Intriguing Ancient City Of Pergamon: Medical Center, Great Library And Remarkable Water Supply System

A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com Mentioned in several sources from about 400 BC, the city of Pergamon was investigated by German archaeologists for more than a century.

Reconstruction of Pergamon - 19th Century Germany Drawing

Reconstruction of Pergamon - 19th Century Germany Drawing

Pergamon (Pergamum), was an ancient city of Mysia located in West Anatolia about 100 km north of Izmir, Turkey.

Pergamon is located in West Anatolia, 26 km from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Bakırçay.

Today, the city of Bergama in Turkey is located on its ruins, but the excavations have revealed several spectacular ruins that shed light on ancient Pergamon’s history.

It was an ancient Greek city and became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid Dynasty (282 BC-133 BC). It was also the capital of the Roman province of Asia for a short time - before the capital was moved to Ephesus.

Among the ruins of structures is Acropolis reserved for official buildings, Altar of Zeus, temples of Athena, Dionysus and Trajan, the Heroon shrine, where the kings of Pergamon, were worshipped. Among cultural objects were the famous Pergamon library, gymnasiums, Trajaneum theater, an amphitheater, and a huge forum.

Pergamon - one of the Seven Churches of Asia, mentioned in the ‘Book of Revelation’ - was home to about 200,000 inhabitants, and played an important role in the early history of Christianity.

Sanctuary of Asclepion has a big galleried courtyard Image Credit: GNM - MATAHARI Travel Services Turkey

Sanctuary of Asclepion has a big galleried courtyard Image Credit: GNM - MATAHARI Travel Services Turkey

Approximately forty aqueducts and 240,000 clay pipes provided the city with water taken from 30 miles away; water even reached the acropolis situated over 300 m above the sea level, at the top of an isolated hill.

Roman engineers managed to create such pressure conditions that the water reached a cistern located on the highest point of the acropolis. They built a water supply system consisting of pipes and water towers.

The cisterns of the acropolis have been surveyed and analyzed thoroughly by German researchers working at Pergamon. These structures were crucial parts of the municipal water supply; it has been calculated that about 20.000 city’s inhabitants could have survived the-year-long siege with their help.

However, it was not the only way of supplying the city in water. Pergamon also had Roman aqueducts, network waterworks, fountains, wells.

trajan temple perghamon

Pergamon’s therapeutic and healing center, the Sanctuary of Asclepius (the god of medicine and healing), was famous due to the presence of the eminent Roman physician Galen (c. 129–200 AD), who was born in Pergamon. The medical center used alternative treatments to heal sick patients, with diagnoses often coming from dream analysis.

Treatments included; bathing in, or drinking water from sacred springs, massage, mud baths, and use of herbs and salves. Small clay or terracotta body parts found around the site, could be gifts from healed customers of the center.

Among Pergamon's other notable structures was the Red Court (the 2nd century AD), later converted into ‘Red Basilica’, and dedicated to Egyptian gods and goddesses especially Serapis (primarily a healer of the sick, a deity who was superior to fate and who retained from Osiris the character of a god of the underworld. The structure's forecourt is still supported by the 196 m (643 ft) wide Pergamon Bridge, a remarkable achievement of ancient engineers.

Red Basilica, one of the seven important churches in Early Christianity, was built on the temple of Serapis, Bergama. Image via Wikipedia

Red Basilica, one of the seven important churches in Early Christianity, was built on the temple of Serapis, Bergama. Image via Wikipedia

The Library of Pergamon - founded during the rule of king Eumenes II (197-159 BC) - was renowned, and second only to the Library of Alexandria, although not approaching Alexandria in scholarship but rather in a number of volumes they possessed.

According to writings of Plutarch (46-120 AD), the library was believed to contain 200,000 volumes, which were later given by Mark Antony to Cleopatra as a wedding present to be added to the collection of the library in Alexandria.

Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer

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References:

Picón Carlos A.  Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World

Turkish Cultural Foundation

Wikipedia