A visit to Pergamon, will fill you with knowledge of the brilliant and glorious history of Turkey on the Anatolian Coastline. Pergamon was famous for originating parchment, having the greatest library, second only to Alexandria, being home to the Alter of Zeus, plus boasting of the steepest theatre in history, seating 10,000 patrons.
Pergamon, sitting 1,000 feet high atop a mountain was, as Alexander the Great called it, “the Eagles’ Nest”. This was one of the richest, most graceful and culturally important cities of the world. Pergamon was renowned in ancient times for the Asklepieion, the famous ancient healing spa, where Pergamon born Galen, the most prolific scientist of medicine after Hippocrates, studied and practiced. During the second century A.D., Pergamon’s fame as a center of healing and medical science eclipsed its reputation for anything else.
Pergamon rose to prominence during the years of the Greek empires division following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. The city enjoyed centuries of prosperity that continued when it passed peacefully to Rome’s control in 133 B.C. Pergamons decline, however, mirrored that of the empire as a whole. Like the rest of the region, it eventually came under Byzantine and then Ottoman rule. By the late 19th century, excavations had begun at the ancient site and many thousands of priceless relics can be seen at the museum in Berlin, Germany. As you drive upwards towards the cliff top Acropolis of Pergamon, you will see a Red Courtyard Church. This is a 4th century basilica shaped building that was converted into a church dedicated to St. John and thus became one of the Seven Churches of Christianity written about in the book of Revelations. All seven of these churches are in Turkey.
When you enter the upper Acropolis, you’ll see such things as the foundations of the monumental gates constructed by Eumenes II, the ruins of the Temple of Athena built at the same time in the 3rd century BC just above the theater. Also of interest is the famous Library of Pergamon which contained 200,000 books and also housed one of the most extravagant wedding gifts of all time (Marc Antony is said to have presented Cleopatra with a huge amount of books from the Pergamon library’s collection to help replace the loss of the Alexandria’s famed library due to fire). You’ll see the remains of the splendor of the palaces of Eumenes II and Attalos II as well as the majestic marble Temple of Trajan.
One of the most dramatic structures of the acropolis was what scholars believe to be the Temple of Zeus, the massive foundations of which are all that remain on the southern slope of the site. An altar that is believed to be associated with the temple, known today as the Great Altar of Pergamon, was moved to Berlin in the 19th century by German archaeologists.
As all the ancient rich cities boasted a theatre, Pergamon went one step further: In the 3rd century BC, the steepest theatre in the world, with a capacity of 10,000, was constructed. This theatre is almost intact today and can provide an exhilarating feeling when looking down from the spectacular setting . From the top, if one of the patrons slipped, it would have been more than 120 vertical feet below. And of course, Pergamon's theatre was an acoustic marvel. Try your theatrical talents; even when speaking normally on the stag, one can be heard even at the top.