Asklepion, Bergama

The Asklepion is a famed ancient medical center built in honor of Asklepios, the god of healing. It was also the world's first psychiatric hospital.

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History of Asklepion

The Asklepion gained in prominence under the Romans in the 2nd century AD, but a sacred site existed here as early as the 4th century BC.

Many of the treatments employed at Pergamum, in complement with a sacred source of water that was later discovered as having radioactive properties, have been used for centuries and are once again finding modern application.

The treatments included psychotherapy, massage, herbal remedies, mud and bathing treatments, the interpretation of dreams, and the drinking of water.

Quite unlike modern hospitals, everybody who was anybody was dying to get in to the Asklepion: patients included Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, and Caracalla.

But then again, the Asklepion was more like a modern spa than a hospital: therapy included mud baths, music concerts, and doses of water from the sacred fountain.

Hours of therapy also probed the meaning of the previous night's dreams, as patients believed dreams recounted a visit by the god Asklepios, who held the key to curing illness.

Galen, the influential physician and philosopher who was born in Pergamum in 129 AD, trained and then later became an attendant to the gladiators here.

What to See at Asklepion

Access to the Asklepeion is via the Sacred Way, which at 807m (2,690 ft.) long and colonnaded, originally connected the Asklepeion with the Acropolis. The sacred way becomes the stately Via Tecta near the entrance to the site and leads to a courtyard and fallen Propylaeum, or Monumental Gate.

Don't miss the focus of the first courtyard, an altar inscribed with the emblem of modern medicine, the serpent. To the right of the courtyard is the Emperor's Room, which was also used as a library.

The circular domed Temple of Asklepios, with a diameter of 23m (78 ft.), recalls the Pantheon in Rome, which was completed only 20 years earlier.

Reachable through an underground tunnel is what is traditionally called the Temple of Telesphorus, which served as both the treatment rooms and the sleeping chambers, an indication that sleep was integral in the actual healing process.

At various spots in the center of the complex are a total of three pools and fountains, used for bathing, drinking, and various other forms of treatment.

The northern colonnade, with 17 columns still in place, leads from the library to the restored theater, set into the slope of the hill. The theater hosts classical plays during the annual Bergama Festival. The semicircular Roman Theatre flanks the colonnaded promenade on the northwest corner of the site.

Quick Facts on Asklepion

Site Information
Names:Asklepion
Country:Turkey
Categories:temples; sacred waters; healing sites; resorts
Dedication: Asklepius
Dates:2nd C
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:39.118691° N, 27.165080° E
Address:Bergama, Turkey
Lodging:View hotels near Asklepion
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Frommer's Turkey, 3rd. ed.
  2. The Asklepieion - PlanetWare

More Information

© Andrys Basten
© Galen Frysinger
© arr√≤salforn
© Stuart Yeates

Map of Asklepion, Bergama

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