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Fez Bus Tour - Troy and Pergamum

Troy Travel Blog

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The Horse

The Aegean coast of Turkey is filled with ancient Greek cities. It's difficult to differentiate them in your mind after the fact - was that cool amphitheatre at Aspendos or Aphrodisias? -  but these three stick out in my mind. This is partly because I've now been them twice but also because they are among the most visited by tourists.

Let's start with Troy. Troy is certainly the most famous of the three.  I never knew Troy existed in real life until my first Turkey tour in 2003. There is so much allure and appeal to Troy because of its well-known history. I was so excited to visit the set of one of history's most well-known stories.  Unfortunately for us there is little left to show that Helen, Paris, Hector and Achilles once dwelled in this place.

Pergamum
Apart from an endearingly cheesy life-size replica of the infamous Horse, all that remains are old foundations, a couple of walls and a large ramp that was used for chariots (and alas, historians are sure that it wasn't used to pull the horse into the city).

Our tour guide Captain Ali, who also showed us around Gallipoli (and had plenty more jokes about his wife and his short stature) did a nice job of pointing out some of the interesting details of the place like the difference between Greek and Roman walls. (Greeks had more emphasis on aesthetics for those of you dying to know.)

While Troy is notable for its famous myth/history, the site of Pergamum offers more, well, sights and quite a few interesting tales of its own, told to us by another very interesting and knowledgeable guide .
Pergamum amphitheatre
  As a weary traveler Pergamum lets you take in more of its history without struggling to imagine what it must have looked like in each of its nine different incarnations. There's the Temple of Trajan, albeit in a ruined state, and a breath-taking old theatre that could hold about 10,000 people. It is breath-taking merely in its steepness. I felt my legs wobble as I looked down upon it. This is where, reportedly, the act of clapping first came into existence. Apparently, the Emperor used to come to see shows at this place and at the end of the performance, the Emperor got first dibs on leaving the place to avoid the gridlock that follows such an event. Unfortunately for the attendees, one Emperor didn't have such a great attention span and used to fall asleep during the performances, forcing the poor spectators to spend the night until he awoke. As this continued to happen, the clever theatre-goers began clapping at the end of the performance in order to wake up the sleepy Emperor, which is a practice we've now continued to this day.

Pergamum is also where parchment was invented, after the Greeks were no longer able to acquire papyrus. The creation of this parchment was highly successful, and as a direct result or not, Pergamum also became home to the second largest library in the ancient world, only after Alexandria. However, no books remain from that library because the whole collection was given to Cleopatra as a wedding gift. The Pergamumians (?) were seemingly quite generous because they not only gave up their lovely library but also their entire kingdom. The last king of Pergamum, before it became Roman territory, actually just handed over his whole empire to the Romans. Apparently, he had no heirs or was off his rocker at the time of death. This region of Turkey is one of the few areas of the Roman world that wasn't taken by force.

Ironically, what was taken from the Turks was an important part of Pergamum's history and it wasn't the Romans who were to blame. The exquisite Altar of Zeus, with its marble friezes of an epic battle between the gods and the giants, is nowhere to be found. Where it used to be, there is nothing left but some foundations and an old tree. You have to travel to Berlin, Germany to see this ancient altar at the Pergamum Museum. There is of course much controversy over this, much like Elgin's Marbles at the Acropolis in Athens. It is unlikely that these will be returned, as the Germans would have to change the name of an entire museum to do so.

While both Troy and Pergamum are fascinating and beautiful, the ancient city of Ephesus is simply spectacular. And, not realizing that I could write this much about both Troy and Pergamum, Ephesus truly deserves its own separate blog.

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The Horse
The Horse
Pergamum
Pergamum
Pergamum amphitheatre
Pergamum amphitheatre
Troy
photo by: portia