Pergamon is a very popular tourist site (Ephesus would probably win the prize for the most popular) and being not far from the sea, it has a lot of cruise ship visitors. It was named as one of the seven churches of Asia (Book of Revelations) and it used to have a magnificent altar on a hillock overlooking the city which can now been seen in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
This being yet another site with a citadel / temple / town / theatre / market on the top of a hill,
a few years ago a cable car system was installed in order to ease access. This whisks you up to an entrance not too far below the summit.
Amongst the highlights of the city for us were the walls, they may look just like walls but they
contain a mixture of well built early Hellenic and poorly built Byzantine brickwork plus some repaired earthquake damage. .
Other parts of the city walls are far more spectacular – this section which has survived over 2000 years, is near to the Arsenals and Store Buildings and is astonishing both for its height and for the fact that it bridges a deep dip between two hill tops. The lake in the background is modern.
This photograph of a road shows uplift in the pavement as a result of earthquakes, a problem over the years for many sites in Turkey.
Above are the foundations of some Roman storehouses and the interesting element
in these buildings are the air holes in the foundations which ventilated the room spaces above. Why are they interesting? Because exactly the same design can be found in Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall showing that once the Romans had a design they used it everywhere throughout their empire.
As with all towns on the top of a hill, ensuring that there was an adequate water supply for either siege
or fire was an essential design requirement. This is one of a five cisterns (each with a capacity 120,000 litres) on the top of the acropolis and was thought to have been built in case of a fire.
As with all cities built to impress, there is a very large temple built in a prominent position.
The view from the Temple of Trajan of what is now the Town but what would once have been the surrounding fields, is spectacular, as is the temple itself.
The vaulting is detailed,
the carving around its frieze is superb,
and the detail on elements such as the faces in the above section
or the Lion’s Head here is impressive. The temple site is built onto a hillside
and the platform of the temple is extended out over the sloping hillside using a vaulted
construction – a design feature we were to see a lot of over the next few days.
Below the Temple is the 10,000 seat Theatre which is cut into the hillside and is (apparently) the steepest Roman theatre
in the world. The view from it over the countryside below is spectacular.
Below the theatre is the Temple of Dionysus (also cut into the hillside) which was built at the end of a colonnade lined road along which town inhabitants would walk when going to the theatre from the
town. The temple was (apparently) built there to nicely finish off the end of the street.
The Great Altar in the Temple of Zeus is possibly the artefact of which Pergamon is possibly most famous and it is the artefact which is not there – it was removed to Berlin in the late 1800’s.
This is what the site of the Altar looked like before the altar was removed
and this is what remains now
with the frieze having been re-erected in Berlin on a mock up of the altar.
A slightly biased and inaccurate account of the Great Altar and its removal can be found here.
In the town of Bergama below Pergamon is a rather good museum full of artefacts discovered on the site.
and also this Grave Stele which is nice because of the scene it shows
and also the two snakes in the tree (snakes have a particular significance in this City). The carving below comes from the frieze around the Acropolis.
This relief is of Demeter the Goddess of agricultural abundance.
This sarcophagus has quite interesting carvings on it
and this section of a ceiling is simply included because it is complete and beautifully carved.
There is little mosaic other than this from the 3rd Century AD
which has at its centre, the head of Medusa.
Not everything in the museum was large,
these terracotta figurines might have been children’s toys
There is a lot of jewellery and the detailing on
the gold armbands is astonishing for something which is around 2500 years old.
Pergamon is also famous for its Asclepieion which is a few kms away. The Asclepieion was a healing centre linked to Pergamon by a
colonnaded road – the Via Tecta. The way the centre worked was that Asclepius would appear in a patient’s dreams to indicate to them how to cure their illness. They would recount their dreams to a Priest and he would tell them what they had to do to be cured. Patients could also bathe in the water of the sacred spring in the centre. One other rule related to the centre was that people who were dying or about to give birth were not allowed to enter the centre since you could not start or end your life in a sacred temple.
As an aside, the God Asclepios had six daughters, two of whom were Hygieia and Panacea and his sacred staff was snake-entwined staff. This is still the symbol of medicine.
The Stoa in the Asclepieion is in quite good condition and is impressive.
On one side it is possible to see a basement,
originally, the floor beams of the Stoa rested on the central pillars.
The central area of the Stoa is large and is thought to have contained a number of treatment rooms, perhaps a dormitory and also a couple of bathing pools.
The Theatre however has been over-restored
A long tunnel leads from the central area of the Stoa
and is a fine example of Roman vaulting techniques. Eventually the tunnel leads to
what was the treatment centre.
In its day, the Asclepieion was one of the most famous treatment centres in the world.