Thyatira and Pergamon

Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
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Trip End Jan 26, 2013


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Flag of Turkey  , Balikesir,
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, the author, John, addresses "the seven churches which are in Asia." Thus far, we have visited four of them: Smyrna (now Ismir), Ephesus, Laodicea, and Sardis. We drove through Philadelphia on our way to Sardis without stopping, because there is little to see there; it is buried under the modern city of Alasehir. Today we visit the final two: Thyatira and Pergamum.

Thyatira also lies beneath a modern city, Akhisar, and for a long time its location was unknown. In 1670 the British consul in Smyrna, Paul Rycault, was seeking the seven cities of Revelation and discovered an inscription with the word "Thyatira" in Akhisar, and he knew his quest had ended. A block in the center of the city contains a few remains of what was once a thriving commercial center on a major road in the ancient world.

On our very first trip to Europe, in 1968, we visited the Pergamon Museum in what was then East Berlin, which contains the altar to Zeus from Pergamon (now Bergama). Its massive proportions -- it was the largest altar in antiquity -- and its beautiful frieze left an overwhelming impression that has not diminished in subsequent visits. The opportunity to see the place from which this altar came was one of the appealing features of this tour. My next picture shows its former location, centered on the tree to the right, just below the top of the acropolis. Christians destroyed it in the sixth century and incorporated its pieces into a fortification wall. In the late nineteenth century the German archaeologist Carl Humann excavated these pieces, took them to Berlin, and reconstructed the altar. The entryway to the temple of Athena that was above it is also in Berlin. The theater next to which the altar stood was the steepest one in the ancient world and seated 10,000 people.
 
The last of the Pergamene kings bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans in 133 BC, and they made it the capital of their province of Asia. In the second century AD they built a temple of Trajan as an imperial cult temple at the top of the acropolis, on a platform supported by arches. It was designed to be seen from afar, and its partial reconstruction serves that purpose once again.
 
Below, in the valley, stands the Asclepium, a healing sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of healing. Treatments included sacred waters, the interpretation of dreams, even surgery. The famous physician Galen practiced here in the second century AD. Its  facilities included a hospital, rooms for the patients, a theater, a library, and a round temple dedicated to both Zeus and Asclepius, modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. My last picture shows its foundation.
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