Our main visit today was Pergamum, primarily the acropolis of the city. Unfortunately the city is quite a drive from Izmir, but we had a nice stop for bathrooms (and a nice Turkish coffee for me). Although it turns up on Seven Churches of Revelation tours, the city has a long and important history. Augustus permitted an imperial cult center to be built in 29 B.C. It was also the birthplace of the physician Galen in A.D. 129. Although we did not have time to visit it, there is a nice Asclepium at Pergamum which is visible from the acropolis.
After winding through narrow streets of the modern city and the up the narrow road to the top of the acropolis (1300 feet above the valley and Cayster River), we saw the platform of the temple of Zeus (the rest of the temple is now in Berlin). The temple would have been visible high above the ancient city. The theater in Pergamum is the steepest theater in the ancient world, and anyone who does not have a fear of heights will enjoy a fantastic view of the valley.
The imperial temple of Trajan is the highlight of Pergamum. From the theater we crossed an open space which once housed a Temple of Athena and the ancient library of Pergamum. Construction on the temple was completed by Hadrian. The temple has several monumental pillars and a stoa. There is an inscription recognizing the establishment of a Roman imperial cult, specifically referring to emperor as “Lord of the land and sea,” calling to mind the two beasts in Revelation 13.
We had a more traditional Turkish at a restaurant called Saglam. I had a nice lamb kabob with lots of bread and a lentil soup. Naturally I rounded out the meal with a Turkish coffee.
Returning to Izmir we visited the excavations at ancient Smyrna. Since the area had been an Ottoman graveyard, the city never built on the site. This has permitted archaeologists to work on some of the Roman era buildings, but more interesting is the word below the ground. We went down into several vaulted chambers under the agora.
Since Mark Wilson was with us, he was able to get an archaeologist to open an area which is not yet open to the public where a large number of ancient graffiti have been discovered. These have been published in a NYU volume, so we were not permitted to photograph anything. There were several fascinating drawings (and a few dirty ones), including one example of using letters for numbers and a word square. Both of these have been interpreted as possibly Christian. This was really a thrill to get a behind-the-scenes look at these new finds.
We walked out of the Smyrna excavations through a more traditional market (plenty of fresh fish and meat…really too fresh). Tutku Tours hosted a nice meal for us at a nice Italian restaurant, a fine end to a very long day.