Pergamos

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Pergamos (Greek: Πέργαμος, meaning "height or elevation", modern day Bergama in Turkey) was an ancient Greek city, in Mysia, northwestern Anatolia, 16 miles from the Aegean Sea, located on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus (modern day Bakırçay), that became an important kingdom during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 282-129 BC.

The Attalids were among the most loyal supporters of Rome among the Hellenistic successor states. For support against the Seleucids, the Attalids were rewarded with all the former Seleucid domains in Asia Minor.

The Attalids ruled with intelligence and generosity. Many documents survive showing how the Attalids would support the growth of towns through sending in skilled artisans and by remitting taxes. They allowed the Greek cities in their domains to maintain nominal independence. They sent gifts to Greek cultural sites like Delphi, Delos, and Athens. They defeated the invading Celts. They remodeled the acropolis of Pergamos after the Acropolis in Athens.

Notable structures still in existence on the upper part of the Acropolis include: a Hellenistic theater with a seating capacity of 10,000; the Sanctuary of Trajan (also known as the Trajaneum); the Sancturay of Athena; the Library (the second best in the ancient Greek civilisation after that of Alexandria); royal palaces; the Heroön; the Temple of Dionysus; the Upper Agora; and the Roman baths complex. When the Ptolemies stopped exporting papyrus, partly because of competitors and partly because of shortages, the Pergamenes invented a new substance to use in codices, called pergaminus or parchment after the city. This was made of fine calf skin, a predecessor of vellum.

When Attalus III died without an heir in 133 BC he bequeathed Pergamum to Rome, in order to prevent a civil war.

Religion in Pergamus

The Great Altar of Pergamon is in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin. The base of this altar remains on the upper part of the Acropolis in Pergamus. This altar to Zeus is thought by some to be the 'seat of Satan' (Wycliffe Dictionary of Biblical Archeology).

Close to the city was a sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of healing (represented by a serpent entwined around a pole). In this place people with health problems could bath in the water of the sacred spring, and in the patients' dreams Asklepios would appear in a vision to tell them how to cure their illness. Archeology has found lots of gifts and dedications that people would make afterwards, such as small terracotta body parts, no doubt representing what had been healed. The 'seat of Satan' was also thought to refer to the worship of Aesculapius, as his emblem is a serpent wrapped around a pole and, as he was thought to take the form of a serpent, live snakes were also kept in this temple (Strong's Greek Lexicon).

Pergamon's other notable structure is the Serapis Temple. There is evidence that an early Christian congregation met in part of this temple to worship. Serapis was invented under the reign of Ptolomy Soter, under instruction in a dream from the "unknown god", as a mix between the Egyptian and Greek gods Orisis and Zeus, in order to please both populations. Serapis was often accompanied in art with Cerberus, the Greek version of the god Anubis, a three-headed dog with a serpent as a tail. A letter to the Emperor Hadrian notes that the worship of Serapis was often confused with the worship of Christ in some parts of the world (noteably Egypt):

The land of Egypt, the praises of which you have been recounting to me, my dear Servianus, I have found to be wholly light-minded, unstable, and blown about by every breath of rumour. There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis. There is no chief of the Jewish synagogue, no Samaritan, no Christian presbyter, who is not an astrologer, a soothsayer, or an anointer. Even the Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ. (Augustan History, Firmus et al. 8)

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