In Istanbul our guide's name was "John." In Izmir his name was "James" (shortened form of an unpronounceable Turkish name). Now we're waiting for a Peter, Andrew or Paul to show up next. We were driven north from Izmir to a town called Bergama. Bergama's ancient name was Pergamum (one of the seven churches of Revelation to which Jesus wrote a letter. Izmir, our present home base, was called Smyrna in ancient times, and is another one of the seven churches.
Pergamum has an interesting past for those interested in the Bible. The greatest library in the ancient world was located in Alexandria, Egypt. As the arts began to be developed Pergamum was the rival of Alexandria and had the second largest library in the world. When Alexandria refused to export any more papyrus (the most common writing material for producing "books") Pergamum responded by inventing "parchment" (animal hide) which was far more durable. The Greek name for parchment is "pergamun," thus the name of the city. And the most important books in the world (Bible books) have been preserved for us because of the existence of parchment.
But most people don't come here because of that connection. They come here to see one of the most complete ruins of an ancient Roman city located in turkey (THE most complete set of ruins belongs to the city of Ephesus, which we will see tomorrow). The ancient city of Pergamum was built high on a hill and referred to as an "acropolis" (a city on a hill). It boasted of many important temples--to Athena, to Demeter, to Trajan, etc. It also had the highest and steepest theater of the ancient world. So, if you got bored with what was happening on the stage you could focus your attention on the surrounding sights. One of the reasons Kathy and I wanted to visit here was because of the Temple of Zeus located right next to the theater. It is quite unimpressive today--only a few steps up to an open area that used to be the Temple to Zeus. The problem is that in the 19th Century a German archeologist dug up the fabulous temple of Zeus with its many beautiful sculptures of soldiers and beasts all sculpted artistically covering its walls. He was so elated with this find that he had it completely dismanteled and sent back to Germany and built a museum to house it, called the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. Kathy and I have seen it twice and wanted to see where it originally stood.
The next sight to see at Pergamum is the ruins of the ancient Asclepion, the medical center of the ancient world. It boasts some interesting medical practices, such as a small theater for the entertainment of its patients, a sacred fountain and the sound of running waters to relax the minds of its guests, a sacred tunnel you walk through as the gods speak to you and bring you encouragement, sleeping rooms for hearing the gods in your dreams telling you what your ailments are and suggesting a diagnosis of your condition so that you can consult with the medical staff afterwards. Some of the who's who of the ancient world came here for treatment, including some of the Roman emperors themselves.
The next thing to see here is the most complete set of ancient ruins found in Turkey, and the one that is the most interesting to Bible readers--the great town of Ephesus. But that is tomorrow.
Bud & Kathy
Bud and Kathy Downs are making another trip to the Lands of the Bible-- first Turkey and Greece (from May 11 to 22) and then to Israel (from May 22 to June 8). We invite you to join us through our travel blog. We intend to post regular updates and pictures of Bible sites.