The ancient Asclepion of Pergamon


Today was our long driving day.  About an hour and a half from Izmir or Smyrna to Bergama (the ancient Pergamum or Pergamon), and roughly three and a half hours from Pergamon to Bursa.


An aerial view of the acropolis of ancient Pergamon


Pergamon, our fourth and last of the “seven churches of Asia,” was the site of a famous ancient library.  It is said that its great rival library in Alexandria, wishing to hobble a competitor, placed an embargo on shipments of papyrus to “Asia,” thus obliging the residents of Pergamon to invent their own writing material: parchment, which takes its name from a distortion of Pergamon.  The Apocalypse of St. John describes “Pergamos” as the location where “Satan’s seat” is, which is probably a reference to the temple of Zeus or Jupiter in the city’s acropolis.  We visited the acropolis, as well as the extensive Asclepion or temple of medicine at the base of the acropolis area.


The great second-century physician/philosopher Galen was a native of Pergamon, and received his medical training at the Asclepion.  Brigham Young University’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative is publishing The Medical Works of Moses Maimonides, and among them are Maimonides’ “medical aphorisms,” based on the works of Galen.


My wife and I worried about today, but I think the long drive may have been restful to our group, rather like a sea-day on a cruise.  (My lectures on the first several ecumenical councils — about two hours’ worth — probably helped to sedate them.)  And the hotel in Bursa has turned out to be very modern and stylish, quite acceptable.


Posted from Bursa, Turkey.



  • Eric

    The reconstructed elements, including friezes, of the Temple of Zeus at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin are impressive. Thanks for the connection to Revelation.

    • danpeterson

      To my distress, I’ve never yet been in Berlin.