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My Favourite Planet > English > Middle East > Turkey > Pergamon > gallery 1
Pergamon gallery 1 Pergamon 35 of 37
The Asclepieion archaeological site, Bergama (Pergamon), Turkey at My Favourite Planet

The Asclepieion archaeological site, Bergama (Pergamon).
Asclepieion archaeological site
Opening times: daily 8:30 - 17:30

Admission: 15 Turkish lira

An uphill walk or drive of about 2 km westwards, along a road which starts next to the Kurşunlu Cami mosque, opposite the post office (PTT) on Bankalar Cad, Bergama's main street.

The start of the road is marked by a signpost to the Asclepieion and a statue of the Greek physician Galen (see below) on Cumhuriyet Square.

There is a free car park, free toilets, a cafe and souvenir shops opposite the entrance to the site (see next page) outside the entrance to the site.

The Asclepieion (also asclepeion or asclepion; Greek, Ἀσκληπιεῖον, Asklepieion; Latin, aesculapium) was an ancient healing and cult centre, sacred to Asklepios (Ἀσκληπιός; Latin, Aesculapius), the Greek god of healing and son of Apollo. Approached by a sacred way, the Via Tecta, the sanctuary contained a round Temple of Asklepios (named Asklepios Soter or Zeus Soter Asklepios), as well as one to his son, the mysterious hooded youth Telesphoros (see below). There was also a spring of slightly radioactive water used for therapeutic purposes, a library and a small theatre.

The cult of Asklepios had a mysterious and mystical association with snakes (as did those of other Greek gods such as Athena), many of which were kept at the sanctuary. Therapy at the centre included the interpretation of dreams.

You can see the types of medical instruments used in antiquity in the photo below.

The Asclepieion is thought to have been founded in the 4th century BC by a certain Archias, who is said to have brought the Asklepios cult from its main centre at Epidavros (Επιδαύριος, Latin Epidaurus), in the Peloponnese. Eumenes II (ruled 263-241 BC) elevated the cult to a state religion.

Further enhancements were made to the healing centre by Roman emperors, including Hadrian (76-138 AD, reigned 117-138 AD), who supported and financed building works at the Asclepieion. He is thought to have visited Pergamon during his travels through Asia Minor in 123 AD.

The spread of the cult of Asklepion and the establishment of such healing centres around the Greek world from the late Classical period had important practical aspects. The presence of an Asclepieion in an ancient city was the equivalent of a modern hospital for its citizens. It was also a source of prestige as well as considerable income, particularly in the case of Epidavros and Pergamon, to which rich people came from far afield to be cured, and in return paid, or donated as a religious offering, large sums of money and other gifts.

Several locations since time immemorial had been thought of as especially beneficial for the treatment of diseases, due to particular local properties, such as their waters, and the traditional associations they had acquired with deities, nymphs and other supernatural beings. With the scientific advancements of medical theories in Classical and Hellenistic times, the practice of medicine began to be systematized and standardized to a certain extent, and one could speak of a medical industry.

The profession of medicine at these centres was a male preserve, and it seems no accident that other healing deities, such as the health goddess Hygieia (Ὑγιεία, see photo below), came to be seen as subservient (sons and daughters) to Asklepios, who became the exemplary and primary divine master and patron of the healing arts. The new medical science of Hippocrates and the cult of Asklepios in many places replaced the more ancient local ways.

Asklepios, the Greek god of healing at My Favourite Planet

Asklepios, god of healing.
Rome, 2nd century AD. [1]

Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
 
Head of Asklepios from Allianoi, near Bergama, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Head of Asklepios.
From the Yortanli Dam
salvage excavation, Allianoi.

Bergama Archaeological Museum.
photos and articles:
© David John
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Galen of Pergamon

The famous Greek physician, philosopher and author on medicine, Galen of Pergamon (Γαληνός, Galenos, "calm"; Latin name Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus, 129 - circa 199/217 AD) studied medicine as a θεραπευτής (therapeutes, or attendant) at the Asclepieion for four years, from the age of 16. He then spent 8 years travelling around the cultural centres of the eastern Mediterranean, such as Alexandria in Egypt, which had a renowned medical school. After widening his horizons and deepening his knowledge, he returned to Pergamon in 157 AD and worked as a doctor, treating the gladiators of the powerful High Priest of Asia. He left for Rome in 162 AD and became an imperial court physician to emperors Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and Septimius Severus.

Emperor Caracalla (188-217 AD, ruled 198-217 AD, see photo on gallery 1, page 7) may have received treatment here when he visited Pergamon. He made Asclepieion the neokoros, the official centre for the imperial cult of Asklepios and himself for the Roman province of Asia. This was the third of three neokoroi the city was awarded. [2]
 
Statue of the ancient Greek physician Galen of Pergamon in Bergama, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Modern statue of Galen
in the centre of Bergama.
Telesphoros

Telesphoros (Τελεσφόρος, "the accomplisher" or "bringer of completion"; Latin, Telesphorus), a son of Asklepios was also worshipped at the Asclepieion as the helper in recovery from illness.

In stark contrast to the powerful images of his father Asklepios and his ancient health-conscious sister Hygieia, Telesphoros is always depicted as a small, sad-looking child or dwarf wearing a hooded cape or conical cap and a short tunic. This very un-Greek representation of a deity has led to theories that this late-comer to Hellenic religion was of foreign origin, possibly Thracian, Phrygian or Celtic, and that he was originally one of the hooded spirits (genii cuculati), daemons associated with fertility and death. Images of him are also known on the Danube. His worship may have been introduced by the Galatians when they invaded Anatolia in the 3rd century BC. He became associated with Asklepios by the Greeks of Pergamon and other Asklepios centres in Asia.

The spread of his cult westwards to Greece and the Roman Empire was accelerated following his adoption by Epidavros in the 2nd century AD. [3]

The crude image of Telesphoros from Thasos, Greece (see photo, right), was roughly chiselled on the base of an ex-voto dedication to Asklepios. An ex-voto is the fulfillment of a vow; the person who had it made is keeping their promise to Asklepios for a recovery from illness. His son is depicted in thanks for his part in the healing process. The poor quality of the workmanship suggests that the donor was anything but rich. [4]

The Asclepieion was excavated in 1927 by the German archaeologist Theodor Wiegand (1864-1936), who also discovered the Arsenal on the Pergamon Acropolis.
 
Relief of the god Telesphoros, son of Asklepios, from Thasos, Macedonia, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Telesphoros, son of Asklepios.
Marble relief on the base of
a dedication to Asklepios.
2nd-3rd century AD.

Thasos Archaeological Museum, Greece.

See more photos of
Telesphoros below.
Ancient medical instuments found at the Asclepieion in Allianoi, near Pergamon, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Ancient medical instuments found at the Asclepieion in Allianoi, near Pergamon.
From the Yortanli Dam salvage excavation, Allianoi.

Bergama Archaeological Museum.
An inscribed dedication by Aulus Claudius Charax in the Pegamon Asclepieion at My Favourite Planet

Remains of an inscribed marble clipeus (shield) on the broken tympanum (east pediment)
of the north hall of the propylon (monumental gateway) of the Pergamon Asclepieion.
The inscription is a dedication by Aulus Claudius Charax of Pergamon (circa 115 - after
147 AD), who was a priest at the sanctuary and financed the building of the propylon:

ΚΛ[ΑΥΔΙΟΣ] ΧΑΡΑΞ ΤΟ ΠΡ[Ο]ΠΥΛΟ[Ν]

Cl[audius] Charax [dedicated] the pr[o]pylo[n]

In situ at the site of the propylon. Inv. No. 193,7. Inscription IvP III 141. [5]
Height of Tympanum 130 cm, diameter of clipeus 80 cm, letter height 1.75 cm.

The propylon, known as "the Propylon of Claudius Charax",
was built in the mid second century AD, during the reign of
Hadrian (117-138 AD) or Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD),
replacing the Hellenistic buidling of the 3rd century BC.

See also a inscription honouring Aulus Iulius Charax, grandson
or great-grandson of Aulus Claudius Chara, on gallery 1, page 14.
 
Pergamon
Asclepieion
Notes, references and links

1. Asklepios statue Berlin

The small statue, 123.5 cm high, was one of three statues of Asklepios brought to Berlin from Italy in the 18th-19th centuries. This was one acquired by Bianconi in 1766 from the Natali Collection in Rome, and stood in front of the Neue Palais in Potsdam before being taken to Berlin. The body of Parian marble (from the island of Paros) has been extensively restored, with many parts added, including the head which is from another statue, perhaps of Zeus.

See: Alexander Conze, Beschreibung der antiken Skulpturen mit Ausschluss der pergamenischen Fundstücke, page 36. General- verwaltung, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Verlag von W. Spemann, Berlin, 1891.
Scan of the complete book available at the Heidelberg University Digital Library, digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de.

Description of a similar statue of Asklepios in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6360 (see photo below):

"The god, clad in a himation, lays his right arm (a restoration) on his club, round which a snake is curled. At his left side is a low Omphalos, this being his attribute as Apollo's son. A picture of perfect health, he stands calmly in an attitude that recalls the school of Phidias.

Alkamenes is generally named as the inventor of this type. In 420 B.C. he made a statue of Aesculapius for Mantineia and perhaps a replica of it for Athens where the cult of the god had been introduced from Epidaurus."

G. De Petra (and others, as editors), Illustrated guide to the National Museum in Naples : sanctioned by the Ministry of education. page 27. Richter & Co., Naples, 1897 (?). At archive.org.

2. Pergamon's three neokoroi

The title "neokoros" also referred to the priest of the cult. From the Greek νεωκόρος, meaning temple-keeper or temple warden. Derived from koreo, to sweep, and hence one who sweeps and cleans a temple; temple servant; one who has charge of a temple, to keep and adorn it (a sacristan).

From the time of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, the Greek cities of Asia Minor, such as Pergamon, Smyrna and Ephesus, competed for the honour and prestige of becoming the official centre of the imperial cults for the new Roman province of Asia.

Pergamon's first neokoros, or "provincial temple" was the Temple of Augustus and Roma (see gallery 2, page 6).

The second neokoros at Pergamon was the Temple of Trajan, or Trajaneum, dedicated to Zeus Philios (Latin Jupiter Amicalis), Trajan and Hadrian (see gallery 1, pages 14-19).

3. Pausanias on Telesphoros

Pausanias (Greek, Παυσανίας), the 2nd century AD Greek travel writer, who may himself have been a doctor, and who spent some time in Pergamon, mentioned Telesphoros in his description of the sanctuary of Asklepios at Titani (Τιτάνη Κορινθίας), in Sikyonia, near Corinth. He tells us that Asklepios' son was known at Titani as Euamerion (Ευαμεριων, prosperous), and at Epidavros as Akesis (Ακεσις, Cure).

"Alexanor, the son of Makhaon, the son of Asklepios, came to Sikyonia and built the sanctuary of Asklepios at Titane... There are images also of Alexanor and of Euamerion; to the former they give offerings as to a hero after the setting of the sun; to Euamerion, as being a god, they give burnt sacrifices. If my conjecture is correct, the Pergamenes, in accordance with an oracle, call this Euamerion Telesphoros, while the Epidaurians call him Akesis."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2, Chapter 11, Sections 5-7. English Translation by W.H.S. Jones and H.A. Ormerod. In 4 Volumes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and William Heinemann Ltd., London, 1918. At Perseus Digital Library.

4. Asklepios on Thasos

The northern Aegean island of Thasos (Θασος), Greece, also had an Asclepieion. Although its site has not yet been located, votive offerings to Asklepios have been found near the Caracalla Arch. As in other places in the Greek world, the worship of Asklepios became very popular here from the 4th century BC. The special local interest may have been a result of the four-year residence of the renowned physician Hippocrates (Ἱπποκράτης, circa 460-370 BC) on the island at the end of the 5th century BC. The Thassians held a festival in honour of Asklepios, known as the Great Asklepeia, during which people presented offerings to the god in the hope of recovery from various illnesses.

5. The Propylon of Claudius Charax

See: Christian Habicht, Die Inschriften des Asklepieions, Altertümer von Pergamon VIII 3, Nr. 141 on Seite (page) 142, with Abb. 141 on Tafel 40. Berlin, 1969.
 
 
Statue of Asklepios from the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidavros, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Statue of Asklepios from the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidavros, Greece. Made of Pentelic marble about 160 AD, the statue belongs to the Este type which copies an original of the 4th century BC.

National Archaeological
Museum, Athens.
Inv. No. 263.
 
Head of Hippocrates from Kos, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Copy of a marble head of
Hippocrates, from an over
life-size statue. Second half
of the 2nd century BC.
Found near the Odeion on
the island of Kos, Greece.

Replica in the National
Archaeological Museum,
Athens, of the original in
the Archaeological Museum
of Kos.
Statue of the healing god Asklepios and his son Telesphoros at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Asklepios and son Telesphoros.
The detail on the right shows a close-up
of the diminuitive daemon.

Excavated in 1906-1907 at the Faustina Baths,
Miletus (Balat, Aydin, Turkey).
Height 213 cm; height of Telesphoros 81 cm.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 1995.
Cat. Mendel (Volume I, 1912) 124.

The statue depicts the lofty god Asklepios carrying
his symbol of a staff (sometimes shown as a crutch),
around which a snake is entwined.

A relatively tiny Telesphoros is shown leaning against
his father's protective garment, looking up to him,
and clutching implements which are probably medical
instruments. The implication of this image seems to
be that Telesphoros was his father's little helper.
Marble head of Asklepios from Melos at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of Asklepios
from Melos, Greece, 325-300 BC.

British Museum. Blacas Collection,
GR 1867.5-8.115 (Sculpture 550).
 

Marble head of Asklepios from Morrylos, Macedonia at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of Asklepios
from Ano Apostoloi, Kilkis (ancient
Morrylos), Macedonia, Greece.
Late 4th century BC.

Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
Telesphoros statuette from Pergamon at My Favourite Planet

Figurine of Telesphoros,
wearing a long hooded cloak,
from the Yortanli Dam salvage excavation, Allianoi.

Bergama Archaeological Museum.
  Telesphoros statuette from Amphipolis, Macedonia, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta figurine of Telesphoros, wearing a long hooded cloak, from Amphipolis, Macedonia, Greece. Roman period. Height 18.1 cm.

Amphipolis Archaeological
Museum. Inv. No. E 612.

The existence of an Asclepieion at Amphipolis has been proved by the discovery of numerous votive offerings, including figures of Asklepius and Telesphoros, a statue of Hygieia and part of a 4th century BC inscription bearing its sacred law (lex sacra). The inscription states the requirements for incubation in the Asclepieion, the payment of one drachme to the priest by visitors to the sanctuary, the offering of voluntary sacrifices, the portion given to the god on the altar, and the offering of sacrifices to other gods in this sanctuary (possibly Apollo, Hygieia and Telesphoros). However, as with many of the city's other sanctuaries, its exact location has not yet been discovered.
  Bronze statuette of Telesphoros at My Favourite Planet

Bronze statuette of Telesphoros
from the Ancient Agora, Athens.
3rd century AD.

Agora Museum, Athens.
  Priapic lamp in the form of Telesphoros at My Favourite Planet

Priapic ceramic lamp in the form of
Telesphoros, from the Ancient Agora,
Athens. 2nd century AD.

Agora Museum, Athens.
  Terracotta figurine of Telesphoros from Hermione, Peloponnese, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta figurine of a male in a hooded cloak, thought to be Telesphoros. From the Necropolis of the ancient city of Hermione (near Epidavros), Peloponnese, Greece.
1st - 2nd century AD.

Nafplion Archaeological Museum.
  Lanternarius statue at My Favourite Planet

"Lanternarius"
Statue of a boy with a lantern.
Acquired in Rome 1909.

Altes Museum, Berlin.

This small statue, in the Altes Museum, Berlin, of unexact provenance, was acquired in Rome in 1909, as part of a lot of 80 artefacts from rural villas in the modern municipalities of Boscoreale, Boscotrecae and Scafari, near Pompeii, which were destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

It has been identified merely as "Lanternarius, statue of a boy with a lantern". Having seen this statue several times, I can't help thinking that this sad-looking lad may well be Telesphoros, the ancient esoteric equivalent of Florence Nightingale, "the lady with the lamp".
 

Marble relief of the healing god Asklepios and his daughter Hygieia at My Favourite Planet

Marble relief showing the healing god Asklepios and his daughter Hygieia,
goddess of health. In some myths Hygieia is the wife of Asklepios.

Classical, last quarter of the 5th century BC. From Therme, Macedonia, Greece.
Therme was the ancient name of Thessalonike (Thessaloniki) before it was
renamed by Cassander, king of Macedonia, in 316/315 BC.
See History of Stageira and Olympiada - Part 6.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 109 T. Cat. Mendel 51.
 

Statue of Asclepius in the National Archaeological Museum Naples at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Asklepios of the "Guistini type".
Late 2nd century AD reworking of a Greek
original of the early 4th century BC.

Farnese Collection, National Archaeological
Museum Naples, Italy. Inv. No. 6360.
 
Statue of Asclepius in the Palazzo Altemps, National Museum of Rome at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Asklepios.
2nd century AD Roman copy of a Hellenistic Greek original. The right arm and snake-entwined staff are modern additions.

There were several places in Rome dedicated to the cult of Asklepios, including the Esquiline Hill and the Tiber Island, where a temple of Asklepios was dedicated in 289 BC; the island has been associated with healing ever since, and a hospital founded in 1548 still stands there today.

Boncampagni Ludovisi Collection, Palazzo
Altemps, National Museum of Rome, Italy.
Inv. No. 8645.
 

Relief of Asklepios and Hygieia from Macedonia at My Favourite Planet

Marble relief of Asklepios and Hygieia
from Macedonia, Greece.
Unknown provenance, 4th century BC.

Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
 
Asklepios and Artemis of Ephesus on a coin from Pergamon at My Favourite Planet

Coin from Pergamon showing Asklepios
and Artemis of Ephesus, 253-268 AD.

Bode Museum, Berlin.
Relief of Asklepios from Pola at My Favourite Planet

Drawing of a relief of Asklepios from Pola, Istria, by James "Athenian" Stuart (1713–1788).

"It is of good sculpture, and is placed in the wall of the city near the port: it has the fortune still
to be held in veneration by the inhabitants of Pola, who mistake him for St. John the Baptist.
The part of his sceptre, round which a serpent is twisted, the usual symbol of this divinity,
is mistaken by the good people for the reed and the label, with which St John the Baptist
is usually figured; they never pass it without bowing and crossing themselves before it."

James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, measured and delineated,
Volume IV, Arch of the Sergii at Pola, chapter III, page 17. J. Taylor, London, 1816. At archive.org.

For further information about Stuart and Revett see Athens Acropolis gallery page 12
Map, photos and articles: © David John

Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis

All photos and articles are copyright protected.

Images and materials by other authors
have been attributed where applicable.

Please do not use these photos or articles without permission.

If you are interested in using any of the photos for your website,
blog or publication, please get in contact.

Higher resolution versions are available on request.

Some of the information and photos in this guide to Pergamon
originally appeared in 2004 on davidjohnberlin.de.
 
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photo essays about Turkey:

Istanbul Essentials part 1

Istanbul Essentials part 2

Istanbul Essentials part 3
with video

Ionian Spring part 1

Ionian Spring part 2

Ionian Spring part 3
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