We were driving up the hill to Acropolis of Pergamon and passed the small homestead. There chickens were pecking around the ancient pieces of fortification wall and antique stone ruins were scattered among wooden sheds and huts in the backyard of the farmhouse. This kind of nonchalant attitude to antiquities is only possible in places spoilt for architectural wonders of the past.
As we ascended the hill, we saw the water reservoir down below. I was surprised how much the water level had decreased compared to how I remembered it from my last visit to Pergamon acropolis a few years ago. Everyone is talking about water shortages and hotter and drier weather than normal these days.
After reaching the summit we were rewarded by strong cool breeze blowing steadily and as a result the heat of the early September sun rays were easier to bear. The weather was clear and from the top of the steep amphitheatre I could see the sea glistening in the sun on the horizon. We were standing nearly 30 km away from the sea at this point.
Climbing up and down this theatre is not for the faint-hearted. I am not afraid of heights but even I felt my heart trembling a bit when gingerly taking the steps between the rows of seats sloping sharply downward. Looking down, we saw the sea of read rooftops of the city at the foot of the acropolis. We recognized the Maltepe tumulus among the buildings where we had been just before visiting acropolis. Tumulus is a man made hill where kings and other dignitaries were buried inside the stone built burial chamber during Hellenistic times. Seven such tumuluses have been found in Pergamon area.
This time I will not delve into describing the gleaming white marble columns and remains of different temples and other monuments at the site as I already did that in my earlier post about Pergamon a few years ago https://privatetourturkey.com/en/spectacular-pergamon/. This time I just enjoyed the atmosphere and let my senses absorb the surroundings.
Pergamon was a rich and important city, especially before the rise of Constantinople. It was founded in the 3rd century BC to be the capital of the Attalid dynasty. As Tolun says, Philetairos got 9000 golden talents from Lysimachus, the general of Alexander the Great, and used at least some of the money to reinforce and develop the city.
Tolun writes:”One golden talent must have been the equivalent of 33 kg of gold in those times the sum would correspond roughly to 9000 X 33 kg =297000 of kg of gold. The burial chamber of the possible tomb of Lysimachusat Belevi was blown up by treasure hunters and there seems not to be one single coin of gold. So would it be hidden in the Acropolis of Pergamon? Since the money was given to Philetairos and he spent some of it for the fortification of the walls of the city and kept the remaining part himself, one must think he was very rich and the money might have been inherited by succeeding rulers? Philetairos founded the Pergamon kingdom in 281 BC. and the kingdom lasted until 133 BC when it was handed over to the Romans with the testament of the last king of Pergamon, Attalus the III. During this period Pergamon kingdom didn’t appear to lose a battle. The battle against Galatians at Caecus river (Bakircay down below the town) at 241 BC and the one fought at Magnesia against Anthiochus III of Seleucid dynasty in 190 were victorious. So could it be that all that money was spent for the construction of the fabulous Acropolis? Acropolis was nicely built and was full of beautiful monuments including the Altar of Zeus, which was one of the seven wonders of the world in the Hellenistic period. However they could be built only with a small fraction of that huge sum. It would be logical to think that Philetairos and his successors must have had large sums of gold but were they so naive to hand over money to their Roman allies? I would still think that all the money was not spent and parts of it must be stored somewhere at some very safe place.”
Pergamon was known as cultural and political centre, even the capital of Roman province of Asia in Roman Empire. Nearby there was also a famous healing and medical centre called Asclepion. Pergamon had a well-known sculpture school as well as one of the biggest libraries in the world at its time.
I had been here a few times and Tolun maybe about 100 times but neither of us had seen before the small crosses carved into pavement slabs by Trajan Temple. What were they for? Tolun had seen such crosses in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul which were used as measuring points. But here, in Pergamon Acropolis, could the reason be the same? They didn’t seem to be carved in orderly fashion, looked more randomly scattered. But not all is what it seems… It remains a mystery to us. Just as the Acropolis of Pergamon itself remains a mystery with many legends and stories what might have happened here in the days when instead of a museum, this place was full of people going on about their everyday business and living their lives in the beautiful streets and magnificent buildings.