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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Pergamon Acropolis

What to See in Pergamon

The acropolis of the ancient Greek and Roman city of Pergamon is a small but dramatic site worth seeing on the way to the Turquoise Coast.  Many significant sculptures and architecture from Pergamon are found in museums in Turkey and Europe. 
Day 7: We crawled through the heavy traffic of Turkey's fourth largest city, Bursa.  Once outside the city limits, we enjoyed the easy driving on the excellent six-lane divided highway D200.
Along secondary road 10-51
Along secondary road 10-51
Alas all good things have to end.  Using our Google Map to select the route, we exited the D265 and turned south on the secondary road 10-51 to Savaştepe.  Wow, we saw our first (and only) pothole but also there were very few cars.  
The scenery dramatically improved with rolling green hills dotted with trees.  Oh and it was our first sunny day of the trip.  But there was no place to stop to take pictures – it was a two lane road with no shoulders.  We rejoined major highway D240 near Soma, where a recent disaster took the lives of 301 coal miners.  

Note: click on any image to see a slide show of the photos in a larger size. 

Pergamon  Acropolis

Acropolis above Bergama
Ancient Pergamon above Sunset-lit Bergama
Finally, 270.3 km and 4.5 hours later, we saw a rocky outcropping with ruins from the highway.  We had arrived at Bergama so we drove the very steep, narrow road to the top of ancient Greek city of Pergamon.  There is a very small parking area with only one other car (off-season) but those without cars can take the teleferik from the city to the same parking lot.  
View from Pergamon Acropolis parking lot
Time Travel 2000 Years Back to the Pergamon Acropolis
It was exhilarating that when we arrived at our first ancient ruin the sun had blessed us.  But best of all, the setting was special.   I climbed just a little up the hill to get photos of the gorgeous island-studded lake formed by a dam.  I hope there is something in the charter of the UNESCO that guarantees no development within eyesight of a World Heritage Site (WHS).  This is the way things should stay.   It felt like we had been transported back to ancient times.  Well, at least until we turned around and skirted past the small tourist shop area.  

Walking up a steep new wood ramp, there was only one tour group in the central piazza and soon after they had left.  This square with views of Bergama is actually a platform supported by arches that provides a level surface for the huge Temple for Trajan and Hadrian.  

Alone in the ruins of the temple, I took my photos right way.   One of the signs shows an artist’s drawing of what the complex looked like. It must have been amazing. The three standing columns and the pediment are evocative.  

What is the Significance of Trajan and Hadrian?

Why is there a temple to Trajan and Hadrian?  The Romans followed the custom of deifying an emperor. This came from Alexander the Great, who in turn, adopted it from eastern cultures.  This is another example of how the East has been influencing the West and vice-versa for many centuries.
Trajan (ruled 98-117 CE) achieved the peak territory in 117 CE.  The Roman Empire stretched from Morocco to Mesopotamia, from Britain to Armenia.  N.B.: it is not the largest empire in world history.

Pergamon Temple of Trajan


Pergamon Temple of Trajan
Stand in Awe inside the Temple of Trajan
While Pergamon was originally an ancient Greek city, it rose to importance under Hadrian (ruled 117-138 CE).  His reign was the most peaceful as he stopped any further military conquests. Peacetime led to increased spending on culture and Hadrian loved the Greek culture.   The Corinthian peristyle (columns all around the temple) shows the influence of Greek architecture.  The curved retaining wall viewed from the back is the base for the massive peristyle.  
Hadrian had a keen interest in architecture and sponsored many monuments – such as the Pantheon (Rome), the largest dome built for a 1000 years until the Astrodome stadium!  The purpose of Pergamon was to tie Asia Minor to the Roman Empire and show off the greatness of Rome.  

Theatre of Pergamon

Acrophobic Pergamon Theatre
Precipitous Pergamon Theatre - Acrophobics Avoid!! 
The most spectacular ruin was the vertiginous theatre directly below the temple square.  While I am not scared of heights, looking down the 10,000 seats is breathtaking.  Do not drink and attend theatre!  It was constructed in the 3rd century BC. The Greeks used their expertise in physics to produce the highest quality sound in theatres. Our word “acoustics” comes from a Greek word akoustikos, meaning “for hearing”.
walk around the acropolis
It's a long way down from the Acropolis Trail
It is worthwhile to walk around the whole acropolis (it’s not that large) and I only met three people until I came back to the central square. By car we drove out of town to see the theatre from below. Further down the road we saw the remains of the aqueduct that can be seen from the back of the acropolis walk.  

What is the Significance of Pergamon?

The most famous monument of this site – the Pergamon Altar – can only be viewed at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.  Its monumental stairs stood at the entrance to the acropolis.  Pergamon also had the original sculpture of the Laocoön, the most iconic sculpture of the agony of death.  An Ancient Roman copy in the Vatican Museums had a strong influence on Michelangelo, Raphaello, and many other artists – which in turn affected the art of the Renaissance and Baroque eras.  So this is an example for how one culture, one era has affected other cultures, other eras.  


Carpet Businessman from Bergama
One of Our Favourite Encounters
We were cold (it started raining) so we had mercimek çorbası (lentil soup) at a small place on south side of Kinik Caddesi recommended by our hotel.  It was excellent and only TRY 4.  Adding the lemon provided made it even better.  It is delicious but very different from the Indian or Nepali lentil dish, dal.

Tonight's pièce de résistance was talking to the owner of the carpet business for at least a couple of hours.  He buys old carpets from remote villages and reuses them to make new items for sale.

He is totally fluent in English because he lived in New York City from 14 to 19 years old.  He worked in his sponsor's carpet shop.  He had lots of personal stories about his New York friends, the differences between Turkish and American cultures, and other events during his life.

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