Pergamon /ˈpɜːrɡəmən/ or /ˈpɜːrɡəmɒn/ or Pergamum /ˈpɜːrɡəməm/ (Ancient Greek: τὸ Πέργαμον or ἡ Πέργαμος) was a rich and powerful ancient Greek city in Aeolis. It is located 26 kilometres (16 mi) from the modern coastline of the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus (modern-day Bakırçay) and northwest of the modern city of Bergama.
Xenophon provides the earliest surviving documentary mention of Pergamon. Captured by Xenophon in 399 BC and immediately recaptured by the Persians, it was severely punished in 362 BC after a revolt. It did not become important until Lysimachus, King of Thrace, took possession in 301 BC, but soon after his lieutenant Philetaerus enlarged the town, the kingdom of Thrace collapsed and it became the capital of the new kingdom of Pergamon which Philetaerus founded in 281 BC, beginning the Attalid dynasty. In 261 BC he bequeathed his possessions to his nephew Eumenes I (263–241 BC), who increased them greatly, leaving as heir his cousin Attalus I (241–197 BC).
The Attalids became some of the most loyal supporters of Rome in the Hellenistic world. Under Attalus I (241–197 BC), they allied with Rome against Philip V of Macedon, during the first and second Macedonian Wars, and again under Eumenes II (197–158 BC), against Perseus of Macedon, during the Third Macedonian War. For their support against the Seleucids, the Attalids were rewarded with all the former Seleucid domains in Asia Minor.
As a consequence of its rise to power, the city expanded greatly. Until 188 BC, it had not grown significantly since its founding by Philetaerus, and covered c. 21 hectares (52 acres). After this year, a massive new city wall was constructed, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) long and enclosing an area of approximately 90 hectares (220 acres).
The Attalids ruled with intelligence and generosity. Many documents survive showing how the Attalids supported the growth of towns by sending in skilled artisans and by remitting taxes. They allowed the Greek cities in their domains to maintain nominal independence. They sent gifts to Greek cultural sites like Delphi, Delos, and Athens. They defeated the invading Celts. They remodeled the Acropolis of Pergamon after the Acropolis in Athens. When Attalus III (138–133 BC) died without an heir in 133 BC, he bequeathed the whole of Pergamon to Rome in order to prevent a civil war.
Not everyone in Pergamon accepted Rome's rule. Aristonicus, who claimed to be Attalus' brother as well as the son of Eumenes II, an earlier king, led a revolt among the lower classes with the help of Blossius, a famous Stoic philosopher. Aristonicus took the regal name Eumenes III. For a period he enjoyed success, defeating and killing the Roman consul P. Licinius Crassus and his army. However, his revolt was put down in 129 BC by the consul M. Perperna, and Aristonicus was executed in Rome. After this, Pergamon was divided by Perperna's successor, M'. Aquillius, among Rome, Pontus, and Cappadocia.
After a slow decline, the city was favoured by several imperial initiatives under Hadrian (117 - 138). It was granted the title of metropolis and as a result of this an ambitious building programme was carried out: massive temples, a stadium, a theatre, a huge forum and an amphitheatre were constructed. In addition, at the city limits the shrine to Asclepius (the god of healing) was expanded into a lavish spa. This sanctuary grew in fame and was considered one of the most famous therapeutic and healing centers of the Roman world. Galen, after Hippocrates the most famous physician of antiquity, was born at Pergamon and received his early training at the Asclepeion.
Pergamon reached the height of its greatness under Roman Imperial rule and was home to about 200,000 inhabitants. The city was an early seat of Christianity and was granted a bishopric by the 2nd century.
With the defeat of the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Seljuk Turks were effectively in control of all of Anatolia, but they withdrew to central and eastern Anatolia to consolidate their gains as the Sultanate of Rum and Pergamon returned to Byzantine control. The decline of the Sultanate of Rum in the late 12th century saw the rise of the Anatolian beyliks and with the continuing weakness in the Byzantine Empire, and the expansion of the beyliks, Pergamon was absorbed into the baylik of Karasids/Karası by 1336. Competition among the bayliks resulted in the takeover of the baylik of Karasids/Karası by the Ottoman Emirate - the forerunner of the Ottoman Empire - in 1357.
The Great Altar of Pergamon is in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin. The base of this altar remains on the upper part of the Acropolis. A smaller frieze on a wall inside the Altar of Pergamon depicted the life of Telephus, son of Heracles and legendary founder of Pergamon.
Other notable structures still in existence on the upper part of the Acropolis include:
Pergamon's library on the Acropolis (the ancient Library of Pergamum) was the second best in the ancient Greek civilization. Pergamon was also a flourishing center for the production of parchment (the word itself, a corruption of pergamenos, meaning "from Pergamon"), which had been used in Asia minor long before the rise of the city. The story about the Pergamene invention of parchment because of Alexandria's papyrus monopoly is a mere legend. The library at Pergamom was believed to contain 200,000 volumes, which Mark Antony later gave to Cleopatra as a wedding present.
The site is today easily accessible by the Bergama Acropolis Gondola from the base station in northeastern Bergama.
The lower part of the Acropolis has the following structures:
three kilometres (1.9 miles) south of the Acropolis at (39° 7′ 9″ N, 27° 9′ 56″ E), down in the valley, there was the Sanctuary of Asclepius (also known as the Asclepium), the god of healing. The Asclepium was approached along an 820-meter colonnaded sacred way. In this place people with health problems could bathe in the water of the sacred spring, and in the patients' dreams Asclepius would appear in a vision to tell them how to cure their illness. Archeology has found lots of gifts and dedications that people would make afterwards, such as small terracotta body parts, no doubt representing what had been healed. Galen, the most famous doctor in the ancient Roman Empire and personal physician of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, worked in the Asclepium for many years. Notable extant structures in the Asclepium include:
Pergamon's other notable structure is the great temple of the Egyptian gods Isis and/or Serapis, known today as the "Red Basilica" (or Kızıl Avlu in Turkish), about one kilometre (0.62 miles) south of the Acropolis at (39 7' 19" N, 27 11' 1" E). It consists of a main building and two round towers within an enormous temenos or sacred area. The temple towers flanking the main building had courtyards with pools used for ablutions at each end, flanked by stoas on three sides. At this temple in the year 92 Saint Antipas, the first bishop of Pergamum ordained by John the Apostle, was a victim of an early clash between Serapis worshipers and Christians. An angry mob is said to have burned Saint Antipas alive inside a Brazen Bull incense burner, which represented the bull god Apis. In the 1st century AD, the Christian Church at Pergamon inside the main building of the Red Basilica was one of the Seven Churches to which the Book of Revelation was addressed. The forecourt is still supported by the 193-metre-wide (633-foot) Pergamon Bridge, the largest bridge substruction of antiquity.
Greek inscriptions discovered at Pergamon include the rules of the town clerks, the so-called Astynomoi inscription, which has added to understanding of Greek municipal laws and regulations, including how roads were kept in repair, regulations regarding the public and private water supply and lavatories.
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