Located 100 km from north of Izmir in the Bakırçay river basin, Bergama is one of the Turkey's oldest civilized settlements, which has been inhabited from pre-historic times through the Ionic, Roman and Byzantine civilizations. It has yielded archeological treasures whose importance is recognized world-wide.To the southwest of Bergama, Asclepion, an important health center of the ancient world, the acropolis founded on top of a steep hill (300 m) and the Temple of Serapis (Kızıl Avlu) make this area a fascinating stop for history-loving tourists. The Altar of Zeus was smuggled to Germany in 1897.
The modern day name, comes directly from its ancient name, Pergamum. Known for centuries for its monuments, it was a great city and served as the centre of Pergamum kingdom. Its location made it strategic in the Middle Ages and was the centre of the Karesioğullari Principality before it finally became a part of the Ottoman State. The city's golden era was during the reign of Attalos I and his son Eumenes II, the time when an acropolis, theatre and other important projects were completed. It was an important city in the Roman period. The city experienced many developments during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD), and it was adorned with Roman works of art. In the Byzantine era, after the spread of Christianity, Bergama was first under the influence of the bishopric of Ephesus, and then became a metropolis.
The Acropolis was built on an extremely steep hill, approached by a winding road ascending some 300m. In this uniquely designed city, religious, official, social and commercial buildings are all found side-by-side. The King of Pergamum is on the top of this hill, which has been inhabited since ancient times. There are also five cisterns and an arsenal on the hill. Below these buildings is the Temple of Athena, as well as the Library and the Temple of Trajan. The Altar of Zeus was carefully placed below these buildings on a terrace. One of the steepest amphitheatres in the world is found here. The lowest section of the acropolis is the gymnasium and the Temple of Demeter. Because of the topographical location of the city and the course of the main street, all the buildings of the acropolis are lined up in a north-south fashion, but the buildings all face towards the west so that they can be seen from far away. The Altar of Zeus was not encircled with colonnades for the same reason. The Agora and Athena Temple also have an unobstructed view of the plain.
The Temple of Athena
The temple columns and architrave pieces are still in Berlin. The fact that the city's most important temple is the Temple of Athena, as it is in Izmir, Milet, Eriythrai, Foca and Assos as well, reflects the religious tradition of Western Anatolia. Eumenes II had a two-storey covered walkway built along the length of the eastern and northern sides in the Hellenistic style, to commemorate his successful war against the Seleucids, Celts and Macedonians.
Adjacent to the sacred site of the Temple of Athena, there is the remains of the famous Pergamum library. The library, whose entrance used to be on the top floor of the gallery, dates back to the reign of Eumenes II and contains a magnificent reading room measuring 13.53 x 15.35 metres. Equipped with wooden shelves, the library also contained a 3.5m high statue of Athena, which is now in the Berlin Museum. During the reign of Eumenes II, the holding capacity of the library multiplied immensely, and its only equal in the world was the Library of Alexander.
The military arsenal is at the north end of the acropolis, on the other side of the palaces and the Trajaneun, approximately 10m from downhill. There are five compartments, all parallel to one another.
The highest terrace in the acropolis, was made for the Roman Emperor Trajan, who was declared to be divine and before that, there was undoubtedly a Hellenistic structure on this site. Measured of 68 x 58 m, the temple sits perched upon a high terrace surrounded on three sides by covered promenades. Hadrian built the temple for his predecessor, Trajan, but it is known that both of the emperors were worshipped here because the colossal heads of statues of Trajan and Handrian honouring them were found here. These items are also on display in the Museum of Berlin.
Built on a very steep slope, the Pergamum theatre is one of the Hellenistic period's finest architectural achievements. The steepest amphitheatre in western Anatolia, it has a capacity of 10,000 people. In Hellenistic times the stage was made of wood; set up for the performances and then taken down again.
The Temple of Dionysos
The people of Pergamum built this very alluring temple on the north side of the 250m - long theatre terrace, specifically so that it would dominate the landscape of the area. This well-preserved temple with its beautiful profile and altar is a prostylos built upon a podium in the Ionic style. This exquisite monumental structure with its distinctively Roman understanding of art, located at the end of a long road, was a big influence on the European Baroque school of architecture. The building went under some radical changes during the Roman era. The original Hellenistic and Roman pieces are in the Museum of Berlin.
The Altar of Zeus
Located about 25m below the lower terrace of the Temple of Athena, the altar was positioned at the very centre of a 69m x 77m area. It is likely that the area was open on every side so that it could be easily seen for miles around. Its reliefs are not background ornaments, but play just as important role as the altar itself. The altar, only the foundation of which is still in Pergamum, has been reconstructed and is today on display, with all of its reliefs, in the Berlin Museum.
Upper and Lower Agoras
The Agoras (Forum) are terraces located on the south of the Altar of Zeus and were built in the Hellenistic period in the style of Hermes, the God of commerce. Because of the levels of the surrounding land, the covered patios are three storeys on the outside, but only one inside. The Upper Agora was once the focal point of social and commercial activities in the city, although little remains of it today. South of the gymnasium is the Lower Agora, work and homes of the common people. The main street of the city passed right through the middle of the Agora, and below is the Temple of Demeter, the place where rituals for a better after life were practiced.
The magnificent gymnasium of Pergamum was located on three terraces, one above the other. Inscriptions have been found, which indicate that the first floor was for children, the second floor for youth and the top floor for adults. The Upper Gymnasium is also known as the Ceremony Gymnasium. All three of these gymnasiums were built during the dynastic period during the second half of the 3rd century BC.
Asclepion translates as 'place of Aesklepios', the son of Apollo and the god of healing and health, and was an important health centre in Greco-Roman times. Among the types of therapy practiced here were mud baths, sports, theatre, psychotherapy and use of medicinal waters. A colonnaded street leads to the Asclepion, and to the left of the entrance is the temple of Asclepios. This domed temple with its exceptionally thick 3m walls was built in 150 AD, with donations made to the god of health. The interior side was decorated with colorful marble mosaics, and surrounded by galleries on three sides, the Aesklepion has a passageway running through the centre alongside the sacred spring towards the therapy building. It is thought that patients were cured here by the sound of running water and by the persuasive hypnotic techniques used by the priests.
The Temple of Serapis
The biggest structure and best-known attraction in the town is the Kizil Avlu (Red Basilica), by a temple made of red brick dedicated to the gods of Egypt. The temple lies in what is now the modern day town of Bergama. The two pools in the temple with towers indicate ritual cleansing rites and a religious background that was neither Greek nor Roman. The fact that it faces west, and is decorated with statues in an Egyptian style, indicates that it was possibly presented to Serapis, the Egyptian god of the underworld. In the Byzantine period, it was turned into a church by extensive remodelling, especially to the apse sections, and was dedicated to the Apostle John. In early Christianity, it was one of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor addressed by St John in the Book of Revelation, who referred to it as the throne of the Devil. Although a crumbling ruin, it still contains the remains of a mosque in one of the towers