Monday, January 14, 2008

Berlin - The Pergamon Altar

I was determined to visit the Pergamon museum during my stay in Berlin. I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed. Seeing the Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Altar was one of the highlights from my short stay.

The Pergamon Altar

The altar was constructed in the city of Pergamon (Greek; Πέργαμος, modern day Bergama in Turkey) from 189 - 150 BC. It was either dedicated to Zeus or Athena. Pergamon was an important city in Mysia on the north east coast of Asia Minor. During the Hellenistic Period the city grew in affluence and importance. The city had the largest library in the old world, only beaten by the library of Alexandria in Egypt.

The city of Pergamon has given its name to parchment (pergamenum in Latin), made from calves skin, that replaced the papyrus in the 3rd an 2nd century in Pergamon.

From Asia Minor to Berlin

The German archaeologist Carl Humann started the excavation of the altar on the Castle Hill in 1878. The excavation lasted for 8 years and did, after having paid the German a larger sum, move the remains to Berlin.

When you enter the large hall that house the altar, you are struck by the size of the monument. It covered a little over 1000 square metres (more 10000 square feet). The altar has been reconstructed on the giant staircase on which the altar once stood.

Giants and Gods

The Altar is very impressive, with a large number of ionic columns that carry the flat roof with decorated with large statues.

The base of the altar you find the remains of statues that once were there. The remains show the fight between giants and the Greek Gods. The remains have been placed without further restoration. The altar must have been a wonderful sight on the castle hill in Asia Minor.

The sculptures show the rich mythological world of the Greeks. This fragment depicts a snake being attacked by a bird or another winged creature. By its side you find a man with wings.

It is hard to absorb all the impressions in a place like this. The history, the fact that Revelation in the New Testament refers to it as "In Pergamos where Satan's Throne is". The fact that so much has survived the last two millennia and the bombing of Berlin during the Second World War.

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