Kizilavlu means red courtyard in the Turkish language. People of Bergama called it Red Hall/Courtyard most probably because of the red tiles used in the construction of the Red Basilica. Today, the museum area is approximately %30 of the original project. The main temple has two round towers on both sides and the legendary Selinus river flows underneath this architectural wonder. Along with the gardens, walls, two towers, and the main building, The Temple of Serapis made all Roman Temples look tiny. Today, it is the biggest Roman structure standing in the Ancient Greek World. When Romans started to establish political ties with Egypt, temples to honor the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses were erected within their empire. The Red Basilica was built in the name of Serapis and also known as the Serapis Temple. The towers on the south and north of the temple are believed to be sacred buildings for more figures from Egyptian Mythology such as Osiris or Harpocrates. The temple was converted into a church in the 5th Century AD by the Christian community in Pergamon during Roman times. The church was destroyed during the Arabian invasions at the beginning of the 8th Century AD. Bergama was conquered by the Turkish people in 1336 and the northern tower of the temple was converted to a mosque which is still used by the locals of Bergama city.
Where is the Red Basilica of Pergamon?
Bergama is the current name of the ancient Pergamon city. The people of Pergamon were the first Roman allies who contributed a lot to the Roman invasion of Anatolia. Pergamon Kingdom dynasty became a Roman state in Anatolia which made Pergamon city capital to the Romans. The new capital in Anatolia received a lot of Roman investments creating a marvelous city on top of the Acropolis. When you look down to the modern Bergama today, you can easily notice the traces of the civilizations that once ruled the fertile lands stretching to the Aegean Sea. Asclepieion, Roman Stadium, Red Basilica, and Ancient Mounds are all within the eyesight of a traveler. Bergama is only 2 hours away from Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport and 3 hours away from Ephesus. Pamukkale - Hierapolis is 3,5 hours away from Bergama and legendary Troy is only 3 hours. I highly recommend you overnight in Bergama city to explore all the must-see sites stated above.
History of Red Basilica
The date of the construction is not certain. A huge budget must have been required for the project. As a result, Roman Emperor Hadrian is the most possible donor of this project as Romans funded hundreds of projects in Anatolia during his reign at the beginning of the 2nd Century AD. He even built a temple to an Egyptian God in his villa in Tivoli. Because of the excessive use of tiles in the project, the architect was most probably a Latin from the Roman mainland. It was converted to a church in the 5th Century AD and was burnt down during the Arabian invasions in the 8th Century AD. We see that the roof was never recovered after the Romans but the gigantic walls were used as a shell to an inner church structure. The original Roman floors were buried underneath a 2 meter tall bulk for the church but the majority of it is seen today.
The architecture of Red Basilica
Pergamon Ancient city was consisting of three cities. Acropolis made the top while the Temple of Demeter seen from the Red Hall on the slopes of Acropolis marks the second city. The lower city was located in the lowest part of Pergamon where the cable cars lower station is placed in modern Bergama today. Red Hall was built on the outskirts of the third (lower) city. the construction site was roughly 30 thousand square meters. It was 270 meters long from East to West and 100 meters wide from North to South. The complex was built on a 180-meter long double-arched tunnel which made the Selinus river pass underneath the complex and supply water to the pools of the Temple. Serapis cult is oriented with water so the structure might have been used for healing purposes as well as religious practices during the Roman ages. The Red Basilica and the two towers were located on the Eastern end of the huge garden of the project. The Temple was 60 meters long and 25 meters wide. The walls reached 20 meters. The towers located on both sides of the temple are twins. They are 18 meters high and 12 meters in diameter. The temple and the two towers were connected to each other from the underground most probably used during the religious ceremonies by the priests. The towers had stoas in front of them which had pools in the center. The main entrance of the sanctuary and the temple is on the eastern sides. While the entrance of the sanctuary lies underneath the modern Bergama city, the entrance of the temple is breathtaking. The door was 7 meters wide and 14 meters high. The door sill is still there which is a monolithic marble weighing around 30 tons.
What was the function of the Red Basilica?
The Red Basilica was built within the city but was surrounded by walls and the project was erected on a temenos wall in the south making some of the religious rituals secret to the society. Some marble and granites used in the architecture and statues of the temple were brought intentionally from Egypt which stresses the main function of the temple. While the majority of the archaeologists and historians accept that the temple was built to honor Serapis, names of Isis, Harpocrates, Osiris, Asis, and Helios are mentioned in some inscriptions found in the area. The towers might be used to worship Horus and Anubis. Before the republic, the southern tower was used as an olive oil factory. Water was a great concern in the practices of Serapis in Egypt. We can see that in the architecture of the Red Basilica. While the water was believed to be used for religious practices like purification by water. It is also suggested that water in the sanctuary might have been used to revive the flooding of the Nile.
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