PERGAMON
Sometime in the 12th Century BC Aeolian Greeks settled on Lesvos having come from the west mainland and probably mixed with the pre-Hellenic locals of the island. The history of Pergamon starts later then in the 8th Century BC when the Aeolians settled also on the opposite Asiatic cost. The city was founded on a hill where you can now visit the Acropolis (acro = top/end, polis = town). The other place to visit is 3km away, down on the fields - called Asklepieion (Asklepios was the God of health). As you pass through the town of Bergama it is also worth visiting, or just looking, at the Temple of Serapes (also known as the red basilica).

The period after the death of Alexander the Great is known as the Hellenistic period. During this time Pergamon became the capital of the Kingdom of Asia Minor. During the reign of the family of Attalides with the Kings Eumenes I (263 - 241), Attale I (241 - 197), Eumenes II (197 - 159), Attale II, (159 - 138), Attale III (138 - 133) Pergamon became one of the cultural and intellectual centres of the day. Eumenes II took the Acropolis in Athens as an example and adorned the Acropolis of Pergamon with works of art reflecting fine taste. Pergamon became one of the most graceful cities in the world. One of the most beautiful buildings of the ancient world was built then there - the Altar of Zeus that you can now only see in Berlin!

   

 



In the Acropolis, the remains that you see on the left hand side, after passing the walls of the town is the complex of the Temple of Athena which was built in the 3rd century B.C. Below you on the left hand side you can see the base of the Altar of Zeus (the rest is in Berlin) and on your right you can overlook the Theatre and the Temple of Dionysus. The Altar of Zeus: King Eumenes II (197-159 B.C.) constructed the Altar of Zeus as a memorial of their victory against the Galatians. This Altar has the shape of a Greek P = ? and its dimensions are 36.44 x 34.20 m. The relief on its base describes the myth of the war between the Giants and the Gods. When the German engineer Carl Humann, working on the railway construction in 1871 asked the Sultan for permission to take the marble to Berlin, it is said that the Sultan told him "you can take the marble but if you find any gold…this is mine". That was a deal!

The Temple of Trajan: A big temple in Roman times needs a large square and stoas to surround it. Acropolis on the other hand used to be very steep. In order to make a terrace on the steep hill where the temple could stand, a huge construction had to be built underneath, with underground supporting arcades and walls. From the temple of Athena you can visit the temple of Trajan walking initially under the terrace through the impressive supporting construction. When you just leave the arcades you can enjoy the view of the Dionysus Temple, the Theatre and the Plain of Galikos River. The temple of Trajan has been partly restored over the last years. The original temple was finished during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138). It has 6 x 9 columns and a plan of a peripteros (temple with columns on all four sides) and it is decorated in the Corinthian order (dominating motif: the acanthus leaves).

The Theatre of Pergamon, one of the steepest theatres in the world, has the capacity of about 11.000 people and was constructed in the 3rd Century B.C. Some changes were made during the Roman period. In front of the theatre there is a long stoa. The road in front of the theatre leads to the Temple of Dionysus. This small temple was constructed in the 2nd Century B.C. and was reconstructed in marble during Caracalla period (211-217 A.D). Many ancient temples seem very small to us today. But the biggest difference between a Greek Temple and a Christian Church is the fact that the Greek ceremony took place outside in front of the temple which was eventually built in order to protect the statue of the God.

The famous Library of Pergamon, which contained 200.000 books, was situated north of the square of the Temple of Athena. Antonius gave this library as a present to Cleopatra since the Alexandrian library was burned first time round during her reign. There are very few things left to see from that library - only some ruins from the double external wall which protecting the "Books" from the humidity. Some archaeologists think the library was not only in one building.

Down from the Acropolis and inside Pergamon (which is called Bergama today by the locals), there is a huge building in ruins - the Temple of Serapis, which was built for the Egyptian Gods and constructed during the reign of Hadrian. Today the building is red because of the colour of the bricks but initially it used to be white as it was decorated with marble. Some of the marble can still be seen in a few parts of the walls. Later the Temple was used as a Christian church. Today one of the two towers is still used as a Mosque. Serapis, Jesus or Allah, people come and go, traditions change but the place always remains a sacred place.

There is an archaeological museum in Pergamon but the world known Pergamon museum is now in … Berlin! The most beautiful site to visit in Pergamon is maybe the Asklepieion, which is just a little out of the city. Asklepieion, built in the name of the God of Health (Asklepios), has existed since the 4th century B.C. Don’t expect a big square building as many hospitals nowadays are built. It seems that Greek doctors then thought that most illness was psychosomatic and this is why the Asklepieion contains a theatre, rooms where patients were cured by the sound of water and music, the Temple of Asklepios, thermal baths and a library. An ancient road with the ruins of shops on both sides is still the same road that brings you into this ancient health centre. Why so many shops? Probably Asklepieion was already those days … a good business! Why not! Asklepios was the Savior God (exactly as Jesus later) and people always had fear of Death.