Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Pergamon and its Asclepieion

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.

Pergamon from Afar

This being yet another site with a citadel / temple / town / theatre / market on the top of a hill,

Pergamon Cable Car Entrance

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.

Pergamon GondolaPergamon Cable Car Ascending

Amongst the highlights of the city for us were the walls, they may look just like walls but they

Pergamon Hellenic and Bzyantine Walls

contain a mixture of well built early Hellenic and poorly built Byzantine brickwork plus some repaired earthquake damage. .

Pergamon Byzantine Outer Wall

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.

Pergamon Earthquake Damage

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.

Pergamon Storage Bases

Above are the foundations of some Roman storehouses and the interesting element

Pergamon Storage Bases Vent

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

Pergamon Cistern

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.

Pergamon Trajan Temple City View

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.

Pergamon Temple of Trajan View

The vaulting is detailed,

Pergamon Temple Trajan Vaulting

the carving around its frieze is superb,

Pergamon Temple Trajan Frieze Detail

and the detail on elements such as the faces in the above section

Pergamon Lian Head Boss Temple

or the Lion’s Head here is impressive. The temple site is built onto a hillside

Pergamon Temple Trajan Explanation

and the platform of the temple is extended out over the sloping hillside using a vaulted

Pergamon Trajan Temple Vaulting

construction – a design feature we were to see a lot of over the next few days.

Pergamon Wall ConstructionA side view of the wall construction near the temple shows that nothing has changed in dry stone wall design over the past two millennia – namely two parallel fair faced walls in-filled with rubble.

Below the Temple is the 10,000 seat Theatre which is cut into the hillside and is (apparently) the steepest Roman theatre

Pergamon Theater

in the world. The view from it over the countryside below is spectacular.

Pergamon Theatre view

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

Pergamon Temple at end of street

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.

Pergamon Great Altar site

This is what the site of the Altar looked like before the altar was removed

Pergamon Great Altar Rear Steps

and this is what remains now

Pergamon Great Altar Berlin

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.

Pergamon Grave SteleAmongst the wonderful artefacts we saw were this Grave Stele which we liked because of the images on it

and also this Grave Stele which is nice because of the scene it shows

Pergamon Grave Stele-1

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.

Pergamon Museum Acropolis Freeze

This relief is of Demeter the Goddess of agricultural abundance.

Pergamon Museum Demeter Relief

This sarcophagus has quite interesting carvings on it 

Pergamon Grave Mausoleum

and this section of a ceiling is simply included because it is complete and beautifully carved.

Pergamon Carving

There is little mosaic other than this from the 3rd Century AD

Pergamon Medusa Mosaic

 which has at its centre, the head of Medusa.

Pergamon Medusa Mosaic Detail

Not everything in the museum was large,

Pergamon Figurines

these terracotta figurines might have been children’s toys

Pergamon Jewellery

There is a lot of jewellery and the detailing on

Pergamon Jewellery close up

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

Askleious Via Tecta

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.

Asklepion North Stoa

On one side it is possible to see a basement,

Asclepion South Stoa

originally, the floor beams of the Stoa rested on the central pillars.

Asclepion Central Area

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.

Asklepion Bathing Pool

The Theatre however has been over-restored

Asclepion Theatre heavily restoredand bares little resemblance to the original other than its shape. The seating in the top right of this photograph shows what it looked like before restoration.

A long tunnel leads from the central area of the Stoa

Asclepion Underground Passage Entrance Asclepion Underground Passage

and is a fine example of Roman vaulting techniques. Eventually the tunnel leads to

Asclepion Underground Passage Exit

what was the treatment centre.

In its day, the Asclepieion was one of the most famous treatment centres in the world.

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