previous constructions from the Hellenistic
period such as terraced residential and trade buildings.
Trajaneum - apse of the east hall and north hall
Trajaneum - east gallery
Trajaneum - north side
Trajaneum - detail of the entablature
Supporting walls covered with barrel vaults
forming a passage way (right hand side photo),
were built in order to support the large
platform in front of the temple
- The Sanctuary of AthenaPolias Nikephoros,
dedicated to the goddess protector of the city,
is the oldest temple in Pergamon (4C BC). It was
surrounded by doric columns, 6 to front and rear,
10 to each side, with a divided room inside. Only
the foundations are visible today. A double aisled
stoa (portico) and
a library adjacent to it were added on the east
side of the temple precinct under the reign of Eumenes
Thelibrary contained 200,000 manuscripts
which were carried off in 41 BC by Mark Antony to
be offered to Cleopatra as a wedding present to
replace the 500,000 volumes contained in the famous
library in Alexandria destroyed by a great fire.
The manuscripts were placed on shelves. In the main
room of the library, the podium and the wall socket
designed to support the bookshelves are visible.
On the pedestal situated in front of the north wall
stood a reduced copy of Athens' famous statue of
On the north side of the precinct, a single aisled
stoa with an entrance gateway was also added under
Eumenes II. The stoa on the south was probably added
later in the 2C AD.
The art collections of the kings of Pergamon as
well as the votive offerings celebrating the victories
of Attalus I over the Galatians
were displayed within the sanctuary courtyard. On
the round base in the center of the courtyard stood
a statue of Emperor Augustus (31 BC-14 AD).
Foreground: site of the library
View from the Temple of Athena
- The theatre,set on the very steep west slope of the acropolis,
was built in the 3rd century BC. Its cavea
has a seating capacity of 10,000 spectators and
consists of 80 rows of seats arranged in three sections.
In the Hellenistic period, the skene,
or stage building, was erected on a framework of
wooden beams set into the pierced stone bases which
are visible on the theatre terrace. Thus, the skene
could be dismantled at the end of the performances
in order not to block the view of the Temple of
at the north end of the terrace. This 2C BC Ionic
order temple was later dedicated to Emperor
Caracalla (211-217 AD) as the "new Dionysos-Bacchus".
In the Roman period, when this theatre was used
for political assemblies, a stone speaker's podium
was added in the orchestra.
The vast theatre terrace (210 m x 15 m/ 689 ft x
49.2 ft) served as the main entrance to the theatre
and had a triple gateway on the south. It was supported
on multi-storied substructures and bordered by stoas
on each side.
The Hellenistic theatre
Temple of Dionysos
The Great Altar, dedicated to Zeus and Athena
by Eumenes II in commemoration of the pergamene
victories over the Galatians
(190 BC), was ornemented with reliefs depicting
the Gigantomachy (struggle of the Giants against
the Gods of Mount Olympos). The altar, which was
ascended by a wide stairway on its west side, enclosed
an offering table within a raised court bounded
on three sides by a colonnaded wall which itself
was ornemented on the inside with reliefs depicting
the legend of Telephus, the son of Herakles and
Auge and legendary founder of Pergamon : Telephus
was abandoned as a baby because his mother, Auge,
had broken her vow of chastity. Fortunately, he
was nursed and saved from death by a doe and was
brought up by shepherds until he grew up and uncovered
his true origins.
The altar, carried to Germany by engineer and archaeologist
Carl Humann between 1878-1890, is on display at
the Museum of Pergamon in Berlin.
Basis of the Great Altar
The Great Altar - Pergamon Museum Berlin
- The upper agora
or market place (2C BC), located on the terrace below
to the south of the Great Altar, was lined by Doric
stoas. On its west side stood a small temple probably
dedicated to Hermes.
The lowest section of the acropolis consists:
the gymnasium,a complex located on three terraces, one above
the other, including the upper gymnasium for adults
also known as the Ceremony Gymnasium, the middle
gymnasium for teenagers and the lower gymnasium
for children; the bath;
the odeon; the Temple of Demeter; the Temple
of Hera and the Temple of Asklepios.
Further down is the lower agora with the
quarters were the common people lived and worked.
The main street of the city passed right through
the middle of the agora.
-The Heroon is located opposite the gate of the
citadel, to the left of the entrance of the site.
This sacred precinct, including various buildings
arranged around a peristyle court, was meant for
the cult of the Pergamene kings during both Hellenistic
and Roman periods. The cult room and antechamber
lie to the west of the peristyle.
The arsenal is located in the well protected
north corner of the citadel, behind the palaces
and the Trajaneum. The buildings, dating back
to the 3C and 2C BC and whose rectangular
foundations can be seen, were used to store
military equipment and foodstuffs.
The remains of a 2C AD aqueduct can
be seen from the arsenal area. During the
Hellenistic period, water was supplied by
a terracotta pipeline running for 45 km/ 28
miles to the mountain range opposite the citadel,
and from there was linked to a lead pipeline
more resistant to the water pressure.
the north-est of
the arsenal, there is also a panoramic view
over the dam lake formed in the valley by
the Kestel Çayı (Ketios river).
The Red Courtyard(Kızıl Avlu), located
in the Roman lower city today within the town of
Bergama, is the largest complex of ancient buildings
in Pergamon, beneath which the Selinos River (Bergama
Çayı) flows through a double tunnel. The main building,
a temple made of red brick most probably constructed
under the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD), is flanked
by two rotundas in front of which are courtyards
bounded on three sides by stoas. Because these galleries
were supported by back to back statues depicting
male and female Egyptian style figures, it seems
probable that the temple was dedicated to the Alexandrian
triad of gods (a cult founded by Ptolemy
I): the Hellenistico-Egyptian god Serapis (an
association of Zeus-Osiris-Apis), Isis and Harpocrates
(the Greek name for the child Horus). The inner
walls and floor were covered with marble; there
was a sacred pool and a podium on which stood a
huge hollow statue inside which a priest could enter
through an opening in the base, and make the god
"speak". In the early Byzantine period
(middle of the 5th century), a church, dedicated
to St John, was built inside the main building.
In early Christianity,
Pergamon became one of the Seven
Churches of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation
by John who referred
to the city, a cult center for emperor worship,
as "the place where Satan has his throne".
Inside of the main building
General view of the Red courtyard
with the main building on the left
Left: the right rotunda was once converted
into a mosque
Right: View on
the acropolis and its fortifications
located on the outskirts of the town of Bergama,
was both a healing center and
a sanctuary dedicated to Aesklepios.
Aesclepios (Aesculapius in Latin),
god of healing son
of Apollo, was a famous physician. His mother,
Coronis, a princess of Thessaly, died when
he was a child. Apollo entrusted Aesclepios'
to Chiron, a centaur, who taught him the healing
arts. When grown, he became so skilled in
surgery and the use of medicinal plants that
he could even restore the dead back to life.
Hades, ruler of the dead, became alarmed at
this and complained to Zeus who killed Aesclepios
with a thunderbolt.
Among the physicians of the Asclepion was Galen
who was born in Pergamon (129-199 AD)
and made anatomical studies and observations
over the human body functions.
Following his medical studies, Galen traveled
widely, gaining more medical knowledge.
Upon his return home, he was even appointed
physician to the "schola gladiatorum".
By treating gladiators who suffered diverse
frightful wounds, he gained the opportunity
to compare human anatomy with that of the
animals he had studied, and to describe the
wounds in medical treatises. Also a philosopher,
Galen was the most outstanding physician of
the ancient world after Hippocrates.
In the healing center, therapies and treatments
consisted of cures, baths and mud baths, massages,
exercises, drugs and herbal remedies, fasting
The Asklepion, as
it can be seen today, dates back mostly to
the time of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD).
connected to the city by a colonnaded
(today only a small part of it is visible)
leading to a monumental entrance, the "propylon"
and opened into a large courtyard which
was surrounded by stoas
on three sides. An inscription over the entrance
read:"In the name of the gods, death
may not enter here". In
the center is a round marble altar
with reliefs depicting snakes (snakes were
sacred to Asclepius because of their power
to renew themselves), the symbol of Aesklepios.
From there, the patients
had access to the
spring and pools which
had healing power,
to the library (to the right of the
propylon) which was also for the use of the
physicians; and to the 3,500 seat theater. The
pools in the center of the courtyard were
linked to a 80m/
262 ft long tunnel with water running
under its floor from
the sacred spring.
The patients, in a hypnothic or
would walk through the tunnel in complete
silence while listening to the soothing sound
of water. The tunnel ended at the round
treatment center, formely a two-storied
lower level, well preserved, was composed
of three concentric walls with niches and
the left of the propylon stood the
Temple of Asklepios, a cylindrical
structure covered by a dome which contained
sleeping rooms where the
priests analyzed the
The colonnaded sacred way was the last section connecting the city to the Asklepion. It was added under Hadrian
to the old "Via Tecta", lined with andesit pillars (right hand side photo). In the background, the acropolis.
The north gallery and the theatre
Left:12 windows provide sunlight inside the tunnel.
Right: the snakes, the symbol for Aesklepios, ornement the marble altar. In the ancient world, snakes symbolized healing and life-renewal. The caduceus was adopted as a symbol of the medical profession because of its similarity with the serpent entwined staff of Aesklepios.
The round therapy center was a two-storied building
Museum, located on Cumhuriyet Caddesi,
displays finds from to the Archaic, Classic,
Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods,
which have been excavated in Bergama and
its surroundings. In the ethnography section,
weaving samples and other hand made items
from the Ottoman period are exhibited.
bedesten (15th century covered bazaar),
(Taşhan 1432, Çukurhan 15th century), hammams,
as well as the great mosque Ulu Cami (14th
century), Kurşunlu Mosque (1435), Haci Hakim
Mosque (1508-1509), Ansarli Mosque (1543),
Şadırvanlı Mosque (1550), Selimiye Mosque
(1890-1891) were built in the city during
the Ottoman period.
The region of Bergama is reputed for its carpets and kilims