Pergamon, City of Firsts

  • Published
  • By Tanju Varlikli
  • 425th Air Base Squadron

You do not need to drive all day to reach great places in Türkiye. You can discover a lot in a single day’s drive from Izmir. Just like Ephesus, Bergama is another historical site of great significance. The ancient site of Bergama is north of Izmir and can be reached in a 90-minute drive.

Bergama, also called “Pergamon,” was one of the brightest and richest culture centers of the Hellenistic Period for 150 years, 283-133 B.C. General Philetairos, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, founded the ancient Pergamon State around 300 B.C.

When you enter the city, you can easily see an acropolis on top of the hills. The view of the acropolis gets more impressive as you get closer and walk along the narrow roads of Bergama full of vendors, little shops, banks, restaurants and public buildings.

The Asclepion, the first medical center of the ancient world, is only a kilometer from the Bergama Museum, located in the middle of the city, and the Acropolis is 8 km from the Asclepion.


The Acropolis was the place of many firsts:

-First parchment (paper making from leather).
-First Asian library (200,000 volumes).
-First theater with wooden stage.


Asclepion, considered a holy place and the first medical center of the ancient world, has existed since 4th century B.C. and was developed during the Hellenistic period, but lived its brightest time in the 2nd century A.D. during the Roman era.

Among its firsts:

-First big hospital (Asclepeion).
-First medical science-pharmacy symbol (serpent).
-First medicine with opium.
-First city hygiene (health infrastructure).
-First pharmacology (vegetal medicines).
-First natural treatment (with music, theater, sport, sun, water and mud).

This tradition has prompted an annual international psychotheraphy symposium which takes place in the last three days of May.

Red Hall, the temple of Serapis

The temple of Serapis, or “Red Hall,” is not far away from the town center. It is only a
10-minute walk from the Bergama Museum.

The temple was dedicated to the Egyptian gods Serapis, the god of undergound water, and to the associated goddess Isis, and the god Harpocrates. It was built during the time of Emperor Hadrian. During the Byzantine era, the main building was turned into a church dedicated to St. John, the apostle. It was one of of the first Christian churches (one of seven churches) in Türkiye. The walls are still partly surviving, and at night the walls are lit from all sides.

The town hosts a festival, which starts the first week of June and lasts for 15 days. The festival exhibits the social and cultural values, traditions, and customs of the Pergamon people from the past and today. Handicrafts of the region and shows of artists from guest countries are featured throughout the rest of the month.