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TRAVEL & LEISURE

BERGAMA: Treasure of the history

With more than 2300 years background, Bergama became the 999th UNESCO World Heritage. Mayor of the city, Mr. Mehmet Gönenç says they present unique beauties of Bergama to the world by organizing many national and international events

Pergamon was founded in the 3rd century BC as the capital of the Attalid dynasty. Located in the Aegean Region, the heart of the Antique World, and at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East, it became an important cultural, scientific and political centre. Creation of the capital on top of Kale Hill set the scene for the city. High steep sloping terrain and the Bakırçay Plain were integrated into the urban plan. The exceptional composition of monuments includes the extremely steep theatre, the lengthy stoa, a three-terraced Gymnasium, the Great Altar of Pergamon, the tumuli, pressured water pipelines, the city walls, and the Kybele Sanctuary which was perfectly aligned with Kale Hill. As the Attalid capital, Pergamon was the protector of cities in the Hellenistic Period. It had political and artistic power and built up a very intense relationship with its contemporary civilizations. The dynasty founded one of the largest libraries in Pergamon, and the rivalry between three Hellenistic dynasties caused the Attalid Dynasty to create the famous sculpture school.

After the city was passed to the Romans in 133 BC, Pergamon became a metropolis and was the capital of the Roman Province of Asia during the Roman imperial period. The Romans maintained the already existing structures of the Hellenistic Period while adding new functions as a cultural and imperial cult centre of the empire. Consequently, during the Roman Period, many important structures were built or further developed, including the Asclepion Sanctuary, a well-known healing centre whose sacred spring still flows; the Roman Theatre; one of the largest Roman amphitheatres; a great aqueduct; the Trajan Temple and the Serapeum. During the Byzantine Period due to the relocation of the trade roads and political centres from the Aegean Region to northwest Anatolia, especially to İstanbul (Constantinople), Pergamon was transformed from a major Hellenistic and Roman centre into a middle-sized town, and continued its cultural-religious importance as home to one of the Seven Churches of Asia. Pergamon now preserves and presents this transformation.

After the arrival of the Ottomans, Pergamon experienced one more cultural adjustment, which is especially evident on the Bakırçay Plain. The Ottomans provided the city with all necessary urban structures, such as mosques, baths, bridges, khans, bedestens (covered bazaars), arastas (Ottoman markets) and water systems overlaying the Roman and Byzantine settlement layers. The superimposition of all these different periods and cultures through continuous habitation in Pergamon, finds its reflection in Pergamon’s urban form and architecture as continuities, formations, transformations and losses due to the material existence and use of space by different eras and cultures. The re-use of structures by later cultures is particularly demonstrated by the Church of St. John, formerly part of the Serapeum, a sanctuary dedicated by the Romans to an Egyptian deity. It subsequently became an Ottoman Mosque as well as incorporating a Jewish Synagogue.

From the 3rd century BC onwards, the city was encircled by a ring of grave mounds of various sizes, which demonstrated Pergamon’s claim to the plain of Bakırçay. In addition to grave mounds, there were sanctuaries, such as the Kybele Sanctuary at Kapıkaya, sited on prominent hills and mountain peaks in the area surrounding the city. Pergamon is a testimony to the unique and integrated aesthetic achievement of the civilizations. It incorporates Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman structures, reflecting Paganism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam; preserving their cultural features within the historical landscape.

 

Mayor Gönenç: We present unique beauties of Bergama to the world

Mehmet Gönenç, Mayor of Bergama: “We’ve adopted a social municipal principle on the way that we started our journey by dreaming a hopeful bright future. We’ve always aimed to carry Bergama, the 999th UNESCO World Heritage, to further. We do proceed our vision targeting to present the service for our beloved citizens.

We present unique beauties of Bergama to the world by organizing many national and international events and participating in tourism fairs organized in Turkey and abroad. With our projects gained to our city, we do try to provide living spaces in better quality for you, our valuable citizens.

We’ve always tried to do our best to present a better life for our young people. We do keep on carrying Bergama, the city of firsts, to future with the support and power which we take from you.

Inscription of Bergama on UNESCO World Heritage List testifies that we are on the correct way by always mentioning the unique beauties of Bergama and with our works carried out to present its values to the World. This pride is yours, it’s for all of us…

We will be keeping on to perform the best for Bergama in our following duty.”

Cradle of Civilization

The Hellenistic glory of ancient Bergama is the main drawcodrd of Northern Aegean Coast of Turkey, but hidden within the hills and along the coastline are hundreds of other ruins and monumental remnants, while the sleepy villages of the region offer picture-perfect sightseeing.

Pergamum Acropolis

The ancient site of Pergamum should win an award for its stunning location alone. Rolling across the hillside, five kilometers from the modern town of Bergama (there is a cable car if you have no car and don’t fancy the steep ascent), the Acropolis area was once the beating heart of a powerful Hellenistic city. The most striking feature is the 15,000-seat theater, set into the steep southwest slope of the hill and reached by a narrow flight of steps from the Temple of Athena. Adjoining the temple are the ruins of Pergamum’s famed library, built around 170 BC and once home to one of the largest libraries in the ancient world, with 200,000 volumes (later carried off to Alexandria by Mark Antony as a gift to Cleopatra). To the west of the library is the Temple of Trajan, built in the Roman era, with its marble colonnaded terrace. Below the theater, the Altar of Zeus was once decorated with elaborate friezes (moved to Berlin in the 19th century).

Asclepion

An ancient spa, 2 kilometers uphill hike from the modern town. During the 2nd century AD, it thrived as a major healing center, with mud bath treatments and the use of herbal remedies, and many of its remaining buildings date from its Roman-era glory days rather than the earlier Hellenistic period. An imposing colonnaded street leads to the main complex, which holds a sacred well; library; Roman theater; and the Temples of Asclepius and Telesphorus, where patients would pray for recovery to the gods of medicine.

Red Basilica

This massive red-brick ruin was originally built by Hadrian (AD 117-138) as a temple dedicated to the gods Serapis and Isis. Later, in the Byzantine era, it was converted into a church and dedicated to the Apostle John, who had earlier called this grandiose pagan temple the throne of the devil. Although the interior is severely ruined, the building is definitely worthy of a visit just to witness the sheer bulk of the remaining walls, which give a great idea of how foreboding and impressive the temple must have looked when fully standing. The interior was divided into three aisles by two rows of columns. The central aisle ended in a semi-circular apse, with a crypt underneath.

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