After a long day of traveling and a night of at least some sleep, we arose early this morning in Izmir and got ready for what was most likely our busiest day of the trip. We began the day with a wonderful breakfast buffet of yogurts, fresh fruit, eggs, coffee, tea, and more kinds of bread and olives than I knew existed. After this we headed down to the bus for our long ride to Pergamon. On the bus we heard about the city of Izmir from Dr. Rossing, and as will be our custom, had devotions and heard presentations, this time on the ancient city of Pergamon (modern day Bergama) by yours truly and Stephanie Jager.
As we arrived at Pergamon we could see the impressive acropolis from a distance. Soon we were aboard a gondola up the mountain to see the major monuments of this city. The acropolis of this city, which had grown into an architectural marvel under the rule of Eumenes II of Pergamon in the 2nd century BCE and later under Roman rule, boasted the impressive temples to Athena, Trajan, and Dionysus, a theatre built on the steep slope of the mountain, and most impressive of all the Great Altar of Zeus and Athena (which is now in a museum in Berlin). From the main part of the city further down the mountain and at the foot of it, these monuments dominated the skyline. Each one was clearly visible even from the outskirts of the city. Having seen the strong presence of such impressive monuments of Hellenistic religion and the imperial cult, I now am able to better understand John the Seer's strong words about the city as Satan's throne (Rev. 2:13). In his vision, John saw the powers represented by these monuments as allies of the great Dragon and the impressive collection of them atop the highest point of the city as a statement of the Dragon's ruling power in that city. After our exciting walk amidst these grand ruins, we descended the mountain to visit another important site of Pergamon, the Asclepion. Built in honor of Asclepius, the god of healing and medicine, this complex included areas for healing, a theatre, and a large tunnel through which one traveled as the final part of the healing process. One constantly heard the soothing and sounds of running water throughout the complex. With similarities to a modern day spa, it is not surprising that people felt "healed" when they left this place.
Following our whirlwind tour of Pergamon, we raced southward to the ancient city of Sardis, which remains mostly unexcavated. On our way, Lisabet Gravely prepared us for the sites we would see. Once there we saw two important sites which lie in the ancient Hellenistic city at the foot of the precipitous mountain of the acropolis. The first of these was an ancient gymnasium complex, which included a large courtyard and baths. In Roman times part of the complex became a Jewish synagogue, with ornate mosaic floors, two pillared alcoves for the Torah, and an altar with two eagles inscribed, one on each end. After this, we went to our second major site in Sardis, the Temple of Artemis. This temple, which existed before the time Alexander the Great, was gargantuan. The pillars were at least three stories tall, with 4 foot wide capitals and 5 foot wide bases. Yet even the prominence of such a massive structure faded and in Byzantine times part of it was re-purposed for a church. After such an intense and tiring day, we ended our night sitting mere feet from Aegean Sea eating an Italian dinner in Izmir. The end to a wonderful beginning of our journeys in Turkey.
By: Matthew Mellott
PhD Student in New Testament at LSTC