Posted by: Ciaran | January 14, 2010

Changing places – Pergamum

The ancient city of Pergamum (or Pergamon) in the west of Turkey is home to some beautiful and well-preserved ancient architecture.  Not far from the modern city of Bergama, it is worth the trip inland from the port towns such as Dikili as the sites are not only interesting but also quiet as they are a little bit remote for tourists.  Heading inland from the Aegean sea, the first major site you will come to is the Asklepion, purportedly the world’s first psychiatric hospital.

Part of the Asklepion

It’s a fascinating place, and well worth taking a tour guide if possible as they can explain many of the weird and wonderful treatments which patients were subjected to.  I think my favourite was people being forced to walk through an underground tunnel whilst listening to rushing water, making them think they would drown…

An overview of the Asklepion

If you have time after visiting the Asklepion you could pay a visit to the Serapis Temple (now known as the Red Basilica); it was built in the second century under the rule of Hadrian and, despite having been terribly damaged in later wars, is still a monumental structure (my picture doesn’t do it justice).

Just one corner of the ruins of the Red Basilica

Then head up to the ancient Acropolis for the major sites, where you’ll soon be set upon by the stallholders who sell everything from postcards and jewellery to food and drink.  I’d recommend getting something with the nazar (‘evil eye’) motif, which is said to ward off bad luck.

The Acropolis itself is home to some very interesting ruins, though arguably its most famous feature is no longer there.  The Altar of Zeus is instead housed in a Berlin museum, and the spot where it was removed from now looks rather bare…

The site of the Altar of Zeus, now at Berlin's Pergamon Museum

However, there are still some beautiful sites there, including the Temple of Dionysus and the ruins of the agora (market).  It’s a nice place just to wander around and take photos, as the atmosphere is really relaxed.

The ancient agora

The majestic ruins

Undoubtedly the best part of the Acropolis, though, is the Hellenistic theatre, which had a capacity of 10,000 and was the steepest theatre in the ancient world.  It’s worth squeezing through the narrow doorways and dark stairwells to walk all the way down – just beware of the difficult climb back up…

A view from the top of the Hellenistic theatre...

...and from the bottom



  1. Just great shots of this ancient place !! Thanks !!

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