The History of Pergamon
Pergamon is located in the North Aegean, in the middle of the valley extending to the east and west of the Bakırçay Basin. Kozak surrounds it in the North and Yund Mountains in the South. As a result of the research, it was determined that the city's history dates back to the Ancient Bronze Age (3000 BC), but it was not determined exactly which tribes lived. According to estimates, it is thought to be a route passed by nomadic people for centuries. Pergamon (Bergama in Turkish), which was the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon for a period and then of Asia Minor, is one of the few ancient cities in the world in terms of its size, history, and importance. In this article, you can find the history of the Pergamon Acropolis, where excavations and rescue activities have been going on for about 140 years, the places to see step by step, and many more.
It is not known exactly when the settlement lived in the Acropolis area, as in the history of Pergamon. As a result of the excavations, it was determined that the oldest settlements built here date back to 7-6 centuries BC. Due to the topographical difficulty of the area where the acropolis area is located, that is to say, it is not a natural flat, space has been gained by "terracing the land," and therefore, it has unique urban order and planning. Simultaneously, the fact that the city, which was built on the hill, remained on the hill for centuries by not sliding downwards despite the new buildings built over time, the erosion and earthquakes, gives an idea about the architecture of the Pergamon Acropolis.
It is not certain who founded Pergamon, but two different names stand out in written sources. Pausanias, a traveler and geographer from Lydia wrote in his book "Description of Greece," He wrote his travels from Greece to Egypt, that Pergamon was founded by the hero Pergamos. In another source, it is written that Pergamon was founded by Telephos, son of Heracles. However, the most definite and accepted information about Pergamon is accepted as the book "Ten thousands" written by Xenophon, who was a student of Greek Philosopher Socrates between 400-399 BC. Xenophon mentions that he stopped by Pergamon between 400-399 BC and stayed at the house of Gongylos of Eretria, who was a local administrator.
Lysimachos assigned Philetarios, an officer, to strengthen and repair the city walls of Pergamon. Philetarios successfully accomplishes this task, but in 282 BC, he caused a rebellion and seized power, and declared himself king of the Pergamon Kingdom. Thus, the foundations of the Pergamon Kingdom, which will last about 150 years, are laid. Pergamon Acropolis becomes the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon.
In the 150-year history of the Kingdom of Pergamon, its borders extended from the Marmara Sea coast to the Mediterranean. Eumenes II (197 - 159 BC), on the other hand, took the Athens Acropolis as an example and wanted Pergamon to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world in the Hellenistic Period. For this reason, the importance given to culture and art by the Kings of Pergamon enabled the most important architecture and sculpture works in the area.
The word "acropolis" means "city above" in Ancient Greek. On the other hand, Pergamon Acropolis is called the “castle hill” by the public and is located just above Bergama city center.
City and Castle Walls
The walls of Pergamon began to be built on the highest point of the city in the 5th and 4th centuries BC before the kingdom was established here. During the period of II Eumenes, the city walls were enlarged to include the surrounding plains. In the 3rd century AD (after the Roman Empire's weakening), the city was gradually taken inside, and smaller walls were built with re-used stones. The walls built on Kale Hill were also used as fortresses during the Ottoman and Seljuk periods.
At the highest point of the acropolis, there are palaces that extend along the wall and used by the Kings of Pergamon. Every king had a palace built here for himself. However, due to the new buildings (especially temples) added to Pergamon over time, the palaces lost their importance and were not maintained. Over the centuries, they have been completely destroyed. Today there are only ruins of palaces.
After the ruins of the palaces, we encounter a well. The biggest problem of the acropolises and castles in the ancient period was to reach the city of potable water. Every civilization has overcome this problem by developing solutions with its own engineering. In Pergamon, the water source came from the Madra Mountains, which is 40 kilometers from the city. The water would reach Pergamon by passing through 3 valleys and 2 hills in 3 ways from the Madra Caves and collected in the water reservoir located on the hill opposite the Acropolis. From here, the pressurized waterway, which was passed through the holes in the large stones laid under the ground, was brought to the Acropolis to a height of 330 meters with lead pipes and stored in the well here. In the Roman period, water was transported to Pergamon from the Kozak Mountains, 80 kilometers away, by aqueducts to supply water to the increasing population.
The worship of emperors was quite common during the Roman Empire. For this reason, there are many emperor temples built by the emperor himself or with the donations of the people in ancient cities. The Traian Temple (or sanctuary) is a temple whose construction began during the Roman Emperor Traian (98 - 117 AD) and was enlarged and completed by his successor Hadrian upon his death.
Traian Temple was built to establish a strong bond with the Roman Empire and the imperial family. For this reason, it has been designed to admire the highest point of the Acropolis area, even those who come to Pergamon by boat from afar. First, the big rock at this point was flattened, then galleries were built, and finally, the Temple was erected. Traian Temple is located in the middle of a courtyard with a width of 84 × 58 meters. Simultaneously, there are two more small monuments with sculptures built by the kings of Pergamon in the courtyard. These monuments were put here after the temple.
Temple of Athena
The Temple of Athena (Sacred Site), the oldest known temple of Pergamon, was built in the 3rd century BC. Although it was built for Athena, the goddess of intelligence and peace, the inner sanctuary was also dedicated to Zeus, the God of Gods.
There are 6 columns on the front and rear façade of the Temple of Athena and 10 columns on the sides, and its crepe consists of 2 steps. In other words, the temple stands on a floor consisting of 2 steps. In the temple, which was first built by carving rocks, it was used with andesite stones over time and it was further strengthened.
The Temple of Athena is located 7 meters below the Traian Temple, but today it is almost nowhere to be seen.
The Pergamon Library, built during the reign of II Eumenes, was once the library with the most books in the world due to the strengthening of the Kingdom of Pergamon and the importance given to art. There is a reading room to the east of the building, consisting of 2 floors and two parallel buildings, and the Temple of Athena right next to it.
When the number of books in Pergamon exceeded 200 thousand, the Kingdom of Egypt stopped sending "Papyrus" to Pergamon, which was used as a paper at that time. The aim of this is to put this title of the Library of Alexandria, which had the most books in the world at that time, in danger. However, Pergamon, who wanted to develop in art, overcame this problem and discovered the Parchment to be used for centuries. Parchment, made by drying animal skin, is the best quality material that can be written for that period and even today. Writings written on real parchment can remain like the first day for centuries.
Another point of Pergamon that can be seen is the Antique Theater. Holding the title of "the steepest ancient theater" in the world, this theater has a capacity of 10 thousand people and consists of 3 separate sections. The theater, where various shows were exhibited at the time, was used for council meetings in the Roman period. There is also a temple dedicated to Dionysus, the god of entertainment, at the lowest level of the theater.
Unfortunately, only the foundations of the Zeus Altar, which is the most precious example of Hellenistic period sculpting, can be found here. The story of the abduction of the Zeus Altar, which was discovered and dismantled by the Germans in the late 1800s and taken to Berlin by ships, is also a separate blog topic.
Would you like us to tailor you a private itinerary, including Pergamon Acropolis? Benefit from our expertise. We offer tailor-made tours to Turkey for all interests and desires, from romantic honeymoons and scenic self-drive road trips to photo tours with experienced photographers and cultural tours in major destinations. We arrange everything for your Turkey Tours, including hotel bookings, airport transfers, guided tours, and top-notch experiences. We want you to have a great time in Turkey and make sure your trip is a memorable one as we have escorted so many tours in Turkey personally. Imagine dealing with only one person for all your travel details, receiving customized itineraries and recommendations which will suit exactly your travel interests. Contact Turkey Tour Organizer to get a personalized day by day itinerary for your trip to Turkey.