Pergamon: The Real Land of The Zeus Altar

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With its historical and cultural richness, Pergamon is one of the most important culture and tourism centres of the Aegean.

Location of Pergamon

This ancient city is located in the district of Bergama, 100 km from İzmir/Turkey.

History of Pergamon

Pergamon was one of the important trade centres in the Mysian region during the ancient period. Its history goes back to the 7th century BC. Pausanias said that Pergamon was founded by the Pergamus, son of Andromaque. On the other hand, the son of Heracles Telephos is shown as the founder of Pergamon. In the ancient texts, the name Pergamon is mentioned for the first time in Xenophon’s ‘The Return of the Ten Thousands”

Apart from the ancient settlement of Pergamon at the top of the Kale Mountain, there are many mounds scattered in Bakırçay Plain. According to the researches conducted in these mounds, the settlement history of the city dates back to the Old Bronze Age (3000 BC).

Alexander the Great took Pergamon together with all Western Anatolia in 334 BC under the domination of the Kingdom of Macedonia. When Macedonian Emperor, Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his generals inherited his land and reign. After Alexander’s death, the territories of the Empire were shared among his generals. In 301 BC, Macedonian Commander Lysimachos, who conquered the Pergamon region, declared his kingdom. 

Attalids, one of the Alexander the Great’s generals ruled the city of Pergamon in Asia Minor after the death of Lysimachus. When Attalids saw the hilltop of Pergamon as geographically desirable, he built the city of Pergamon.

Pergamon became the capital of the Pergamon Kingdom under the rule of Attalids. Thus the city was named after Pergamos. When it became the capital, buildings such as palaces, temples and theatres were built in the city.

Pergamon was an important major historical, cultural and commercial centre for a period of 150 years, from 283 to 133 BC.

After the Pergamon Kingdom was left to the Roman Empire (133 BC), it became the capital of the Asian province of Rome and was given the title of Néocore, the Guardian of the Shrines. After it was annexed to Rome, Pergamon remained as one of the leading cities in Western Anatolia. During this period Pergamon started giving the most authentic works in literature, art, science, health and architecture.

This ancient city maintained its position as an important trade centre during the Byzantine Empire, Karesioğulları Principality and the Ottoman Empire. It was one of the leading centres of the Ottoman Empire.

Buildings in Pergamon

There are many ancient buildings in the city. See map below.

Acropolis of Pergamon (see map above)

(Buildings in the Acropolis:

The Temple (Sanctuary) of Athena (no: 26 on the map above),

Pergamon Library (no: 27 on the map above),

Temple (Altar) of Zeus (no: 23 0n the map),

Pergamon Theatre (no: 25 in the map),

Temple of Trajan (no: 28 0n map),

Temple of Dionysos

Asclepion and Temple of Asclepius (no: 2 on the map)

The Red Basilica (no: 14 on the map)

The Roman Theatre (no: 8 on the map)

The theatre of the lower city was one of the most important structures of the Roman Period.

It used to seat for up to 30 thousands spectators. 

The Amphitheatre (no: 10 in the map)

Pergamon amphitheatre used to stand on a natural water source of the “Telli Dere”’ and thus the theatre used to host a reenactment of the naval battles along with the gladiator combats.

50 thousand seated amphitheatre represents one of the unique architectural form in the Anatolia.

Agoras

Agora was the central spot for public gathering and of financial-political life of the cities during the antiquity. The orders of the Pergamon Kings, written on obelisks, used to be presented in the agoras of the city.

The upper agora is located to the south of the Altar of Zeus. Dedicated to Hermes, the God of Merchants, the agora was built in the Doric style. The foundations of the Temple of Demeter are visible on the western edge of the square.

Gymnasiums

Gymnasiums, in ancient times, functioned as a wrestling, discusing throw, long jumping etc. training facilities for competitors.

In the city of Pergamon, three splendid gymnasiums were built on three separate terraces all in a row. It is understood from inscriptions uncovered that the lower terraces would have been used by children, and the central and upper terraces were allocated to youths and adults respectively.

The Pergamon gymnasiums were not only the greatest nonreligious structures of the city but also the greatest in the Hellenistic world.

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