Pergamon, 8th September
The forecast was for a few degrees cooler (only low 30's) so we decided to do the day trip to Turkey to visit Pergamon, one of the notable ancient sites. We caught the 9am ferry to Ayvalik for the 1 ½ hr crossing. En-route, we encountered yet another RIB filled to bursting with migrants heading for the Greek shore - unusual to see it in daylight, normally it's a night crossing to avoid detection.
We had ordered (and paid for) a hire car online the previous day. We took a bus to the town centre, to a back street where the little Avis office was. Although ever hopeful, they had no knowledge of the order - and hence no car. Wait they said, one of us will drive you to the Ferry Port (from whence we have just come) and we will deliver a car to you there. And you can drop it back there this evening. For the sake of a ½ hour wait and a bit of linguistic confusion, we had an upgraded, air-conditioned car and an easy return to catch the ferry. Result.
Pergamon is a fabulous site. It is not as complete and impressive in itself as Ephesus (visited last year), but is more spectacular in setting - high up on a hill overlooking a vast plain below. They have built a cable car to take you up to the top, so we parked at the bottom with the aim of going up the easy way and walking down. On the top sits the Acropolis, with temples and palaces and arsenals and theatre. Further down the hill is the "Middle City", with two gymnasia, two more temples and vast agora (meeting / market place). It was founded by the Greeks in the 8th C BC, but really rose to prominence about 4 centuries later. Alexander the Great made it an important trading post. After his death, his General left Alexander's fortune in charge of his trusted eunuch, Philetarus. The general died in battle, Philetarus decided not to hand over Alexander's legacy and used it on a building spree - temples, palaces, gymnasia, and a library that rivalled Alexandria's - a major cultural centre. It had 200,000 books (apparently they were later given to Cleopatra as a wedding gift). The Egyptians were jealous and refused to supply them with papyrus. So Pergamon developed the technique of turning animal hide into wafer thin writing material, called parchment. As it was known then, and now.
The Acropolis contains an arsenal and barracks right on top, then various royal palaces (only outlines remain). The best preserved / restored bit is the Trajan's Temple with beautiful marble columns and intricate friezes. The greatest building was the Temple of Zeus - actually mentioned in the Bible, Book of Revelations as a seat of Satan! Sadly only the foundations remain. One of the most impressive sites was the theatre - one of the steepest in the world and even now, with good acoustics. It held 10,000 spectators. I climbed down to the bottom stage (it was certainly steep!); R was just a speck sat up on top. He took a picture looking down - I am only a small dot. The scale is vast.
We took too long exploring and walking down the hill through the "Middle City" of Agoras, Gymnasia, Gates and temples and needed to head back to the Port, an hour's drive away. It meant missing the 4thC BC Asklepion (after the Greek God of healing) a few miles away. It was one of the great medical and healing centres of the ancient world. It was here that Galen (greatest physician) in the 1st C BC discovered that blood, not air ran through our arteries. He studied and dissected, and his many treatises on medical practice were so detailed and accurate that they were standard works for centuries right through to the end of the Middle Ages in the 1500's. Possibly less there to actually see, but it would have been nice.
Hey ho, back to base, the boat and Mytilini for the last time. We will go south on the island for a few days before heading back down to the Dodecanese.