Turkish Odyssey
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Contents
of this Page

Gediz (Hermos) River

Bergama (Pergamum)

. History of Pergamum

. Pergamum, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

. Archeological Evidence

Acropolis

Kizil Avlu (The Red Court)

Asclepieum

. Galen

. The Site

Bakircay (Caicus) River

Akhisar (Thyatira)

. Thyatira, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

Aegean Region of Turkey Part 1
Bergama (Pergamum) - Akhisar (Thyatira)

   

GEDIZ (HERMOS) RIVER

 
   
 

With a length of 401 km / 250 miles, the Gediz is 2nd longest river in the Aegean region. It originates from western central Anatolia and flows into the Gulf of Izmir near Foca. In the 19C there was a danger of the port of Izmir being blocked by its alluviums which is why another channel was dug in the northern part.

 

BERGAMA (PERGAMUM)

Pergamum was an ancient city founded by colonists on the Aegean coast of Anatolia at the site of the present-day city of Bergama. It was on a tributary of the Bakircay (Caicus River), enclosed by high mountains. Fertile, self-contained and easily defended, it provided the perfect setting for the maintenance of a city state.

History of Pergamum

In the era following the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC), Lysimachus, one of Alexander’s generals, chose Pergamum as the depository for his vast wealth, placing here 9,000 talents of gold under the guardianship of his lieutenant, Philetaerus.

King Attalus III bequeathed (133 BC) his domains to the Romans, under whom the city retained its position as the preeminent artistic and intellectual center of Anatolia but declined in political and economic importance.

The city went through the Arab, Byzantine and finally the Turkish period in the 14C.

Pergamum attained a high culture in the Hellenistic era, boasting an outstanding library that rivaled in importance that of Alexandria, a famous school of sculpture and excellent public buildings and monuments of which the Zeus Altar is the best example.

In the Roman period, Pergamum played an important role in the early history of Christianity. It was also numbered among the Seven Churches of Revelation.

Upon Lysimachus’s death, Philetaerus used this fortune and founded the independent dynasty of the Attalid Kings. Pergamum later became the capital of a flourishing Hellenistic kingdom and one of the principal centers of Hellenistic civilization. Under Kings Attalus I and Eumenes II, Pergamum reached the height of its independent powers. At the same time, however, it began to look to Rome for alliance against the warring Hellenistic rulers. After signalizing himself as a friend of Rome, Attalus I was awarded the Seleucid dominions, making Pergamum a powerful kingdom, comprising of Mysia, Lydia, Caria, Pamphylia and Phrygia. In addition to extending the kingdom, Attalus I adorned his capital with architectural splendors. Eumenes II also brought the city to the climax of its cultural prominence. During the reigns of these two prominent kings, the city so flourished that it could only be compared to Antioch and Alexandria.

 

Pergamum, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

(Revelation 2:12-17)

(12) "Write this letter to the leader of the church in Pergamos:

"This message is from him who wields the sharp and double-bladed sword. (13) I am fully aware that you live in the city where Satan’s throne is, at the center of satanic worship; and yet you have remained loyal to me and refused to deny me, even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you by Satan’s devotees.

(14) "And yet I have a few things against you. You tolerate some among you who do as Balaam did when he taught Balak how to ruin the people of Israel by involving them in sexual sin and encouraging them to go to idol feasts. (15) Yes, you have some of these very same followers of Balaam among you!

(16) "Change your mind and attitude, or else I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

(17) "Let everyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: Every one who is victorious shall eat of the hidden manna, the secret nourishment from heaven; and I will give to each a white stone and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one else knows except the one receiving it.

Archeological Evidence

A young German engineer Carl Humann, who was engaged in building a road in Bergama in 1875 was told that a great quantity of loose stone was available among the ruins at the top of the hill behind the city. That which started as the need for road construction resulted in Humann’s archeological studies and the uncovering of many beautiful pieces including the Zeus Altar and Gateway to the Sanctuary of Athena which were subsequently taken to the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.

 
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Pergamum Acropolis

 
   
   
The function of the acropolis in Pergamum was never the same as the function of the acropolis in Athens. In Athens everything was focused on religion, whereas in Pergamum it was on social and cultural activities, or in other words, daily life. As a result of this contrast, major buildings in Pergamum were reserved for public use in daily life. Even in the temples, religion was of secondary importance. Buildings had large areas for the public where they could meet, walk or join in social affairs. Pergamum was the first city to react against functional urbanism of Hippodamus preferring ornamental urbanism. Pergamenes agreed that functionalism was necessary, but that aesthetics were to be given even more consideration. The buildings of the Acropolis were designed to be seen from below and to impress those viewing the city from the valley.

Except for the Trajan Temple all the buildings were built in the Hellenistic period during which constructions were made of andesite and very rarely in marble.

Heroon, in general, is a shrine dedicated to a deified hero. The Heroon in the Acropolis of Pergamum was the imperial cult or the shrine in which kings of Pergamum, especially Attalus I and Eumenes II, were worshipped.

It was a peristyle building made of andesite from the Hellenistic period.

The Sanctuary of Athena was entered through a propylon which was built by Eumenes II. As written in its inscription, it was dedicated to victory-bringing Athena by King Eumenes. The entrance opens into a courtyard surrounded by three stoas of the Doric order. This also dates from the same period. At the corner near the theater was the Athena Temple in Doric order which was built earlier, in the 3C BC. It was built of andesite and stood on a crepidoma with two steps.

The Library of Pergamum, built by Eumenes II, was the second of the three famous ancient libraries. It contained 200,000 volumes. A century later Mark Antony gave them to Cleopatra as a wedding present to be added to the collection of the library in Alexandria. The library building was next to the north stoa of the Athena Sanctuary. Most probably, the second floor of the stoa was at the same level with the first floor of the library. It had a large reading hall with many shelves all around, leaving an empty space between walls and shelves for the circulation of air to prevent humidity. Manuscripts were written on parchment then rolled or folded and put on shelves.

When the Egyptians prohibited the export of papyrus, the King of Pergamum ordered that a new material be found. The new discovery was "parchment", a fine material from sheep or goat skin, highly polished with pumice stone and slit into sheets. Therefore the name of Pergamum has been perpetuated and seen as synonymous with the word "parchment".

The Temple of Trajan was a 2C AD temple in Corinthian order, dedicated to Trajan, built by his successor Hadrian. Both emperors were worshipped there. The temple was built of marble, probably on the site of a previous Hellenistic building. Before the construction, the area was leveled off by using a successful arched and vaulted substructure. The temple is flanked by stoas on three sides, the one at the back being higher than the others. It was in Corinthian order to have a peripteros plan, with 9 by 6 columns.

It is said that the Theater in the acropolis of Pergamum is the steepest raked Hellenistic theater in the world. The cavea of the theater which consists of 80 rows of seats is divided into three sections by two diazomas. The capacity was 10,000 people. The construction material is andesite. Because it was originally a Hellenistic theater, there was not a permanent stage building and people sitting on the cavea could see outside and beyond the playing area. In the Hellenistic period, performances were held in a festive atmosphere and took a long time. People spent a lot of time in the theater, usually the minimum of a full day. Therefore, they never wanted to block their view of outside and the stage building, being made of wood, was portable. Square holes at the back of the orchestra were for the portable stage building. The theater was also used during the Roman period with some alterations.

The finest altar ever built can be accepted as the Zeus Altar at Pergamum, of about 180 BC, which stands in its own precinct but, most unusually, without a temple. The altar, a marble offering-table, stood on an enormous stone plinth, which also supported the double colonnade of Ionic columns enclosing it on three sides. On the fourth side it was approached by a fine stairway, nearly 20 m / 65 ft wide.

Much of the structure and almost all of the friezes are now in Berlin. Decorated with vigorous friezes of life-size figures depicting a battle between gods and giants, its contemporary context is probably King Eumenes II’s celebration of his recent victories over the Gauls in Pontus and Bithynia. If this is so, then the context incorporates within its apparently straightforward mythology the King’s assertion of his own triumphant role as the defender of traditions against barbarianism.

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Temple of Trajan, 2CAD, Acropolis, Pergamum
 
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Kizil Avlu (The Red Court)

 
   
   
This building was a 2C AD temple dedicated to Egyptian gods and goddesses from the time of the Emperor Hadrian. In the Byzantine period it was converted into a basilica. Because of the red bricks used in the construction and its court-like area, it was named the Red Court.
 

 

 
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Asclepieum

 
   
   
Asclepieum was a sanctuary and a healing center built in the name of the god of healing, Asclepius.

It was similar to the one in Epidauros in Greece. Although this place was set up in the 4C BC, it had its peak in the Roman period.

Asclepius, son of Apollo, the god of healing, was a famous physician. His mother, Coronis, a princess of Thessaly, died when he was an infant. Apollo entrusted the child’s education to Chiron, a centaur, who taught Asclepius the healing arts. Asclepius, when grown, became so skilled in surgery and the use of medicinal plants that he could even restore the dead back to life. Hades, ruler of the dead, became alarmed at this and complained to Zeus, who killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt. The healing center, Asclepieum, had been something very similar to a modern natural healing clinic. Patients were given exercises, drugs, herbal remedies, or could take the honey cure, drink the waters of the spring or be treated by suggestion. They could walk among the trees and be calmed by the scent of pine.

Over the gate had been inscribed the words: "In the name of the Gods, Death is forbidden to enter". Snakes were sacred to Asclepius because of their power to renew themselves. That is why there was a relief of snakes at the entrance to the sacred area of the medical center symbolizing health. Among the famous physicians of the Asclepieum was Galen.

Galen (c.129-199 AD)

Galen was the most outstanding physician of antiquity after Hippocrates. His anatomical studies on animals and observations of how the human body functions dominated medical theory and practice for 1400 years. Galen was born in Pergamum. A shrine to the healing god Asclepius was located in Pergamum and there young Galen observed how the medical techniques of the time were used to treat the ill or wounded. He received his formal medical training in nearby Smyrna and then traveled widely, gaining more medical knowledge.

Galen dissected many animals, particularly goats, pigs and monkeys, to demonstrate how different muscles are controlled at different levels of the spinal cord. He also showed that the brain controls the voice. Galen showed that arteries carry blood, disproving the 400-year-old belief that arteries carry air. Galen was also highly praised in his time as a philosopher. He closely followed the view of the philosopher Aristotle that nothing in nature is superfluous. Galen’s principal contribution to philosophic thought was the concept that God’s purposes can be understood by examining nature. Galen’s observations in anatomy remained his most enduring contribution. His medical writings were translated by 9C Arab scholars.

The Site

The Colonnaded Road connected Asclepieum to the city. Originally it was 820 m / 2,700 ft. Today only a small part of this road is visible. The Propylon was located at the end of the colonnaded road and dates from 2C AD. It had 12 steps and opened into a large courtyard which was surrounded by stoas on three sides. It had beautiful acroteriums one of which can be seen in the Bergama museum. Stoas originally had Ionic capitals but after an earthquake in the 2C AD, some Corinthian capitals were also used. The Library was for both educational and entertainment purposes with many medical books for the physicians and other books for use by the patients. The Theater is a small building in Roman style with a capacity of 3,500 people. It was mainly used for performances to entertain the patients when not receiving treatment. The Sacred Fountain provided water believed to have had healing power. Sleeping rooms were used to make the patients sleep and analyze their dreams. The Tunnel is a vaulted subterranean passageway. It is 80 m / 262 ft long. Under the floor ran water which provided relaxing sounds. On the ceiling there are 12 windows to provide sunlight inside the tunnel. The Round Treatment Center was a two-storied building with six apsidal sections. Today only the lower floor remains. The walls and the floor were covered with marble and the roof was made of wood. Water coming through the tunnel, recesses for washing and the sun-terrace show that this room was also used for the treatment of patients. The Temple of Asclepius was erected by the Consul of the time in the 2C AD. The main part of the temple was cylindrical and covered by a dome. The floor and the walls were decorated with marble mosaics. There were many statues of gods and deities related to health including those of Asclepius himself. This building can be accepted as one of the earliest structures with a dome in Anatolia.

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Tunnel in the Healing Center, Asclepieum, Pergamum
 
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BAKIRCAY (CAICUS) RIVER

 
   
   
It is a 129 km / 80 miles long river originating from mount Omer which is in the south of Balikesir. It pours into the sea at the Gulf of Candarli. 3 main tributaries unite on Bakircay plateau to form the river.  
 
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AKHISAR (THYATIRA)

 
   
   
The ancient city of Thyatira is occupied by the modern town of Akhisar meaning in Turkish "white castle" named from the ruins of an old castle. Because of modern occupation, not much from its ancient archeological remains is seen.

Thyatira was an insignificant town until it was refounded by Seleucus Nicator in the beginning of the 3C BC. It was originally a military fort but lost this purpose with the Pax Romana and became a wealthy commercial city. The city had a number of trade guilds. Every skilled worker was a member of a union some of which could be listed as tailors, woolworkers, tanners, potters, bakers, etc.

Commercial guilds in Thyatira were connected with the pagan religions of the city and involved participation in pagan ritual, feasts and celebrations.

Thyatira, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

(Revelation 2:18-29)

(18) "Write this letter to the leader of the church in Thyatira:

" This is a message from the Son of God, whose eyes penetrate like flames of fire, whose feet are like glowing brass.

(19) "I am aware of all your good deeds—your kindness to the poor, your gifts and service to them; also I know your love and faith and patience and I can see your constant improvement in all these things.

(20) "Yet I have this against you: You are permitting that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach my servants that sex sin is not a serious matter; she urges them to practice immortality and to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols. (21) I gave her time to change her mind and attitude, but she refused. (22) Pay attention now to what I am saying: I will lay her upon a sickbed of intense affliction, along with all her immoral flowers, unless they turn again to me, repenting of their sin with her; (23) and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches shall know that I am he who searches deep within men’s hearts and minds; I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.

(24, 25) "As for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching ("deeper truths," as they call them—depths of Satan, really), I will ask nothing further of you; only hold tightly to what you have until I come.

(26) "To every one who overcomes—who to the very end keeps on doing things that please me— I will give power over the nations. (27) "You will rule them with a rod of iron just as my Father gave me the authority to rule them; they will be shattered like a pot of clay that is broken into tiny pieces. (28) And I will give you the Morning Star!

"Let all who can hear, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.

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Akhisar (Thyatira)
 
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Contents
of this Page

Gediz (Hermos) River

Bergama (Pergamum)

. History of Pergamum

. Pergamum, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

. Archeological Evidence

Acropolis

Kizil Avlu (The Red Court)

Asclepieum

. Galen

. The Site

Bakircay (Caicus) River

Akhisar (Thyatira)

. Thyatira, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation