About Pergamum (Bergama)
Pergamum became important only in the Hellenistic Age. Its fortress and palace stood on the peak of the hill while the town occupied the lower slopes. Built on the acropolis, the altar of Zeus was the most famous and ornate altar in the world, with sculptures surrounding its base.
The acropolis rises 400m above the lower city located on the plain of the Caicus River. The most striking feature is the 15,000-seat theatre set into the steep slope of the hill and reached by a narrow flight of steps from the Temple of Athena. The Pergamum Library was once home to one of the largest libraries in the world with 200,000 volumes.
During the 2nd century, it was famous for its extensive hospital and healing sanctuary dedicated to the god Asclepius. It thrived as a major healing centre with mud bath treatments and the use of herbal remedies. The colonnaded street led visitors into a complex that featured spas, springs, exercise rooms, library, a small theatre and temples.
The massive red-brick ruin sits in Bergama town. It was originally built by Emperor Hadrian as a temple dedicated to the gods Serapis and Isis. During the Byzantine era, it was converted into a church and dedicated to the Apostle John.
The Compromising Church
Pergamum was the third of Seven Churches to receive a letter from Apostle John. The church received a stern rebuke for its pagan practices. The church demonstrated conviction and courage by its mere existence, yet idolatry had crept into its congregation. They had yoked the Gospel with paganism. Apostle John encouraged the church to turn away from false and ungodly teachings.
- Pergamum was nicknamed “Satan’s City” because of its paganism and idolatry.
- Asclepius is known as the god of healing and received worship in cultic centres around the Greek and Roman world.
- Pergamum is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its multi-layered cultural landscape with Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman structures reflecting Paganism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.