Pax Romana

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Today we are traveling from Izmir through Bergama to Canakkale.
Bergama is the modern city that sits below the ruins of the ancient city of Pergamum. At one time Pergamum, a Hellenistic kingdom, was more important than Ephesus. Pergamum was a big administrative center with large imperial buildings before Ephesus became one after Augustus.

Pergamum is perched on a hilltop which, of course, most of these large centers are for security reasons: you can see the dust of galloping horses or lines of solders coming from a far distance.

The Acropolis of Pergamum has several large sites or spots where the sites used to be.

To reach the site we left our bus and got into a cable car. 8 people to a car. It was a great ride up the mountain. Very quiet and the car rocked a little, in a soothing way, in the wind.
Here’s a view down from the cable car and a photo of a car  arriving at the top.

Though the Altar of Zeus was  the site’s largest temple,  (there is also a Temple of Athena and one of Dionysus) all that is left of it here are these two stone steps. In the late 1880s German archaeologists  removed (looted, is probably more accurate) the Altar of Zeus and shipped it by boat to Berlin where it stands reconstructed in the Berlin Pergamum Museum. Because these antiquities were removed in the 1880s they do not fall under the Antiquities Repatriation Act. (That isn’t really  the name of the act, but it is something like that.)

One of the more intact ruins (well, more intact than Zeus’ Altar)  was the Temple of Trajan (built 125-138 A D).  Trajan was one of the “5 good Emperors”. It was the 2nd century AD when the rule of these five emperors  was at its height. During this time Roman outlying areas, like Pergamum, flourished. Aqueducts, theaters and other imperial structures were built – peace prevailed. I think this is the period that Ender refers to as “Pax Romana” which I interpret as “Roman Peace”  Just think 200 years of peace…
Anyway, Trajan’s temple ruins are easily identified because it was a huge white marble structure.  

In this photo I have climbed up behind the temple and am shooting down toward my subjects: Elaine, Eve, Leroy and Mary. 

 As an administrative city Pergamum was one of the ancient world’s center of learning. And what does every good center of learning need? A library!

This is the site of Pergamum’s library.
  It supposedly had 200,000 parchment scrolls, so was giving the library in Alexandria some competition. Interestingly, when Mark Anthony married Cleopatra part of his wedding gift to her was sending a LOT of these works to the Alexandria library.

A city this old and important had to have a theater. Pergamum’s was built in the 3rd century B C. and it could hold approximately 10,000 people!  
Unbelievable. The theater ruins, perched on this hillside, show the difference in how the Roman’s constructed as opposed to the Greeks. You can see from my picture that this is built right into the hillside.

Now, compare that to how the Romans built some of the outer walls. They used arches to elevate the ground and give themselves a flat plane to work with. Remember the theater at Aspendos ? (look at my XX entry dated Wednesday, September 11th) That theater, which was built by the Romans, is on level ground, not built into a hillside; the Greeks didn’t have the construction skills of the later Romans.

Here are some photos of the Roman arches supporting Pergamum. I’m totally fascinated by this stuff!

The walls of Pergamum encircled the hilltop city – about 3 miles of rock work.

The five of us walked way out on the city walls and came across Pergamum’s arsenal.  Pretty smart of them to put it so far out of town ( but still within the city walls of course). A sign there said that 900 types of shells have been found here.

Walking back to the city proper, back to our big white bus chariot, I left the others and walked down and under the city arches. Gorgeous! Up under these arches were areas for storage and other rooms. Leroy was exploring this area as well.  

I’d never heard of Pergamum and really know nothing about ancient times, but I am having the most wonderful time! I know some of the things I’m writing  might have the wrong dates or the photo might not be what I think it is because  I’m writing mainly from memory and scribbly notes I’m taking when Ender is talking. So, don’t take my blog as historically accurate but as a simple record of a fun vacation.

We boarded our bus to continue on to Canakkale which is where we’ll be spending the night. We drive along the Dardanelles, the sister strait to the Bosphorus. The Dardanelles leads from the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. So, the route is… Black Sea, Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles, Aegean Sea, Mediterranean. The only way for the Russia navy to get out is through Turkey. Interestingly, Turkey has no sovereignty over the Bosphorus or the Dardanelles, but is responsible for keeping those Straits open for the rest of the world. 
You history buffs will recognize Dardanelles as playing an important role in World War history. It was up the Dardanelles that the British (and French?) fleets sailed. There is place in the Dardanelles called “The Narrows”  where the Turks and Germans (and sea mines) turned them back. 

Ah!! Our hotel is on the Aegean Sea..and it didn’t take me long to get in!

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