Bergama, also known as Pergamon in ancient times, is a historic city located in the İzmir Province of Turkey. Situated on the fertile plains of the Caicus River, Bergama has a rich history that spans thousands of years, characterized by its strategic location, political events, and diverse cultural influences.
Bergama's history dates back to the 3rd millennium BCE when it was originally settled by the Hittites. Over the centuries, the region was ruled by various civilizations, including the Lydians, Persians, and Macedonians. However, it was under the Hellenistic Kingdom of Pergamon that the city flourished and became one of the most important centers of culture, art, and learning in the ancient world.
During the Hellenistic period, Pergamon was renowned for its Library, second only to the Library of Alexandria, and its impressive Altar of Zeus. The city also had a well-developed theater, an acropolis, and numerous temples dedicated to various gods and goddesses. The population of Pergamon at its peak is estimated to have been around 200,000 inhabitants, making it a bustling metropolis of the time.
Political events greatly influenced the trajectory of Bergama's history. After the death of Alexander the Great, Pergamon came under the control of the Seleucid Empire. However, in 190 BCE, Pergamon gained independence under the Attalid dynasty. The Attalids continued to foster the city's cultural and artistic achievements, attracting renowned scholars and artists from around the Mediterranean.
In 133 BCE, the last Attalid king, Attalus III, bequeathed Pergamon to the Roman Republic. The city's cultural and artistic heritage continued to thrive under Roman rule. The Romans built new structures, including an impressive amphitheater, and expanded the city's infrastructure, such as the construction of aqueducts and roads. Pergamon remained an important political and administrative center throughout the Roman Empire.
The decline of the Roman Empire in the 4th century CE brought about significant changes for Pergamon. The city faced invasions by Goths and other Germanic tribes, which resulted in the loss of its former grandeur. In the following centuries, Pergamon came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire, the Seljuks, and later the Ottoman Empire.
Under the Byzantine Empire, the city was an important ecclesiastical center and housed several churches and monasteries. However, it experienced frequent invasions and conflicts due to its strategic location. The Seljuks, a Turkic dynasty, captured Pergamon in the 11th century and incorporated it into their expanding empire. During this time, the city's population declined, and it lost its previous prominence.
With the arrival of the Ottoman Empire in the late 14th century, Pergamon, now known as Bergama, became part of the Ottoman province of Aydın. The Ottomans utilized the city's strategic location by building fortifications and military establishments. Bergama served as a regional administrative center and a significant market town.
The early 20th century brought political and social transformations to Bergama. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Bergama became part of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. The city's population grew steadily during the early years of the republic due to increased economic opportunities and urbanization.