We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

Pergamon

Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East What is This? Provides comprehensive coverage of the history and scope of archaeology in the Near East.

Related Content

Pergamon

ancient city situated in the region of Mysia in northwestern Asia Minor. The city occupies the summit and south slope of a dramatic hill that towers over the fertile valley of the Caicus River, about 25 km (15.5 mi.) east of the Aegean coast, opposite the Greek island of Lesbos. The location of Pergamon was never forgotten, and the name survives in that of the modern Turkish town of Bergama. Pergamon was visited and described by numerous early European travelers, starting with Cyriacus of Ancona in the mid-fifteenth century. German excavations sponsored by the Berlin Museum and later by the German Archaeological Institute began In 1878 and have continued intermittently ever since.

In Greek myth, Pergamon was founded by Telephos, the son of Herakles; although prehistoric pottery has been found in places on the Caicus plain, the earliest archaeological evidence for settlement on the hill of Pergamon are scattered Greek Geometric sherds of the seventh century BCE. Until the end of the fourth century BCE, Pergamon was a small fortress settlement, inhabited by a mixed population of Greeks and indigenous peoples. The decisive turning point in the history of the city came In 301 BCE, when the Hellenistic warlord Lysimachos of Thrace secured his war chest in its fortress, entrusting it to a lieutenant named Philetaerus. In 282 BCE, Philetaerus revolted from Lysimachos and founded the so-called Attalid dynasty, which ruled Pergamon for the next century and a half. The Attalids made the city an architectural showpiece and the capital of an increasingly powerful kingdom. This most distinctive epoch in Pergamene history came to an end In 133 BCE, when the last of the Attalid rulers, Attalus III, took the remarkable diplomatic step of leaving his kingdom on his death to the People of Rome. Pergamon continued to grow and prosper under Roman rule, ranking as one of the two or three leading cities in the province of Asia. It became the home, eventually, of one of the seven churches of that province addressed in the Book of Revelation (2:12–17). The strategic value of its fortress ensured Pergamon's continued importance in the Byzantine period. Early in the fourteenth century, the city was taken by the Turks and incorporated into the newly founded Ottoman kingdom.

The site of Pergamon falls into three major areas: the fortified hill to which the Hellenistic city was confined; the relatively level area south of the hill, built up in Roman times and now occupied by Bergama; and an extramural sanctuary of Asclepius, southwest of Roman Pergamon. The hill of Pergamon can be divided into two parts: the hilltop, or acropolis, which housed the original fortress; and the south slope, which contained the residential part of town and was entirely enclosed by fortifications in the second century BCE (the total area of Hellenistic city was about 90 ha, or 222 acres).

Pergamon

PERGAMON. Figure 1. Altar of Zeus. Pergamon Museum, Berlin. (Foto Marburg/Art Resource, NY)

view larger image

Although the hilltop was settled as early as the seventh century BCE, the earliest substantial architectural remains belong to the Hellenistic period. The north and east sides—the highest parts—are occupied by the fortress proper: the palaces of the kings (relatively modest peristyle structures) and various military installations. To the west lie the theater, built into the slope of the hill, and a series of grand terraces that run radially around the outside of the theater, stepping down from north to south. The earliest of the building complexes supported by these terraces is the sanctuary of Athena, directly east of the theater. It consists of a Doric temple of the late fourth or third century BCE, which was later enclosed on its north, east, and south sides by stoas and other structures, including a library. An elaborate propylon dates to the reign of Eumenes II (197–159 BCE). South of and below the sanctuary of Athena lies Pergamon's most famous monument, the altar of Zeus, also begun, if not perhaps entirely finished, during the reign of Eumenes (see figure 1). The sculptured frieze that decorated its podium represents the battle between the gods and the giants. It is now the centerpiece of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. South of the altar lies a monumental marketplace, or agora. By the end of the Hellenistic period, the architectural elaboration of the acropolis of Pergamon was essentially complete. The only major new building from the Roman era is the Trajaneum, a temple on a monumental terrace northeast of the theater, in which colossal statues of both Trajan (98–117 CE) and his successor, Hadrian (117–138 CE), were found. The partial restoration of the Trajaneum was begun in the 1970s and is still underway.

New fortifications which enclosed the whole south slope of the hill of Pergamon were built, like much of the acropolis, during the reigns of Eumenes II (197–159 BCE) and his successor, Attalus II (159–138 BCE). Excavation has concentrated on four areas: the so-called stadtgrabung, or “city excavations,” a residential area which was a major focus of work from the 1970s into the 1990s; the sanctuary of Demeter, a small Ionic temple enclosed by stoas on a monumental terrace, which was built largely in the third and early second centuries BCE; the gymnasium, a grand complex occupying a series of three terraces, which includes stoas, meeting rooms, public baths, and several small sanctuaries, in addition to a large palaestra, or exercise ground, built in the second century BCE and substantially renovated in the Roman period; and the lower agora, together with a nearby group of houses. The lower agora lies just inside the “Eumenes gate,” at the southern edge of the Hellenistic city.

Pergamon

PERGAMON. Figure 2. General view of the Asklepieon. (Foto Marburg/Art Resource, NY)

view larger image

The Roman development of the area south of the hill of Pergamon is largely hidden by Bergama. Monumental buildings include a theater, a stadium, and an amphitheater, as well as the so-called Red Hall, a huge and unusual temple complex from the second century CE which was dedicated to a trio of Egyptian gods. The sanctuary of Asclepius, southwest of the Roman city, was said to have been founded in the fourth century BCE, but the surviving complex belongs largely to the Roman period, especially the second century CE (see figure 2). It consists of a large courtyard flanked by stoas on its north, west, and south sides (with a theater behind the north stoa) and a row of monumental buildings on the east. The most remarkable of those buildings is the Temple of Zeus-Asclepius, a small replica of the Pantheon in Rome.

With the advent of Christianity, many of Pergamon's pagan sanctuaries were converted into churches, including the Asclepium and the Red Hall in the lower city. In Late Antiquity, however, the lower city was abandoned, as the populace retreated to the fortified slopes of the Hellenistic town. The area between the gymnasium and the acropolis was enclosed by new fortifications (built partly on top of earlier walls). The city enjoyed relative prosperity until as late as the thirteenth century. It fell to the Turks in the early fourteenth century.

Bibliography

  • Hansen, Esther V. The Attalids of Pergamon. 2d ed. Ithaca, N.Y., 1971. Hellenistic history, with extensive bibliography.
  • Radt, Wolfgang. Pergamon: Geschichte und Bauten, Funde und Erforschung einer antiken Metropole. Cologne, 1988. Excellent introduction to the site, written by the longtime director of excavations.
  • Smith, R. R. R. Hellenistic Sculpture. London, 1991. See chapter 9, “Pergamon and the Great Altar,” for the altar of Zeus.

Final reports of the German excavations are published in Altertümer von Pergamon (Berlin, 1885–). The supplements (Berlin, 1968–) are devoted especially to the publication of small finds. Preliminary reports on current excavations can be found in Archäologischer Anzeiger; see, for example, Wolfgang Radt, “Pergamon: Vorbericht über die Kampagne 1993,” Archäologischer Anzeiger (1994): 403–432. For further reading, consult the following:

Christopher Ratté

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2022. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice