Day Trip: Bergama

This past weekend, we explored the ancient Roman ruins of Pergamum, which are located in the modern city of Bergama, about two hours from Izmir. This place was similar to Ephesus, but without the congestion of tour buses, thus making these ruins instantly more enjoyable. We spent a few hours in the Acropolis, climbing through underground passageways, admiring the flawless stone architecture, and trying to imagine what kind of life we would have if we were born as Romans.

My favorite part was the 10,000 seat theater built into the hillside. Since there was limited space, it was built with a greater height, than width, which has a dizzying affect when you first enter the stadium from above. A close second for me was the bone-white, marble columns that were once part of the giant Temple of Trajan.

Afterwards, we drove a few kilometers to Asclepion, where one of the first, prominent Western medical schools was located. Some of the medical treatments included dream interpretation, mud baths, enemas and oil massages. Dream analysis was a popular healing method, because it was thought that a person’s mental health had to be sound, in order for their physical health to thrive. There was a special temple where patients could come in and sleep, and hopefully have vivid, revealing dreams.

There was also a healing spring, where you can still drink out of, but the plastic tube looked a little dingy, so I just washed my face instead (believe me this action made me feel reborn again). In the remains of the Temple of Asclepios (God of medicine), there was a symbol of two snakes on one of the central alters as a symbol of good health. In ancient Rome the shedding of a snake’s skin was thought to represent the renewal of life and health. The Rod of Asclepios can still be seen on such medical emblems like the Star of Life, which is seen on ambulances, paramedics or other EMS personnel.