Posts Tagged ‘pergamon’

A Journey to the Past Through Turkey

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Smithsonian Study Leader Kevin Daly teaches ancient languages, archeology, and history and Bucknell University. Daly has excavated in Greece for over 15 years (primarily at the Athenian Agora) and is now co-directing an excavation at Thebes, the mythical home of Oedipus and Hercules. Here, he shares his thoughts from a recent journey through Turkey with Smithsonian Journeys travelers.

Vaulted Substructure of the Apollo Temple at Claros. Photo: Kevin Daly.

This trip to Turkey has been filled with both the familiar and the novel. It had been some time since I had seen sites like Troy and Ephesus, while the Lycian sites and a gulet passage are entirely new to me. The itinerary has brought views of cities both thriving and ruined. Nowhere was the contrast more vivid for me than what we saw in the bustling, modern city of Izmir and the isolated, ancient oracular site of Claros.

The "Ghost Village" of Kayaköy. Photo: Kevin Daly.

The “Ghost Village” of Kayaköy. Photo: Kevin Daly.

Claros was an addition to the schedule that our guide, Akyn, and I thought would add a lot to our itinerary. We had the shrine to ourselves, and as a group we were able to talk intensely and hands-on about ancient temple building, sacrifice, and inscriptions. While Akyn and I had seen Claros before, the fresh eyes and questions of our travelers helped us see it anew. Besides being a treat in itself, this quiet moment at a remote site helped prepare us for the awe-inspiring and busy site of Ephesus.

View back toward the gulets from St. Nicholas Monastery Island.

View back toward the gulets from St. Nicholas Monastery Island. Photo: Kevin Daly

While our trip was a healthy blend of the modern, the old, and the ancient, my own interests and the interests of the group tended to pull us toward all things archaeological. But daily life intervened regularly, and this intervention was extremely revelatory to us all. Of course in a very real sense daily life quickly enters the archaeological record: a coin is dropped, a house is demolished, or a pipe is laid.

At the same time the present can help us recapture past days. While the Great Fire at Izmir/Smyrna forever altered the landscape of that city, we found echoes of what it must have been like in our strolls through the Old City of Antalya. Our gondola ride to the top of the site of Pergamon elicited questions concerning ancient travel, defense, and hydraulic engineering. The displacement of travel makes these interactions between new and old all the more intense. If Hartley was right in writing that “the past is a foreign country,” we have had a wonderful double journey every day.

Click here for Q&A with Kevin Daly and here to learn more about tour tours to Turkey.

Legendary Turkey and Pergamon

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Janet Jones is Chair and Professor of Classics at Bucknell University, and an active field archaeologist specializing in Greek and Roman art and architecture, ancient urbanization, ancient technology. She’s also one of our favorite Smithsonian Study Leaders. Here, she reflects on the ancient Greek city of Pergamon, in what is now Turkey. Click here to learn more about Janet and here for more on traveling to Turkey.

The first time I visited Pergamon (or Pergamum), I was 16. I was in Turkey as a high school exchange student and visiting some of the ancient sites along the west coast of Turkey with my host family. I remember sitting at the top of the theater, gazing out over the modern city of Bergama, hawks soaring below me, and thinking that I couldn’t imagine a more magical landscape. Perched there, at the top the world, I felt weightless, like I could fly out into space if I didn’t hold on. I looked to the terraces above me and, dizzy, I looked down to the orchestra of the theater far below and felt it anchor me to the hill.

The Greek theater of Pergamon

The Greek theater of Pergamon could seat up to 10,000 people and had the steepest seating of theaters in the ancient world.

There was so much I didn’t know about Pergamon when I was 16. But that visceral experience of the city was something I have never forgotten, even as I have learned about the city in great detail. I didn’t know then that the designers of the city had planned that very experience — that they had sited the theater with its unforgettable view to serve as the linchpin for a radical departure in city planning. I didn’t know that Pergamon had an experimental design, a radial plan playing off the shape of the theater. No plodding rectangular grid plan for the innovative rulers of this feisty Hellenistic kingdom. And I didn’t know that Pergamon had a high tech aqueduct system with pressure pipes and secure underground tunnels to bring water from mountain springs up to the city on the ridge. The monumental center of Pergamon along the ridge top was high value real estate, visible for miles, and it sent out clear messages of power and wonder. This powerful little kingdom could handle all comers. Just ask the Gauls!

I sat there that day on my vertiginous perch wondering how anyone could watch a play from such a height. I had just read the Oresteia in English class that spring. I tried to imagine figures cloaked in white dancing and singing the choruses of the tragedy down in the orchestra of the theater and other figures in great masks with dramatic expressions, mouth openings functioning as megaphones, casting the words of Aeschylus upward on the wind to the seats at the top. How could one concentrate on a play in such a place?

I recall one more thing about that day so long ago. That was the day that I decided to be an archaeologist. Many years and many journeys and much thinking about cultural landscape later, that sense of awe remains. My heart still races when the ridge top site of Pergamon comes into view and I get a catch in my throat when I climb to the top of the theater and look down at the hawks flying in the clear blue skies over the Caicus River valley far below.

 See Pergamon for yourself – join our Study Leaders along the Turkish coast this summer and fall.

 Or, check out our other options for travel to Turkey.

For the Best Greek and Roman Ruins, See…Turkey??

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

With a Ph.D. in Islamic history from the University of Pennsylvania, Smithsonian Study Leader Gary Leiser has taught several courses in Middle Eastern history and published nine books, most on the early history of the Turks in the Middle East. For more on Gary and traveling with him, click here.

It is sometimes said that Turkey has better Greek ruins than Greece and better Roman ruins than Italy. Certainly, the classical ruins of Turkey rank among the best in the Mediterranean world. One site that has always intrigued me is ancient Pergamon (or Pergamum) in the northwest corner of Turkey. Ephesus, to the south, may get more tourist attention today than Pergamon because of the extent of its ruins, but its setting cannot compare to that of Pergamon. The acropolis of Pergamon perches atop a cone-shaped mountain that looms perhaps a thousand feet over the modern city of Bergama. It is approached by a narrow road that reaches the base of the upper walls. After a short but steep walk, you find yourself transported back to the late Roman Empire. Pergamon was the most powerful city in the Roman province of Asia before the rise of Ephesus in the first century A.D.

A sketch of Ancient Pergamum.

A sketch of Ancient Pergamon.

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The Path from Pergamon

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Janet Jones is Chair and Professor of Classics at Bucknell University and an active field archaeologist specializing in Greek and Roman art and architecture, ancient urbanization, ancient technology. Here, she reflects on the ancient Greek city of Pergamon, in what is now Turkey. Click here to learn more about Janet and traveling with her to Turkey.

The theater of Pergamon can seat up to 10,000 people and had the steepest seating of any ancient theater at the time.

The theater of Pergamon could seat up to 10,000 people and had the steepest seating of theaters in the ancient world.

The first time I visited Pergamon (or Pergamum), I was 16. I was in Turkey as a high school exchange student and visiting some of the ancient sites along the west coast of Turkey with my host family. I remember sitting at the top of the theater, gazing out over the modern city of Bergama, hawks soaring below me, and thinking that I couldn’t imagine a more magical landscape. Perched there, at the top the world, I felt weightless, like I could fly out into space if I didn’t hold on. I looked to the terraces above me and, dizzy, I looked down to the orchestra of the theater far below and felt it anchor me to the hill.

There was so much I didn’t know about Pergamon when I was 16. But that visceral experience of the city was something I have never forgotten, even as I have learned about the city in great detail. I didn’t know then that the designers of the city had planned that very experience—that they had sited the theater with its unforgettable view to serve as the linchpin for a radical departure in city planning. I didn’t know that Pergamon had an experimental design, a radial plan playing off the shape of the theater. No plodding rectangular grid plan for the innovative rulers of this feisty Hellenistic kingdom. And I didn’t know that Pergamon had a high-tech aqueduct system with pressure pipes and secure underground tunnels to bring water from mountain springs up to the city on the ridge. The monumental center of Pergamon along the ridge top was high value real estate, visible for miles, and it sent out clear messages of power and wonder. This powerful little kingdom could handle all comers. Just ask the Gauls! (more…)