Pergamon Ancient City and Museum: Asclepieion and Red Hall Basilica
Located 100 km north of Izmir, the ancient city of Pergamon has a wonderful beauty with its 8,500 years of history. Bergama, the capital of the kingdom of the period, pioneered many sciences, especially medicine, and became the healing center of the era.
- Pergamon Ancient City
- Pergamon Museum
- Red Hall Basilica (Temple of Serapis) of Pergamon
Pergamon Ancient City
The name of Bergama district in ancient times is Pergamon. It was one of the important centers of the Misian region where Balıkesir is now located. Bergama was the capital of the Pergamon Kingdom between 282 – 133 BC.
Many methods in the field of medicine, which it pioneered, were used for the first time. Bergama, where treatment methods such as music, sports, theater, mud and sun were used, is also the place where the snake, the symbol of medicine and pharmaceutical sciences, emerged.
Bergama, which has a very important place with its culture and texture, is a collection of historical buildings important enough to be accepted to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Tentative Candidate List.
In antiquity, the city was divided into three districts. At an altitude of 300 meters, the Acropolis at the top was where the royal family and rulers, intellectuals and commanders lived.
The Middle City was a place where the public could easily enter and leave, where there were areas where young people could do sports activities such as wrestling, discus throwing, long jumping, and where there were temples open to the public. The Sanctuary of Demeter, one of the temples in the Middle City.
Pergamon Zeus Altar and Temple
The Altar of Zeus, built between 164 and 156 BC, was taken to Germany piece by piece by the archaeologist Carl Humann, who found the altar, by taking advantage of the weaknesses of the laws on historical buildings in the late Ottoman period.
The Altar of Zeus, which was originally located in the space on the south side of the Temple of Athena, was taken to Berlin, Germany, and then repaired and exhibited in the Pergamon Museum, which was established together with other artifacts taken from Pergamon.
Today, the altar, which was meticulously built for Zeus, the god of the gods, is in ruins. Visitors can only see the 35×33 meter foundations of the altar.
Temple of Athena, Protector of the City
The Temple of Athena, dedicated to the goddess of the city Athena and Zeus, is the oldest known temple of Pergamon.
The Temple of Athena, which has a very special place for ancient temples, had 10 columns on the long side and 6 columns on the short side. Only temple officials could enter the room inside, called the Cella, which was considered the home of the Goddess.
The pieces of this structure, which was built for Athena, the goddess of war, who was considered the protector of the city, were taken to Berlin and exhibited in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. These historical buildings are still on display in Berlin today. The only thing you can see about the Temple of Athena in Pergamon, Izmir is its foundations.
The library next to the temple built for Athena, the goddess of reason and wisdom, of which only the foundations are visible today, was the largest library of the Hellenistic period after the Library of Alexandria, with 200,000 books. For the enviable library, instead of papyrus paper, which the Egyptians had banned the export of, the Pergamans started to use dried sheep and goat skins invented by Krates of Sardis.
The type of paper called Pergamea Chartae, meaning Pergamon paper, would eventually evolve into the parchment paper we all know. Parchment paper has the ability to hold writing very well. A text written on parchment paper centuries ago can remain as vivid and clear as if it was written yesterday.
Temple and Sanctuary of Trajan
The Temple of Trajan is located at the highest point of the Acropolis. Built for the Roman Emperor Traian, the structure was completed in 138 AD. The palm leaves on the capitals of the columns attract attention.
The Trajanium, which had been destroyed, was brought to its feet by the German Archaeological Institute in 1976. And they are all German.
The World’s Steepest Ancient Theater
One of the steepest theaters in the world with a capacity of 10,000 people, it is the world’s first theater with a portable wooden stage. In order not to block the Temple of Dionysus at the end of the terrace, the stage was removed when the show was over.
The theater, like the library, was built during the reign of Eumenes II. It is so steep that it would be difficult to stop if you accidentally fall down, you need to be careful when descending to the Temple of Dionysus.
Where to go in Bergama?
While you are in Bergama, it is worth taking a look at the places to visit around Bergama.
The Red Courtyard, which is an extension of the Ancient City of Bergama, the Asclepion, the health center of Antiquity, and the Bergama Archeology Museum, where the artifacts found and excavated as a result of excavations in the region are exhibited, are on the list of places to visit in Bergama.
Historical Bergama houses, one of the immovable cultural assets that carry the heritage of the past to the present, are among the buildings that should be seen during your visit to Bergama.
Each of these two-storey houses with bay windows are in different colors. Only a few of these houses, whose doors open directly to the roads, have a wooden bay window or balkn-shaped protrusions. Some of the houses are nowadays operated as hotels, pensions or restaurants.
What are the entrance fee and visiting hours of Bergama Ancient City?
The entrance to the ancient city of Bergama is paid, but if you have a Müzekart, you can enter for free. The ancient city, which opens at 08:00, can be visited every day of the week until 19:00 in summer and 17:00 in winter.
Where is the Ancient City of Bergama and how to get there?
Transportation to the Ancient City of Bergama is possible in two ways. One of them is the cable car. Located on Acropolis Street, the cable car takes you to the entrance of the Ancient City of Bergama. The length of the cable car is 694 meters and it takes about 3 minutes.
If you have a private car, it is more economical and logical to drive up Acropolis Street to the entrance of the city, where the Acropolis Upper Cable Car Station is located. On the way up, you are already mesmerized by the view of the Kestel Dam in clear weather. This 2.3km long road is an asphalt road and I highly recommend it.
If you are coming from outside the district with your private car, the distance between Bergama and Ödemiş is 150km (3h 30min), the distance between Bergama and İzmir center is 110km (2h), the distance between Isparta and Bergama is 500km, and the distance between Bergama Ancient City and Ephesus Ancient City is 180km (2h 40min). For those coming from Dikili, it is only 30km.
Asklepion, known as the hospital of Pergamon, was built on the borders of Pergamon and is one of the most important treatment centers of Antiquity, where treatment methods such as music, sports, mud and sun were used in the field of medicine. Asclepion is known as the place where spiritual treatment methods started as well as physical treatments.
Asklepion is one of the health centers where many medical doctors who pioneered today’s medicine were trained. There are only a few medical centers like Asklepion Medical Center.
This is one of the two health centers in Pergamon. The other one is Allianoi, which is further north, but is now submerged in dam waters. After it was submerged, most of the inhabitants were found in salvage excavations and the recovered artifacts were sent to the Pergamon Museum.
The cultural assets that could not be moved are covered with soil and await excavations in the coming years.
Information about Asclepion and its story
Asclepius, the son of the god Apollo and Koronos, daughter of the king of Thessaly, has great power, but he is mortal. Apollo kills his cheating wife and entrusts her son to Khiron, half horse and half man, to raise.
Khiron teaches Asclepius all the secrets of nature and begins to heal the people around him. This behavior angered the god Zeus, who first killed Asclepius and then made him the god of health.
However, after killing Asclepius, the prescription in Asclepius’ hand falls to the ground and mixes with the herbs, resulting in the panacea garlic. This is the story of the God of Health in Greek Mythology.
Connected to the Acropolis by an 820-meter-long sacred road, visitors are first greeted by the colonnaded road and then accompanied by treatment areas, hot springs, mud bath pools and rooms prepared for psychiatric treatment.
In the 70-meter-long tunnels, the calmness and rhythm of the water were said to heal the patients. Sleep is the most necessary activity for some patients to recover. The falling asleep chambers, the darkness, the sound of water, the light coming from the holes above creating a dim environment were all therapeutic.
While the patients were in the tunnel, the physicians would say through these holes that they would be cured, thus increasing the patients’ inner belief.
Within the Asclepieion, there is a 3,500-seat theater and a library dedicated to the imperial cult. In the lower part of the seating area there is also a box of honor for dignitaries.
The theater was where the patients who came here and needed to stay spent their time. They spent their time watching performances and sports competitions. The Asclepion also considered sports to be appropriate for treatment. It was discovered that physical movements were better for ailments.
According to Asclepion, there were cures for many things. At the entrance to the Asclepion, there is an inscription on the door that translates as “Death is not allowed here”.
The meaning of this inscription is that patients who are thought to be dying and whose treatment is not possible and has not yet been found are not admitted here. Patients brought here were not admitted if they were at a critical level, if they were about to die. They thought this would negatively affect the motivation of other patients.
The connection of the Asklepieion Sanctuary with Pergamon was provided by the Via Tecta, a 1 kilometer long road covered with vaults. Those who were sick in the acropolis would come to the Asclepion via this road.
The Asclepion served not only the high level people staying in the acropolis, but also the public. This was the place where the public visited when they had a physical or mental health problem, and the hospital was free of charge for the members of the city of Pergamon.
What are the Bergama Asklepion entrance fee and visiting hours?
Asclepion entrance is paid and you can enter free of charge with Müzekart. It can be visited every day of the week between 08:00 – 19:00 in the summer season and 08:00 – 17:00 in the winter season.
Where is Pergamon Asklepion and how to get there?
Asclepion was built outside the acropolis of the ancient city of Pergamon, in a valley with healing springs. When you look at the map, it is located west of the center of Bergama. There are many side streets in Bergama, direct directions would be redundant. There are brown signs everywhere pointing in the direction of Asclepion, it is an easy point to reach.
Bergama Museum, located in the Bergama district of Izmir, is a museum established in the city center of Bergama in order to exhibit and protect the artifacts found as a result of archaeological excavations that first began in 1878 and excavations in Asclepion, which started in 1927.
Information about Pergamon Museum
Opened in 1936 by the governor of Izmir, an additional building was built in 1979. Since the artifacts unearthed as a result of the excavations did not fit in the old width, the museum needed to expand.
In the Bergama Museum, you can see the finds from the ancient city of Bergama and the surrounding settlements, excavated as a result of excavations and belonging to the Neolithic, Bronze, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, and you can closely examine the works made by the people who are talented in sculpture.
You can also see a small model of the Altar of Zeus, which was built between 164 and 156 BC but was taken to Berlin piece by piece by the Germans because the last sultans of the Ottoman period did not pay enough attention to the stone monuments in the country.
The art of sculpture developed in Pergamon. The school of sculptors, which produced its best examples in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, has more natural bodies, figures in motion, and facial expressions that are close to reality, most of which reflect pain, some of which also reflect excitement and enthusiasm.
The sense of pain is conveyed by the half-open mouth and the tragic gaze of the eyes. The movement of the clothes according to the body movements gives the sculpture an instant vitality.
In the museum, there is a column surrounded by snakes, a replica of which we saw in the Asclepion. The story of the column with snakes, an important piece in the museum, is as follows.
Asclepion became so advanced with the medical developments that it was able to write “Death Cannot Enter Here” on its door. Injuries that resulted in death could be treated. However, those with more serious injuries, those whose outcome was certain to be death, could not enter the Asclepion and were not treated here.
The story of Galenos, the famous physician and philosopher of the period, and the antidote he found against scorpion and snake stings is as follows. Once upon a time, a sick man came here, but it was not clear what his health problem was. Nothing can be done about the symptoms and convulsions, which are understood to be poisoning, and the patient’s family is informed and asked to take him away from here before he dies.
The patient is brought to the entrance gate of the temple and as he writhes in pain, he sees two snakes vomiting in the milk they drank from the same bowl. Seeing the two snakes fighting and dripping their poison into the milk, the patient drinks the milk to kill himself and falls asleep.
Those who see him waking up inform Galenos and discover the antidote. Galenos then had a column erected for the discovery of the antidote and engraved on the column the relief of two snakes vomiting in the milk they drank from the same container, which you can see in the museum.
Today, the use of the snake as a symbol in medicine, pharmacy and other health-related fields stems from the fact that the snake has been a healing agent since antiquity.
On the floor of an architectural structure on the Acropolis of Pergamon, there is a 4.20×4.45 meter mosaic of the head of Medusa, surrounded by colorful stones and geometric motifs.
The mosaic was made during the Roman Period and dates back to the 3rd century AD. Let’s not forget that the Pergamon school is famous for its portrait sculptures.
Another room in the museum is the ethnography section of the museum. In the section describing traditional life, the henna night, the zeybek game of the efes, the art of carpet weaving are designed in accordance with the local culture.
In addition to traditional life, you can also see jewelry and accessories such as bracelets and rings, weapons, carpets and rug weavings.
In the garden courtyard of the museum, there are various sarcophagi, steles, column capitals, inscriptions, architrave fragments, reliefs and sculptures.
When we talk about Bergama Museum, we should also mention Osman Bayatlı. Osman Bayatlı, who was a teacher, was assigned to Izmir while he was teaching in Bergama, but he resigned from his teaching position in order not to leave Bergama, which he loved very much.
In 1936, he started working as the director of the Bergama Museum, which opened to visitors in 1936, and he made many contributions to the museum during his tenure.
Osman Bayatlı, who took part in the Asclepieion excavations, paid great attention to the archaeological past of Bergama and produced works reflecting the cultural life and richness of Bergama.
His researches produced 25 works including Asclepion in Ancient Bergama, Medicinal Herbs and Lokman Hekim in Bergama, Villages in Bergama, Intellectuals in Bergama, Turkish-Islamic Works in the History of Bergama, Coins in the History of Bergama and he was among the most important researchers reflecting the culture of Bergama to the present day.
What are the entrance fee and visiting hours of Pergamon Museum?
Bergama Museum can be visited every day of the week for a small fee. Müzekart is valid at the museum. The closing time of the museum, which is between 08:00 – 19:00 working hours in summer, is reduced to 17:00 in the winter season.
Where is Pergamon Museum and how to get there?
Bergama Museum is located on Cumhuriyet Street in the city center. There is a small recess in front of the museum gate, you can leave your car there if you find it empty.
Red Hall Basilica (Temple of Serapis) of Pergamon
Red Hall Basilica, also called the Temple of the Egyptian Gods, was built in the 2nd century AD. 265 meters long and more than 100 meters wide, the Red Courtyard was one of the largest structures in Pergamon. Today, the rest of the courtyard, part of which is visible to visitors, is under the houses in Pergamon.
Next to the courtyards in the area, there were domed, round buildings, one of which is open to visitors today.
These buildings had 1.90 meter thick walls and an interior space of 12 meters in diameter. The tops of the structures have round lighting holes called opaions. The hole diameter of 3.70 meters was narrowed down to 1 meter during the Ottoman period.
The only source of light entering the round areas is the round hole at the top and when you enter, you feel as if it is pitch black. Gradually the eyes get used to it and we can understand what is going on around us. Inside the round structure, on the sides of the walls, you can see the artifacts from the Red Courtyard.
There is also a reconstructed sculpture that you can see in the courtyard during your visit. Actually, these sculptures are known as supporting columns. Instead of building a straight column, the Egyptians built their favorite gods and goddesses as columns.
The 8.50 meter high columns, prepared according to the Egyptian style, portray the Egyptian Goddess Sekhmet. The parts in white in the photo below are the parts prepared today to complete the sculpture. The other parts are real and were unearthed as a result of excavations.
Today, the Red Courtyard is trying to hold on to life in the middle of a rundown neighborhood. It has been in the process of endless restoration for many years in order to be restored.
The Red Courtyard is thought to have been built in the 2nd century AD in the name of the Egyptian gods Isis, Osiris and Serapis.
The Red Courtyard, which was one of the places where Christians gathered and worshipped during the times when Christianity was forbidden, was the only one of the seven churches mentioned by St. John in the Gospel whose exact location is known.
Have you ever wondered why the Red Courtyard, also known as the Temple of Serapis, is called the Red Courtyard? The answer is quite simple. Because the material used in the construction of the buildings was red fire bricks.
What are the entrance fee and visiting hours of Bergama Red Courtyard?
The entrance to the museum is paid and can be visited every day of the week between 08:00 – 19:00 working hours. The closing time is 17:00 in the winter season. If you have a Müzekart, you can enter for free.
Where is Bergama Red Courtyard and how to get there?
Bergama Red Courtyard is very easy to reach. Since it is located in the city center, you can find it without much difficulty, and from the moment you enter Bergama, the brown signs guide you in a correct and simple way.
To go to the Red Courtyard, you need to connect to Kınık Street from Bankalar Street. You will see the buildings on the right.