Into Turkey– Part Nine

Into Turkey– Part Nine November 25, 2022

Pergamon.  This site makes the acropolis in Athens look like a molehill, and it gives new meaning to the phrase nosebleed seats in stadium or theater. You will soon see exactly what I mean.  Here are two illustrations of what the site looks like (which by the way takes a ski lift to get to, normally).

Let’s focus on the theater hanging on the side of a cliff first….

To make matters worse,  the god of wine, Dionysius had his temple at the bottom right next to the theater, and here are its remains.

Can you imagine a slightly inebriated person trying to walk down those aisles to their seat without killing themselves and falling to the bottom?   Imbiber emptor!   We’ve already shown you, in one of the previous Istanbul posts,  what Pergamon looked like before the German archaeologists carted off the Temple of Zeus lock stock and barrel and set it up in a museum in Berlin.  Well this below is what remains of it.

Yes those few perimeter steps and a few others under the trees are all that’s left of a once incredible temple of Zeus.  It’s bad enough that an archeologist’s life is constantly in ruins, but then some pilferers from another country and come and steal the best part of the remains!  Yikes! Notice the remarkable view of the lower city from here.

Despite the precipitous height of this acropolis the ancients still didn’t feel safe enough so they built very substantial city walls to protect the acropolis and they at least are still remarkably intact.

Over centuries building continued at this site, with some of the latest being Trajan’s decision to build a platform at the very pinnacle of the on top of which he would build a temple and other things.  This required no little engineering just to build the platform. Look at these shots…


The last three shots show some of the very substantial under structure that had to be built before one could build anything on top of it.

Before you reached the very top, there was a wide area where the famous Pergamon library once stood, a library pilfered by Marc Anthony to impress Cleopatra, who had the world’s greatest ancient library in Alexandria already.  Pergamon was a major center for learning, and it is the place parchment was invented. The word itself is an Anglicized or barbarized version of the ancient name of the city Perg-mon. parch-ment.  Parchment was not made from the stalk of reeds like papyrus, and so was an improvement as it was not easy to tear or destroy. It was made from cellulose from tree fibers, or from cotton like material and is more durable than papyrus.  More important books and papers tended to be put on parchment once it became readily available, including many of the books and treatises in the Pergamon library.  The picture below shows sadly all that is left of where the library was….

Pressing on to the top of the acropolis you can see that Trajan was not interested in building anything small— he wanted huge columns, hugh capitals, huge statues, huge platforms, all demonstrating what a BIG man (with a big ego), he was.


Wait that’s not Trajan, that Mark a pastor from Macon Georgia, a member of my tour group. 

The temple was such an undertaking it took two emperors to finish it, Hadrian being the successor of Trajan.

There were also free standing altars as well for sacrifices not related to the emperor cult.

Sparing no expense, only the finest artistry and marble carving would do…

There are also many honorific columns near the top of the acropolis including this one which speaks about Pergamon having the neokoros, that is the privilege of being the temple keeper.

  In fact it lists Trajan, and oddly Germanicus, so named for his military victories against the Germans. he may be listed here because he came to Asia Minor and helped set up provinces like Cappadocia.   He may have been poisoned like Claudius and in any case he died prematurely in Antioch.

When you get down from the lofty heights to where you catch the ski lift back down the acropolis, there are of course in inevitable tourist trap shops with their books and trinkets and statues of gods no one believes in any more.

I agree with the dog. That stuff just puts me to sleep.

In our next post, we will explore the medical complex outside the lower city of Pergamon, the temple of Asklepius the god of healing, and consider the greatest doctor of his age— Galen, who came from here.

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