Northern Aegean Region
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Southern Aegean Region

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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 under Lydian 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 Asklepion.

The Acropolis, where social and cultural activities took place, is most impressive overlooking the city of Bergama. It comprises:

-The Propylon 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 Athena Polias 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 II.
library 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 Athena Parthenos.
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 Dionysos located 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. To 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

The Asklepion, located on the outskirts of the town of Bergama, was both a healing center and a sanctuary dedicated to Aesklepios.
Aesclepios (Aesculapius in Latin), the 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' education 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 and auto-suggestion.
The Asklepion, as it can be seen today, dates back mostly to the time of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD). It was connected to the city by a colonnaded street, the sacred way (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 sacred 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 drugged state, 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 barrel vaulted building.The lower level, well preserved, was composed of three concentric walls with niches and basins. To 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 patients's dreams.

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 courtyard

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

Bergama 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, artifacts, carpets, kilims, cloth weaving samples and other hand made items from the Ottoman period are exhibited.

A bedesten (15th century covered bazaar), hans (Taşhan 1432, Çukurhan 15th century), hammams, a caravanserai 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