Pergamon is the name of the ancient city that was established in the center of Bergama district of İzmir province today. Pergamon was one of the important centers of the Misya region in ancient times. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon between 282-133 BC. The name Pergamon comes from Pergamos, a mythical hero. It is believed that Pergamos captured the city after killing the king of Teuthrania and gave his name. According to another legend, King Grynos of Teuthrania sought help from Pergamos in the war, after the victory he established two cities and named one as Pergamon in his honor and the other as Gryneion.
Written documents mention Pergamon for the first time at the beginning of the 4th century BC. The city later became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon. During this period, it was built with structures such as palaces, temples, and theaters, and the city was surrounded by towers and walls. Pergamon remained one of the few cities of Western Anatolia after the kingdom was attached to Rome.
German engineer Carl Humann, who worked on railway laying in Western Anatolia in the 1870s, found the ruins of the old city. The first research and excavations in Pergamon started in 1878. Excavations and repair work continues today.
Included in the World Heritage Tentative List by UNESCO in 2011, Pergamon was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2014.
The Acropolis (“upper part of the city”) of the city of Pergamon is located on a hill dominating the plain irrigated by Bakırçayı. Before reaching the main gate of the Acropolis, which looks like a large castle, there are the remains of the Heroon on the left. Heroon was the name of the sacred places built in the name of a hero or demigod in Ancient Greece and surrounded by a colonnaded gallery. In the Heroon, the room where the religious ceremony was held (the cult room) was behind a large front gallery. To the north of Heroon was a tall structure consisting of a series of shops from the Hellenistic period.
The Temple of Athena, built in the name of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, who is regarded as the protector of the city, was the most important place of the Acropolis. This temple, located on the theater terrace, was built in Doric order. During the excavations, many parts of the Temple of Athena were taken to Berlin and rebuilt there in accordance with the original. In Pergamon, only the foundations remain.
To the north of the Temple of Athena was a library with four halls. This place was one of the largest libraries of the Hellenistic period. It is known that there are 200 thousand books written on parchment called “Pergamon skin” in the library. Mark Antonius, a Roman soldier, and statesman gifted all the books to the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra in 41 BC.
There was the Zeus Altar on a terrace to the south of the Athena Temple. The Zeus Altar was also taken to Berlin and repaired and put in the Pergamon Museum there. Only the foundations of the altar, which is the best example of Hellenistic period architecture, remained in Pergamon. To the south of the Zeus Altar is the Upper Agora. The agora was surrounded by galleries with columns in the Doric order from the south and northeast. The people gathered in the Agora were discussing politics and trade-related issues with the administration. To the northwest of the Agora was the Agora Temple. At the highest point of the Acropolis, the palaces of the Pergamon kings were rising. Only the ground and foundations of these palaces have survived to this day. In these plain-looking buildings, the rooms were lined up around a colonnaded courtyard.
On the steep slope to the west of the Temple of Athena, there is a theater for about 10 thousand people. The front of the theater, which was built in the Hellenistic period, facing the cliff was reinforced with sets. The theater had a wooden stage and this stage was made to be disassembled and assembled.
Temple of Dionysus, another temple of the Acropolis, was to the north of the theater terrace. There were columns only on the front of the temple, which was located on a podium climbed by 25 steps.
The settlement, known today as the Middle City, was another part of the old city of Pergamon. The family of kings, rulers, intellectuals, and commanders mostly lived in the Acropolis, the upper part of the city. The Middle City was the place where the people could easily enter and exit. There were structures not directly related to the state administration, sports fields for young people, temples open to the public.
One of the important areas of the Middle City was the Demeter Sanctuary. This area was located on a rectangular platform. Today, when you come from the Upper Gymnasium, you can enter the area where the sacrificial pit used to be with a fountain. From here, the monumental entrance (propylaia) with two columns is reached with five steps. You can go down to the sanctuary from here. There was the temple to the left of the field and the altar in the middle. In the 10-row seating area on the right, 600 people could watch Demeter and Korean religious ceremonies.
The gymnasium was the largest building complex in the Middle City. Here, various sports activities and competitions were held. The Gymnasium was built on three terraces expanding upwards and was built in a way as three separate Gymnasiums. The upper terrace was reserved for adults, the middle terrace for young people, and the lower terrace for children. Sports activities such as wrestling, discus throwing, and long jumps were held in the area surrounded by galleries in the middle section. Lectures on various subjects were given in the halls at the back of the gallery in the north. One of these halls was large enough to accommodate 1,000 people. The covered runway under the south gallery was 212 meters long.
There were structures in the west of the Middle Gymnasium where young people were educated. The long runway led to the temple dedicated to Heracles and Hermes in the east. The names of the young people who were successful in the competitions were written on the walls of the temple. The Lower Gymnasium, which was devoted to the education of young children, consisted of structures built on an 80-meter-long terrace.
Only the foundations of the Temple of Asklepios, located to the west of the Upper Gymnasium, have survived. The temple, built in the name of Asklepios, the god of medicine, was a school where research and experiments in the field of medicine were carried out as well as its religious features. The patients were treated with medicines, surgery, water, and mud baths, as well as sports, music, entertainment, and suggestion.