The Acropolis of Pergamon: 2nd Part

The Acropolis of Pergamon becomes rough to the north of the sacred enclosure of Trajaneum. Urbanization level was always low in this area, reason why no artificial terracing are observed and yes abundance of boulders, slopes, etc. The most relevant one that we can be seen here are some curtains and towers of the twelfth century Byzantine wall (photos 1 and 2) with its characteristic masonry type: moderately carved and placed in rows regularized with brick scraps. We also look at the foundations of the Pergamon Arsenal (photo 3), erected in the time of Atalo I to store the weapons of the city garrison and the food necessary to feed it in case of siege.

Photo 1.- Ruins of the 12th century Byzantine fortification surrounding the acropolis.

Photo 2.- Another view of the towers and ramparts of the Byzantine fortification.

The acropolis of Pergamon concludes in this spot in the form of vertiginous cuts with a much more pronounced slope than that of the southern slope. Below, in the valley, flows smoothly the stream of the Keitos river, somewhat dammed at this point (photo 4). We decide, then, to back on our steps towards the area of the Trajaneum and the fabulous structure that we have deliberately overlooked on our visit: the famous Hellenistic theater of the city.

Photo 3.- Remains of the Pergamon Arsenal built in the time of the monarch Attalus I.

Photo 4.- The Keitos river seen from the pergamene acropolis.

The Hellenistic theater of Pergamon (photos 5 and 6) is the most monumental, best preserved and by far most famous building of the city, being usual its use as a symbol of the site in all kinds of brochures, books, posters, etc. Another merit is to be the theater with higher slope existing what by simple trigonometry results in also holding the record of greatest height between its base and the top of the cavea. Its first stones were placed during the long reign of Philetairos, corresponding to Eumenes II the merit of giving it its splendid present aspect. This monarch not only ordered to carve seats of magnificent andesite ashlar (photo 7) scrupulously adjusted to the sharp slope of the hill but also had built an artificial terracing at the foot of the theater (visible to the right, at half height, Photo 5) on which he erected two porticated stoas whose remains can be seen in the photo 8. The result would be a magnificent work of architecture with capacity for 10,000 spectators, so well finished that the Romans of the time of Hadrian little could improve beyond than the raising of certain walls of reinforcement in the ends of the caveas (bottom, to the right, in photo 5) and the replacement of the Hellenistic wood old stage, of temporary type, by another permanent one made in ashlar stone (photo 9).

Photo 5.- The magnificent Hellenistic theater of Pergamon seen from the Trajaneum platform.

Photo 6.- View of the caveas of the Hellenistic theater of Pérgamo contemplated from the stage of this one.

Photo 7.- Detail of one of the caveas of the theater of Pérgamo.

Photo 8.- Coronation of the artificial terracing where the theater lays, with the remains of the porticated stoas that stood there, seen from the top of the stairs of the Dionysos temple.

Photo 9.- The theater stage seen from the middle of the cavea.

To access the theater from the top of the acropolis, a vaulted passageway was used inside a small ashlar turret (photo 10). In late-Byzantine times (12th century) this tower was rebuilt with masonry in order to be used as a watchtower. This reuse is probably the reason why this particular structure has been preserved so well. From its lower part, the theater was reached by using the stoa of the lower artificial terrace, that of the stage, which communicated at its eastern end with the agora of the upper city.

Photo 10.- Little tower in whose interior is the vaulted passage that allowed the access to the theater from the top of the acropolis. It was rebuilt up during the Byzantine period in order to use its structure as defensive element.

The last intervention in the theater area would be carried out by the Emperor Caracalla on the occasion of his visit to the city in A.D. 214, looking for a treatment for his epileptic attacks in the famous Asclepion. It is about a small but very luxurious temple dedicated to Dionysos, located at the end of the lower terrace, where the southernmost stoa ends, in the vicinity of the theater stage. Really it was not a new structure because there was already a temple at that point dedicated to Dionysos, divinity in whose honor there was celebrated a theater festival every year. What Caracalla did, led by his longing to be recognized as the incarnation of the god Dionysius, was to cover the ancient andesite temple with marble, increasing greatly its beauty. The best preserved parts of this temple are its plinth and the stairway of access to the sacred area (photo 11), both practically intact. The same cannot be said of the cella or perimeter colonnade, of which only the base of its walls (photo 12) and some fallen column drums respectively remain.

Photo 11.- Staircase, covered with marble in the time of Caracalla, of the temple of Dionysos, next to the pergamene theater.

Photo 12.- Cella of the Dionysos temple. At the background of the photo can be seen several rows of its perymetral wall, raised in high quality white marble.

Concluded our visit to the pergamene acropolis we returned to the arch of entrance to the city wall, where the paved road starts its descent down the hill. In our memory stays the beautiful ruins that we have admired, aware that in their time had to conform a simply wonderful architectural ensemble. The artistic representation of figure 1 will serve to this respect to contemplate an approach to that greatness lost so many centuries ago...

Figure 1.- Artistic representation of the southern front of the pergamene acropolis in the middle of the 3rd century AD.



The authors of this blog are

History and Numismatics lovers

specialized in ancient coinage.

Be welcome!


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