Pergamon

Pergamon is the name of the ancient city that was once the capital of the Pergamon Kingdom, and today it is located in a province of Turkey named İzmir. Pergamon was a significant city for the Mysia region since it had one of the most optimal geographical locations at that time. Since this city was so valuable back then, it exposed so many occupations and wars, yet it succeeded to come up this far.

The oldest written sources about Pergamon dates back to the 4th century BC. At the time when Pergamon was the capital city of the Pergamon Kingdom, many different structures were built.

In 2014, it is added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Today, this ancient city gets lots of visitors every year. 

Visiting Pergamon

Whether you are in İzmir and want to see some historical landmarks, or you have heard about Pergamon and want to see what it offers to you in real life, you made the right decision by choosing to spend your time in Pergamon. If you like history or archeology, and you are interested in seeing some gorgeous ancient structures, Pergamon is one of the best places to visit. You cannot know what you are missing until you visit!

Where is Pergamon Located on the Map of Turkey?

Pergamon is located in the Bergama district of Izmir province in Turkey. Izmir, one of the most developed regions in Turkey, takes place on the very west side of Turkey and has a shore to the Aegean Sea. İzmir is located north of Aydın and south of Balıkesir provinces.

How do you get to Pergamon?

Transportation to Pergamon ancient city is quite easy with a car yet getting there with public transportation or other options will not cause trouble for you, so you can prefer both.

Getting to Pergamon from İzmir

Pergamon ancient city is 108 kilometers away from İzmir city center. If you would like to get there by car, this distance will be the equivalent of approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes of driving. You need to use the Çanakkale highway and must get to the Bergama district first. After, you can follow the signboards and get to the Pergamon easily. Once you arrive in the Bergama district, there will be only 3.6 kilometers left to the Pergamon area.

If you do not have a car with you and you do not want to rent one, you can find minibuses that will take you to the Bergama district. To take those minibuses, first, you need to get to the İzmir bus station, which is named as “İzmir Şehirlerarası Otobüs Terminali (İZOTAŞ)”. The minibuses depart from the top floor of the Izmir bus station every 30 minutes. To get to İzmir bus station from the city center, you can use one of the following buses:

  • 54
  • 204
  • 227
  • 302
  • 555
  • 800

Once you get to Bergama district, there will still be 3.6 kilometers in between you and Pergamon. Unfortunately, there are no public transportation options from there but taking a taxi will not cost you much. If you feel like you have too much energy, you can get to Pergamon from Bergama with 45 minutes of walking.

Getting to Pergamon from İstanbul

The distance between İstanbul and Pergamon is between 478 km and 571 km, depending on which highway you are using. 

If you prefer the O-5 highway, the distance between İzmir and İstanbul is 480 kilometers, which is the equivalent of approximately 5 hours of driving.

Choosing D550/E87 highway, on the other hand, will take around 6 and a half hours of driving since the distance would be 557.6 kilometers. Via Bandırma Tekirdağ Feribotu (ferry) and O-5, the distance will be 541.5 kilometers and will take around 8 hours and 20 minutes.

You can also get to Izmir from Istanbul by plane. There are plenty of flights from Istanbul to Izmir every day. It takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to Izmir from Istanbul by plane. If you want to get to Pergamon with the minibuses that depart from Izmir bus station, you can take the İZBAN (a public vehicle on the rails) from Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport to Halkpınar station. From Halkpınar station, you can find minibuses that will take you from Halkpınar station to İzmir bus station. Getting to Izmir bus station from the Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport takes around 45 minutes.

Since there are no direct train or ferry options from İstanbul to İzmir, you will need to put extra effort to use those methods. For example, if you want to use the railway you first need to get to Eskişehir, and then you can get to Izmir. This train trip will take around 13 hours, so it is not recommended.

Getting to Pergamon from Ayvalık

If your starting point is Ayvalık, which is a district in Balıkesir, it will take around 50 minutes to drive to the Bergama district of İzmir. You can also find intercity buses that will take you to Bergama district from Ayvalık district every day, and you can follow the steps I mentioned earlier about getting to Pergamon from Bergama district.

Visiting hours of Pergamon

In the summertime (defined as the dates between 1 April and 1 October) Pergamon is open to visitors between 08:30 AM and 06:45 PM.

In the wintertime (defined as the dates between 1 October and 1 April), Pergamon is open to visitors between 10:00 AM and 04:00 PM.

Pergamon is closed on the weekends.

You can check up to date visiting hours from here.

Entrance fee of Pergamon

The entrance fee of Pergamon is 50 Turkish liras. If you have a Museum Pass the Aegean or Museum Pass Turkey, your entrance to Pergamon will be free of charge. You can get that museum pass from specific ticket points, and if you are a Turkish citizen or a foreigner with a residence permit you can obtain a Müzekart (Museum card) instead.

How long to spend in Pergamon?

Statistics show that people typically spend around 1 hour in Pergamon. But of course, this duration can change depending on your intent to visit Pergamon and many other variables, only keep in mind that you can explore Pergamon in an hour.

History of Pergamon

According to the remains found in the Pergamon Ancient City, the settlement in the area did not start until the 5th century BC, yet the written sources show that Pergamon existed in the 4th century BC. On the dates between 282 BC and 133 BC, Pergamon was the capital city of the Pergamon Kingdom. 

It is known that Pergamon Ancient City was being used as a settlement area up to the late Byzantine periods. The first written sources about the Pergamon Ancient City are from historian Ksenophon’s writing named “Anabasis”. According to the Anabasis, Ksenephon took the Pergamon castle from Persian Asidates in the year 399 BC. After then, Pergamon Ancient City witnessed lots of occupations and came under different authorities. Some of the significant events that occurred after 399 BC can be listed as follows:

  • Alexander the Great conquered the Pergamon castle in the year 334 BC.
  • The brightest period of the Pergamon Ancient City was in Eumenes II.’s period.
  • Pergamon Kingdom came under the rule of the Roman Empire in 133 BC.

At the times when Pergamon was the capital city of the Pergamon Ancient City, structures such as palaces, temples, theatres, and walls were built. Pergamon Ancient City was one of the several cities in West Anatolia after the Pergamon Kingdom became a part of the Roman Empire. Pergamon Ancient City was later discovered by a German engineer Carl Humann, while he was working on a railway project. 8 years after Carl Humann’s discovery, in 1878, the first excavations were conducted in the area, and the excavations continue up to today.

Architecture and significant structures of Pergamon

Pergamon has a great significance in history and archeology since the structures are quite interesting in terms of those domains and considered as having some of the firsts in history.

Structures found in Pergamon were including the Trajan temple, a library with over 200 thousand books, a theatre with a capacity of 10 thousand people, palaces, and other temples. In Asclepios ruins, an important medical center and medicine school, which are thought to be the first ones in history, was found.

Pergamon’s structures take place in an area called an acropolis, which refers to the upper city. Three different settlement areas can be observed in the upper city part of Pergamon. Pergamon’s highest points were reserved for palaces, cisterns, and temples, in addition to being a settlement area for the royalty and high-class people.

The Acropolis (upper city) part was built on a quite high point of the city, which is around 300 meters upper from the rest of the city. To get to this hill, one needs to follow the road that swirls to the top. Some sort of city planning system can be observed in Pergamon Ancient City, where buildings about religion, governmental issues, society-related issues, and trade are grouped uniquely.

Some of the remains and findings in the Pergamon area today are exhibited in the Berlin Pergamon Museum. The reason for this is the Berlin Treaty that was signed 4 years later from the first excavation in Pergamon, in 1878. After this treaty, the debt to Germany was all of a sudden increased. It is known that some of the remaining structures were given to Germany by Abdulhamid II., as an alternative way of paying off the debt to delay or cancel some of the payment.

Pergamon Museum in Berlin

Pergamon was divided into 3 categories. Those categories are named as the Pergamon acropolis, Middle city, down city, and Roman city.

Pergamon Acropolis

Pergamon acropolis refers to the upper side of the city. Pergamon acropolis looks like a big castle, and you can see the Heron’s remaining before you enter the acropolis. Heroon is the name of the sacred area in ancient Greek periods, and the religious ceremonies were held here. The Pergamon acropolis was the place where royalty and high-class people live. The following are the structures that take place in the Pergamon acropolis:

  • Athena Temple
  • Pergamon library
  • Zeus altar
  • Pergamon theatre
  • Dionysus temple

Middle City

Middle city was the part of the Pergamon Ancient City where the middle and lower class could enter. This part was a place for structures such as gymnasium, public temples, and buildings that are not directly related to the management of the city. Demeter Temple and Gymnasium were found here.

Down City

In the down city part of the city, agora and some buildings for educational purposes were present in addition to some houses. The most interesting house found here is named Attalos house. Attalos house was designed in a way that optimizes the sunlight that comes inside both in the wintertime and the summertime. In the 2nd century BC, this part of the city was surrounded by walls. The Eumenes gate was built in the south part of the city.

Pergamon church takes place in the down city part of the Pergamon, and it is located just after the Eumenes gate, so you can see the Pergamon church as you walk down from this gate.

Roman City 

The Roman city is the last part of the Pergamon, and it takes place between the northwest side of the Pergamon and the Pergamon stream. It is known that at one point in history there was an amphitheater and a theatre in the Roman city.

Pergamon Church

Pergamon Church is among the 7 churches mentioned in the Bible, and it is the only one among those 7 churches that the exact place is known. Jesus Christ’s third call was made for the church members of the Pergamon Church. In those terms, Pergamon Ancient City has a great significance in the spreading of Christianity in the world.

Pergamon people built this church with red bricks, and they referred to this church as the red courtyard. It has been said that this church was first built for a god named Serapis in Hadrian’s period, and the original name of this church was Serapion. Serapion refers to the phrase “neither on the earth nor in the sky”. Later, this church was used as a basilica.

Athena Temple

Athena temple is a temple in the Pergamon Ancient City that is located on the theatre’s terrace. Athena temple is made with Doric style with columns and is a structure with 6×10 measurements. There are only a few remaining left from the base part of the Athena temple and the west side of the temple is partially sturdy. The columns and some other parts of the Athena temple are exhibited in the Berlin Pergamon Museum. 

The most important temple belonging to Athena is a wide tradition in Anatolia that can be observed in Ephesus, Assos, Foça, and many others. Besides, this temple is thought to be the first temple in history. Even though Athena’s temple was dedicated to Athena, in the inside part of this temple a room was dedicated to Zeus. This sacred room dedicated to Zeus was quite special and only people who have authority could enter.

Pergamon Theatre 

Pergamon theatre is among the most gorgeous structures from the Hellenistic period and is built on a hill with an inclination of 30 degrees. It is the steepest theatre that is ever built in Western Anatolia and has a capacity for 10 thousand people. The stage part was made from wood and only used when there was a show, after the show, the stage was removed.

The Pergamon theatre is considered as a first in history in terms of the building technique used. Such that, some say all other theatres built after the Pergamon theatre was inspired by the Pergamon theatre. It is known that the stage was being removed after the shows are done to not block the Dionysus temple’s view.

Dionysus Temple

Dionysus temple is one of the various temples in the Pergamos Ancient City. On the backside of the Pergamon theatre, you can see the Dionysus temple. The Pergamon people especially built this temple to the exact area, where it can dominate the whole city. The Dionysus temple takes place on the terrace part of the theatre and takes place at the end of a long path. This gorgeous temple inspired both Roman art and European baroque style architecture. Today, the original parts that belong to the Hellenistic period are in the Berlin Pergamon Museum.

Pergamon Library

Pergamon library takes place just next to the Athena temple, but only some remaining could survive up to today. It is known that the entrance of the library was from the upper gallery part of the library and belongs to Eumenes II.’s period. The library had a room just for reading purposes which had the measurements of 13.53×15.35. 

Athena temple was not the only Athena-related structure of the Pergamon Ancient City, since there was an Athena statue in the Pergamon library as well, yet today this statue takes place in the Berlin Pergamon Museum.

Pergamon library was the second biggest library at that time, taking place after the Alexander library in Egypt with 500 thousand books. Such that, people who were afraid of Pergamon library being the biggest library forbid the exportation to this area, just to not let Pergamon have the biggest library. Because libraries were a sign of power at that time.

Demeter Temple

Demeter temple is one of the most important temples in Pergamon since it was the second biggest religious center after Samos Hera Temple. Demeter was a Greek mythology goddess who represents abundance and wealth, and she was so loved and important that there were holidays dedicated to her.

Agora

Agora was an important area at ancient times, and basically was the place like what we call a square today. Agora in Pergamon Ancient City was built in the shape of an L, and it has various little shops in them in addition to a square. This square was used as a meeting point for people, and the new ideas were first pronounced here. All ideas could be discussed here whether it’s religion, politics, trade, or social life. The agora had great significance back then since people had the chance to talk with the authorities and talk about their problems.

Gymnasium

A gymnasium is an equivalent of what we call a gym today, and in ancient times gymnasiums were used as a center for educating athletes and helping them get ready for the tournaments. The gymnasium in the Pergamon Ancient City was the biggest in those times. The gymnasium in Pergamon had 3 terraces, which divided athletes. On the downside of the gymnasium, child athletes would train, in the middle side of the gymnasium teen athletes would train whereas, on the upper side of the gymnasium, adult athletes would train. All athletes were male back then.

Zeus (Pergamon) Altar

Zeus altar or Pergamon altar was built in the brightest period of the Pergamon Ancient City, in Eumenes II.’s period. This altar was built as a memory of the victory in the war that was made with Galatians. The reliefs that are on both sides of the altar are describing a war that includes gods and goddesses in addition to the establishment of Pergamon. Zeus altar is another structure in Pergamon that is mentioned in the Bible. Today, the Zeus altar is being exhibited in the Berlin Pergamon Museum.

Asclepieion

Asclepieion means something like “the area of Asclepios’’.  Asclepios was the son of Apollo and is the god of health and medicine. In the early periods of Pergamon, Asclepieion was a center of healthcare and had a similar function to a hospital. The following are some of the treatment techniques used in Asclepieion:

  • Theatre
  • Healing waters
  • Psychotherapy
  • Mud cure

Asclepieion was built to the end of a path that is full of columns. In the Asclepieion area, 3 different fountains were found.

Further information and travel tips

Pergamon was the 999th heritage that became a part of the UNESCO world heritage list in the world, the 13th one in Turkey, and the first one in Izmir. Pergamon had the statue of being a world city by coming under the rule of Hittites, Greeks, Byzantines, Ottoman, and many more. In addition to those features, this area has the feature of being the host of the first local festival ever held in Turkey, which is named the International Pergamon Festival. This festival typically being held in the second week of June, and it is highly recommended to visit if you are in the area at that time.

Frequently asked questions about Pergamon

Pergamon is an interesting and wonderful place which could make you feel curious about it. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about Pergamon.

Where is Pergamon located?

It is located in Bergama, İzmir.

Why is Pergamon important for Christianity?

Pergamon includes the only church that we know where it is among those 7 that are mentioned in the bible, and it is known that Jesus Christ gave a call here.

What makes the library in Pergamon special?

It was the second biggest library at that time.

When was the Pergamon church built?

The evidence shows that the Pergamon church was built in the Hellenistic period, but there is no certain evidence about the year.

Why are some remaining from Pergamon not there today?

It was sent to Berlin due to the unpaid debt to Germany, and they are now being exhibited in the Berlin Pergamon Museum.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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