Although possible as a day-trip destination from Ayvalık, BERGAMA, site of the ancient city of Pergamon, rates an overnight stop in its own right. Towering over modern Bergama, the stunning acropolis of the Pergamene dynasty is the main attraction, but two lesser sights, the Asklepion and Kızıl Avlu, as well as the town’s medieval quarter, are well worth exploring. Bear in mind that the two parts of ancient Pergamon, unshaded and extremely hot at midday in summer, are some distance from each other.

Brief history

Pergamon rose to prominence as the base of Lysimakhos, a successor to Alexander the Great who died in 281 BC. He left considerable treasure to his eunuch-steward Philetaeros who passed it on to his nephew Eumenes I, founder of the Pergamene dynasty. The city only achieved true greatness under Eumenes II (197–159 BC), who built its gymnasium, the Altar of Zeus, library, theatre and acropolis wall. Eumenes’ brother Attalos II ruled until 138 BC, followed by the five-year reign of the cruel but scholarly Attalos III, who perversely left the kingdom to the Romans. Under them Pergamon became an artistic and commercial centre of 150,000 people, but after the arrival of the Goths in 262 AD, it declined and fell into ruin.

The German engineer Carl Humann rediscovered ancient Pergamon in 1871, when some locals showed him a strange mosaic that turned out to be part of the relief from the Altar of Zeus. Humann bought the mosaic, and began excavating the acropolis. Work was completed by 1886, but unfortunately most of the finds were carted off to Germany, including the Altar of Zeus reliefs, now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

In 1998 a second significant archeological site, the Roman spa and asklepion of Allianoi, was discovered 19km east of Pergamon. However, it had only been partly excavated before the Yortanlı irrigation dam flooded the site in 2011 despite domestic and international protest (see wallianoi.org). The site was first “re-buried” under a protective layer of clay so that future generations may be able to excavate it once the dam’s tenure (only 50 years say some experts) is complete.

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