Pergamum (Pergamon)

This part of the guide aims at providing the tourist with historical and archaeological information on Pergamum. the famous city of the Attalus Dynasty, the rich capital of Roman Asia Minor and finally on the picturesque Turkish town of Bergama.

Pergamum enjoyed its most brilliant period during the reigns of Eumenes li and Attalus II. These kings concentrated all their efforts on the development and embellishment of their city. Romans added the Temple of Trajan, and the not very important lower city, along the River Selinus (Bergama Cay).

Pergamum MapThe ruins of Pergamum cover an area of 35,000 square meters which, considering the extent of the ruins, is not very wide. The earliest building was a castle built on the highest point of the hill. Gradually growing in size the city spread beyond its walls and occupied, during the Roman period, part of the plain below.

The most Important of the remains of Pergamum were found as a result of archaeological excavations, and are now among the richest collections of Paris, Berlin, Rome, Athens and Istanbul museums. Although much has been removed to various museums the impressive ruins still stand and must be visited. Temples, royal palaces, private dwellings, agoras, terraces, theatres, gymnasiums, immense walls and gates are still standing where they have stood for centuries, presenting an impressive spectacle.

The reliefs outside the walls of the Altar of Zeus, depicting the Battle of Gods with Giants, constitute one of the most brilliant pages of the history of art. Tried by many later artists, the subject never found such a powerful expression and perfection of style.

This magnificent city of Greco-Roman civilization was built on four rising terraces. The first terrace (the theater terrace) leaning against a supporting wall has the following buildings: the Temple of Dyonisus and the Agora on the right, the Temple of Caracafla on the left, and in the middle the largest theater in the world with 80 rows of seats. On the second terrace, and above’ thé theater, stands the great Altar of Zeus. From here one can reach the third terrace where the Temple of Athena Polias stands. On the fourth terrace is the Temple of Trajan. Thus the city of Pergamum consists of four terraces each rising above the other, and presenting with the harmonious arrangements of its buildings, one of the most beautiful historical panoramas in’ the world.


The city was called after Pergamos, a legendary hero. Xenophon gives us the best description of the city in the 4th century B.C. He mentions that (339 B.C.) the city was under the rule of Hellas, a Persian prince. Liberated from the Persians by Alexander, Pergamum fell, following the death of the great commander, into the hands of Lysimachus (301 B.C.) The city’s period of prosperity begins from this date.

Pergamum During The Hellenistic Era During the Hellenistic era Pergamum was capital of a kingdom which ruled o very large territory. Lysimachus hid Alexander’s treasure here and left Philetaerus, one of his commanders, in charge.

With the death of Lysimachus, Philetaerus declared himself king (283 B.C.), thus becoming the first of a dynasty which rufed the country for 150 years. Philetaerus wos succeeded by able rulers under the names of Eumenes and Attalus. Of these rulers Eumenes I established internal order, and Attalus I gained victories against the Galatians, improved the economy and diplomatic relations of the country. During his reign the Kingdom of Pergamum extended as far as the    Taurus  Mountains and became a progressive  and influential state of the  Hellenistic era  (197 B.C.). Pergamum  reached  Its golden age in the second century B.C. Under the rule  of the above-mentioned   kings the city   grew in  size many of the works of art, particularly the Altar of Zeus, one of the masterpieces of the Hellenistic age. and the Library were bui/1 during this period. Pergamum became a center of learning and art. Kings of Pergamum improved diplomatic relations and Attalus II had a harbor constructed in Ephesus, and a stoa erected in Athens.

Upon the death of Attalus III, the 150 year old Kingdom of Pergamum came to on end, was annexed to Rome in accordance with his wish. Attalus III always regarded Rome as the protector of Pergamum (133 B.C.).

Pergamum In The Rorpon Era Soldiers and wealthy people caused many disturbances in Pergamum upon the country’s annexation to Rome, but these were soon put down by Romans who acted very severely in their new Aslan province. It was for this reason that people welcomed the attack of Mithridates, King of Pontus, (88 B.C.) on Pergamum. The Romans defeated Mithridates after a war which lasted for 27 years and re-established their hegemony over Anatolia (63 B.C.).

Under Roman rule Pergamum was further developed and embellished with many buildings. It was during this period that Antony presented the famous Pergamum Library to Cleopatra, Galen, or. Gaienus of Pergamum, famous physician, was appointed court physician by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (A,D. 157-180). Gaienus, who wrote about 500 works on medicine, is one of the greatest figures in the history of medicine. It is mentioned in one of his works that Pergamum had at that time a population of 160.000 people of whom . 40.000 were natives and 120.000 foreigners, During the time of Gaienus the Asclepieum at Pergamum was one of the leading health centers in the world. An earthquake which took place during the reign of the Emperor Valerius 1 (A.D. 253-260) destroyed the Asclepieum and the city of Pergamum. As the Emperor was later faced with many difficulties the city never recovered Its former magnlficlence.

Pergamum In The Byzantine and Ottoman Eras

With the division of the Roman Empire, Pergamum remained within the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Byzantine era can be said to have started there in the 4th century, The Church of St. John, one of the seven famous churches of western Anatolia, was established at Pergamum, During the Arab invasion Pergamum suffered serious destruction. During the 12th century Pergamum passed into the possession of the Seljuk Turks, who erected many new buildings in the city, Pergamum came under Ottoman rule in 1330.


Founded during the 4th century B.C. this institution played an important role in the treatment of the sick of Asia Minor. Beginning to attract attention during the period of the kingdom, the institution gained a world-wide reputation during the Roman period. Even the Emperor Caracalla came here to be cured of his illness. In gratitude he had an amphitheater capable of holding 50.000 people, and other large buildings, erected for the city.

Aristides a famous teacher of rhetoric of the time came here to be cured of an illness after having suffered from it for 17 years. He expressed his gratitude in long panegyrics and left us some valuable information about the general condition of the Asciepieum. Patients who were cured of their diseases’ used to make voluntary offerings according to their station. Among these were buildings, statues and inscriptions.

Methods of treatment included suggestion, dreams, praying, sun and water baths, exercises, honey cures, walking bare-footed, listening to music, drug therapy and giving blood, etc. Many of these methods were applied scientifically by Gaienus. The Asclepieum was surrounded by woods and sheltered by mountains.

 Ruins Of Asclepieum : The Sacred Way, which is one kilometer long, begins from the Ruined Gate and leads to the Asclepieum. Patients and visitors reaching the propyiaeum would proceed from here to the large square which was surrounded by gaiieries on the three sides. The Library, the Theatre, the public facilities, the Sacred Passage, the Temple of Telesphoros, the Temple of Asclepius, and the Holy Spring are the main places of interest here...>>

Ruins Of The Acropolis : It was built during the period 180 -160 B.C. by Eumenes II, King of Pergomum. The outer walls were decorated with reliefs depicting scenes of a battle between Gads and Giants, representing the conflict of Pergamum’s rulers and the Galatians. The reliefs on the interior walls showed incidents from the lives of national heroes. Marble statues were placed round the building…>>


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