Even the buildings on the Acropolis that seemed to have a purely religious purpose actually had other functions. An example is the altar of Zeus, which was built to commemorate the victory over the Galatians, so it was a monument to the kingdom rather than a place of Zeus worship. The small size of the temples located on the Acropolis also testified to the secondary sacred role of this part of the city. The most important buildings served social and cultural functions: a great theatre, a huge library, spacious stoas, royal palaces, and military barracks.
The topography of the hill required that the buildings were arranged along a north-south axis, but their façades were directed towards the west so that they could be seen from a great distance. The royal residences were located at the end of the road leading from the main gate, in the northern part of the Acropolis. This location provided them with greater safety in the event of an invasion.
The plan of the Acropolis runs along arches located on terraces. Thanks to these terraces, the freestanding buildings, rising one above the other, give the impression of a compact and well-organized development. It's difficult to believe that they weren't built at the same time, but they are the result of the expansion of the Acropolis over the period of 150 years. Construction work began during the reign of Eumenes II, when the most important buildings on the Acropolis were constructed, including the defensive walls, the altar of Zeus, the library, the palace, and the theatre. Already at this stage, the general outline of the Acropolis plan was visible, creating the shape of a fan, the rays of which converge in the place where the theatre is located.
- The most important buildings on the Acropolis
- Buildings in the Middle City
The most important buildings on the Acropolis
The name heroon usually refers to a temple or a sanctuary built in honour of a Greek or Roman hero, often placed above his tomb. The Heroon on the Acropolis was dedicated to the kings of Pergamon, especially Attalus I and Eumenes II, who were worshipped there as gods. Due to this connection, the structure may be called Attaleion or Eumeneion.
The building consisted of an internal courtyard (peristyle) measuring 18 by 21 meters, surrounded by a colonnade, to which a stoa with seven marble columns adjoined in the east. At the end of the stoa there was a cult room. In Roman times, the building was subject to some modifications, but their effects have not survived to this day.
Under this building which dates to the Hellenistic times, there was an earlier, simpler in construction, sanctuary and residential buildings. On the northern side of the building there are the remains of a long building that housed shops.
Temple of Athena
The temple of Athena stood on the terrace above the theatre. It was built in the Doric order and was surrounded by a colonnade: 10 columns on each side and 6 columns at the front and back of the building. Only fragments of the foundations and part of the side wall up to 1.20 meters high have survived to this day. Fragments of tall and slender columns and the temple's architrave are located in Berlin.
The Pergamene temple of Athena, strongly reminiscent in style of the Athenian Parthenon, was built in the 3rd century BCE, most likely during the times of Philetaerus. Eumenes II built two-story stoas in the style typical of the Hellenistic period, on the northern and eastern sides of the temple. A propylon, a monumental gate supported on four columns, led to their interior. It was reconstructed using preserved fragments and can also be admired in Berlin.
The famous Pergamene library was built during the reign of Eumenes II, but earlier than the neighbouring stoa because entry to the library was only possible from the upper floor of the northern stoa. Currently, little has survived of this building, the ruins of which look extremely modest compared, for example, to the reconstructed library of Celsus in Ephesus.
In its heyday, the library had a spacious reading room measuring 13.5 by 16 meters. It was surrounded on three sides by shelves with books, which were not directly adjacent to the walls, but were moved away from them by 50 cm to protect the books from moisture and ensure good air circulation. At the northern wall there was a podium on which stood a 3.5-meter-high statue of the goddess Athena - currently on display in Berlin.
The glory days of the Pergamon library ended when Mark Antony gave its collections to Cleopatra as a wedding gift. No list of the books that comprised the collection has been preserved, so its size is unknown. Plutarch - a Greek writer and philosopher - claimed that it contained as many as 200,000 books. Of course, this name covered manuscripts written on papyrus and parchment, rolled or folded, and then stored on library shelves.
The ruins of the palaces of the kings of Pergamon are located on the eastern side of the road running alongside the temple of Athena and the library. These palaces were once large buildings and had internal courtyards (peristyles). It is assumed that the northern, smaller building was built during the reign of Attalus I, and the larger palace belonged to Eumenes II.
The courtyard of Eumenes II's palace had the shape of a square with sides 25 meters long. There was an altar on it. The building had a large hall, a room for religious ceremonies, and a water cistern. The mosaics found in both palaces are located in Berlin.
Officers' houses and barracks
The palaces were adjacent to residential buildings, probably belonging to military commanders. Just behind them, to the north, were the barracks.
The arsenals are located at the northern end of the Acropolis, at a level 10 meters lower than the palaces and the Trajaneum. These are five long buildings standing parallel to each other. The length of the buildings ranges from 39 to 48 meters.
The arsenals were built during the reigns of Attalus I and Eumenes II. 13 different types of andesite stone projectiles were found in their ruins. The smallest of them had a diameter of 15 cm and weighed less than 3 kg, and the largest, with a diameter of 40 cm, weighed over 75 kg. In Hellenistic times, such stone projectiles and were launched from a stone thrower called palintonon.
The location of the arsenals at the edge of the Acropolis gave the city's defenders an excellent view of the surrounding area, and at the same time the arsenals were hidden from the sight of the approaching enemy. Currently, this place offers visitors the opportunity to take interesting photos of the surroundings of Bergama.
Trajaneum is probably the most recognizable building from Pergamon, known from albums, posters, and postcards. At the same time, it is one of the few structures on the Acropolis dating from the Roman times, and not from the earlier Hellenistic era.
The temple dedicated to Emperor Trajan stands on a terrace measuring 68 by 58 meters. It is located at the highest point of the hill, so it was certainly erected on a previously existing building from the Hellenistic times. The area for the construction of the temple was levelled by constructing a foundation supported by arches. These underground rooms were used as warehouses in the Byzantine times.
The Trajan's temple is surrounded by stoas on three sides, but the stoa located at the back of the temple is 5 meters higher than the others due to the lay of the land. The temple is the so-called peripteros, which means that it was surrounded by a single colonnade - 9 columns along the longer sides and 6 columns along the shorter sides. Currently, the temple has been partially reconstructed.
Although the temple is known as the Trajaneum and was built on the orders of Trajan's successor, Emperor Hadrian, actually both of these rulers were worshipped there. This is evidenced by the two heads of monumental statues of Hadrian and Trajan discovered on its premises. They are exhibited in Berlin, like many other valuable finds from the area of Pergamon.
The theatre in Pergamon is one of the most beautiful buildings from the Hellenistic times. Both its construction, which takes advantage of the natural slope of the terrain, and its location in the central point of the fan-shaped plan of the Acropolis make it a unique building.
The theatre's auditorium consists of 80 rows, the highest of which is located 36 meters above the level of the orchestra. The auditorium is divided horizontally by two platforms (the so-called diazomata) and vertically by stairs - into seven parts in the lower section, and into six parts in the middle and upper sections. In total, the theatre could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators. The royal box, made of marble, is located in the centre of the theatre, just above the lower platform.
In the Hellenistic times, the stage was made of wood and assembled only before the performance, and dismantled after it. This solution resulted from the need to achieve harmony with nature and a view that stretched from the theatre to the valley, undisturbed by unnecessary elements. The stage was mounted on the road leading to the temple of Dionysus, located beneath the theatre, at the northern end of the 250-meter-long promenade. Rows of square holes that were used to mount a stage have been preserved on the promenade to this day.
Temple of Dionysus
This temple is in the form of the so-called prostylos, which means that in front of its vestibule, i.e. pronaos, four columns stood in one row. The temple faces south and is accessed by 25 steps. The temple altar has been preserved in excellent condition.
Altar of Zeus
Only the foundation of the Altar of Zeus has survived in the Acropolis of Pergamon, under which houses from the early Hellenistic era have been discovered. The altar, taken to Berlin by its discoverer - Carl Humann - was reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum.
This freestanding altar was the most important and largest structure from the Hellenistic times on the Acropolis. It was built in the 'golden age' of the kingdom, i.e. during the reign of Eumenes II.
The altar was built on a rectangular plan and was open on the western side. A monumental staircase, 20 meters wide, led between the two forward side wings of the building. Above the plinth and below the Ionic colonnade, there was a large frieze depicting mythological scenes related to the battle between gods and giants. It is a unique work, both because of its size (120 meters long and 2.3 meters high) and because of its artistic value. Additionally, it depicts the entire Olympic pantheon.
Slightly below the altar, at the southernmost tip of the Acropolis, was the upper agora. On its western side, there once stood a small temple, of which little has survived. It was most likely dedicated to Dionysus. The construction of the agora itself dates back to the beginning of the kingdom, but the temple was built later, during the time of Eumenes II.
Buildings in the Middle City
If you follow the path that leads down the hill from the altar of Zeus, the antik yol signpost, or 'ancient road', will lead you to the so-called Middle City. It lies below the Acropolis, on the slope of the hill. Unlike the Upper City (i.e. the Acropolis), this district had a less official character. It was inhabited by the middle classes, and access to its gymnasiums and temples was not controlled by the authorities.
The magnificent Pergamene gymnasium complex consisted of three parts built on separate terraces, one above the other. There was a section for children on the lowest terrace, a section for teenagers on the middle one, and a section for adult men on the highest one. There was one common entrance to the first two parts, but the adult part had a separate gate.
The gymnasia were built in the Hellenistic times, no later than in the second half of the 3rd century BCE. In Roman times, the most significant changes were introduced in the upper gymnasium, while the middle and lower gymnasia were not subject to major modifications.
The upper gymnasium was built on a terrace measuring 200 by 45 meters. It was easy to say that it was heavily rebuilt by the Romans - they used only marble, while in the Hellenistic times the basic building material in Pergamon was andesite. The courtyard of the gymnasium, which was used for sports training, was surrounded on all four sides by Doric stoas, which were changed into the Corinthian ones in the Roman times. On the western side, there were baths that served as water cisterns in the Byzantine period. The most important room in this gymnasium was the so-called ephebeion, where all celebrations took place. The gymnasium also had rooms reserved for the emperor.
The middle gymnasium occupies a narrow terrace measuring 150 by 36 meters. On its northern side, there is a stoa running along its entire length, which houses, among others, a room dedicated to the cult of Hermes and Heracles - gods associated with physical culture. On the eastern terrace, the foundations of the temple are visible, and fragments of the altar have also been preserved. The names of ephebes, i.e. young men aged 18-20, were found written on the walls of the temple, from which it can be concluded that this gymnasium was used for their training.
The smallest of the gymnasiums - the lower one - was intended for children. Lists containing the names of young winners of various races have been preserved on its premises.
Temenos of Demeter
Temenos, i.e. an area designated for a deity, in this case was dedicated to the goddess Demeter. There was also a temple in the western part. The entire temenos has the shape of a rectangle with sides 100 by 50 meters long. The inscription found there states that the sanctuary was built on the order of Apollonis, the wife of Attalus I.
Temple of Asclepius
Only the stone foundations have survived from this building. In its heyday, the temple was a prostylos-type building. It was originally constructed as a building in the Doric style, but later, after renovation, gained the Ionic character. From the statue of Asclepius found there, it can be concluded that it was dedicated to this deity.
It was an impressive structure, over 21 meters long. The nymphaeum served the inhabitants of this part of the city to collect water.
This agora was built during the expansion of the city in the reign of Eumenes II. Since the agora located on the Acropolis served exclusively state purposes, it became necessary to create a place where the inhabitants of Pergamon could engage in trade and hold meetings.
The agora was surrounded by stoas, each of which had two aisles and two floors. These colonnades were in the Doric order. In Byzantine times, a small church was built in the courtyard of the agora.
On the western side of the agora, a small museum was established in 1901, but now it houses a warehouse.
House of Attalus
The House of Attalus was built on a peristyle plan, i.e. it had an internal courtyard surrounded by a colonnade. The largest room, with a marble mosaic floor, was located on the western side of this courtyard. In the next room, mosaics and wall paintings have been preserved. On the lowest floor there was a bathroom and a swimming pool. On the estate there were two water cisterns and a well from which a canal was run, supplying water to the agora. The discovered inscription shows that the owner of the house was a certain Attalus, who served as consul.
An entrance ticket to the Acropolis cost 340 TL in 2023. The Acropolis is open to visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Before visiting the Acropolis, especially in summer, remember to have enough drinking water, as there are no stands selling drinks in the ruins. It is also worth protecting yourself against the sun's rays - the sun is strong at the top of the hill, there are few shaded places, and the area to explore is very vast.