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  3. Pergamum

Pergamum, Turkey

Built on a conical hill rising 1,000 feet above the surrounding valley, Pergamum (also spelled Pergamon, from the Greek for "citadel") was an important capital city in ancient times. Its modern successor is the Turkish city of Bergama. A lack of modern accommodations means that Bergama is often a very quick stop, if visitors bother to come at all. But it is worth a long stop, for Bergama is home to two of the country's most celebrated archaeological sites: Pergamum's acropolis and Asklepion are both listed among the top 100 historical sites on the Mediterranean.

Most of the buildings and monuments in Pergamum date to the time of Eumenes II (197-159 BC), including the famed library, the terrace of the spectacularly sited hillside theater, the main palace, the Altar of Zeus, and the propylaeum of the Temple of Athena. In the early Christian era, Pergamum's church was a major center of Christianity and was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation (Rev. 2:12-17).

The ancient city is composed of three main parts: the Acropolis, whose main function was social and cultural as much as it was sacred; the Lower City, realm of the lower classes; and the Asklepion, one of the earliest medical centers on record.


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Sacred Sites and Religious Attractions in Pergamum

  • Asklepion
    Pergamum's 2nd-century Asklepion was a famed temple and medical center dedicated to Asklepius, the god of healing. Some treatments used a sacred water source that was later discovered to have radioactive properties.
  • Red Basilica (Temple of Serapis)
    This huge brick edifice was built in the 2nd century as a Roman temple to the god Serapis and later converted into a Byzantine church.
  • Zeus Altar
    The Zeus Altar was constructed by Eumenes II (d.159 BC) as a memorial of his victory against the Galatians. The altar is now in Berlin's Pergamon Museum, but the original site provides a sense of the altar's size and spectacular location.