The Asklepieion of Pergamon: mystic & sacred treatment center

Visiting the Asklepieion of Pergamon is a blessing in many ways. This ancient site is overlooked by Pergamon’s Acropolis and is quite extraordinary. It features the most remarkable structures, a sacred source that is still flowing, and a mystic aura suited for a place dedicated to the God of Healing. In this post, we’ll take you on a tour of one of the most important healing centers in the ancient world, the Asklepieion in Pergamon.

Click here to see the Asklepieion in Pergamon on a map
Part Of The Vaulted Sacred Way Coming From The Acropolis

Part Of The Vaulted Sacred Way Coming From The Acropolis

The history of the Asklepieion

According to the legend, the Asklepieion of Pergamon was founded in the middle of the 4th century BC but finds from excavations place the cult in prehistoric times. Still, the Sanctuary as you see it today was mainly built under the rule of Emperor Hadrian, in the period 117 – 138 AD. It is located on a ridge at the Geyikli mountain’s foot, just outside the city of Pergamon, and surrounded by natural springs claimed to have healing powers.

Read More About The Acropolis Of Pergamon On Slow Travel Guide Read our comprehensive Pergamon guide
Look At That Pavement Of The Via Tecta!

Look At That Pavement Of The Via Tecta!

The Asklepieion Seen From Atop The Theater

The Asklepieion Seen From Atop The Theater

A mystic healing center deserves a good myth, and so it goes for the Asklepieion of Pergamon. Arkhias, a citizen of Pergamon and the first presiding magistrate of the city, went hunting in Greece where he hurt his foot. He was taken to Epidauros, the most prestigious Asklepieion in Greece, where his foot healed. Upon his return, he established the cult of Asklepios in his hometown Pergamon out of gratitude. The Sanctuary had a solid reputation during the Roman era, mainly thanks to famous doctors such as Galen’s healing methods.

Click here to read more about Epidaurus in Greece

View Of The North Portico At The Asklepieion At Pergamon

View Of The North Portico At The Asklepieion At Pergamon

Part Of The Via Tecta Looking Towards The Acropolis

Part Of The Via Tecta Looking Towards The Acropolis

The Sanctuary of Asklepios

The Asklepieion of Pergamon was connected to the Acropolis by a sacred way called the Via Tecta. The vaulted way started at the ruined gate near the cities’ Roman Amphitheater. The gate was designed so that the priest doctors (or Asklepiades) could examine the patients before they entered the Sanctuary. Pregnant women and dying patients were refused entrance. Legend has it that an inscription on the gate read:

Death is forbidden to enter the Asklepieion as a token of respect to the Gods

The sacred way continued until the entrance gate of the Asklepieion. The final part was a colonnaded road with shops selling vows and other products to assist with the healing process. Here, to the south of the Via Tecta, you will also see the monumental grave (or Heroon) from an unknown but probably important person. The Heroon dates back to the time when Emperor Augustus ruled.

The Heroon South Of Via Tecta

The Heroon South Of Via Tecta

The Stunning Remains Of The Via Tecta

The Stunning Remains Of The Via Tecta

At the end of the Via Tecta and the Roman shops, patients entered the Sanctuary through the Propylon gateway and courtyard. The Temple of Zeus Asklepion, the courtyard of the Sanctuary with Porticoes on three sides, some smaller temples, sacred pools, a treatment center, sleeping rooms, and a theater surrounded them, to name a few structures.

Propylon Courtyard With The Northern Portico And The Theater In The Background

Propylon Courtyard With The Northern Portico And The Theater In The Background

Via the northern Portico, you reach the semi-circular Theater with a capacity of 3.500 seats divided over two sections. The northern Portico is the best preserved of the remaining Porticoes at the Asklepieion. Some of its Ionic style columns were re-erected during restorations works. During the reign of Eumenes II, in the 2nd century BC, another Portico was built in Doric style as part of a Gymnasium or a center for pilgrims.

Northern Portico At The Asklepieion

Northern Portico At The Asklepieion

Theater At Pergamon's Asklepieion

Theater At Pergamon’s Asklepieion

Hellenistic Portico With The Theater In The Background

Hellenistic Portico With The Theater In The Background

At the center of the courtyard were sleeping rooms for patients, smaller temples, and sacred pools of which the remains are still visible today. Even today, you can still experience the sacred source’s benefits, as the water is still flowing. After the priest doctors had analyzed their dreams, patients would go from their sleeping rooms to the Circular Treatment Building through a vaulted passage or Kryptoporticus.

The treatments there were partly based on the interpretations of their dreams. The 70-meter long underground passage was more than just a protection against adverse weather conditions; it also provided a mystic and tranquil environment with the sound of the sacred water running down the steps supporting the treatment.

The Vaulted Passage Or Kryptoporticus At The Asklepieion

The Vaulted Passage Or Kryptoporticus At The Asklepieion

The Circular Treatment Building in the southeast corner of the sacred area was built to fulfill the demands of an increasing number of patients during the Roman Period. It was a vaulted two-story building, of which only one floor now remains. The middle is a circular carrying structure with a diameter of 18 m with a gallery of annular vaults and double naves traveling around it. This is a truly fascinating and spectacular structure, and probably the only one of its kind we’ve seen in Turkey!

Circular Treatment Building Seen From Above With The South Portico Behind It

Circular Treatment Building Seen From Above With The South Portico Behind It

The Circular Treatment Building Is Just Mind Blowing!

The Circular Treatment Building Is Just Mind Blowing!

The Complex Structure Of The Circular Treatment Building

The Complex Structure Of The Circular Treatment Building

The Zeus Asklepion Temple lies almost right next to the Circular Treatment Building. The building is modeled on the Pantheon in Rome with a circular plan and an inner diameter of 24 m covered by a dome with an oculus to let the light in. Nowadays, only the footprint of the structure remains. A cult niche near the entrance held the statue of Zeus Asklepios, and the altar was probably housed in one of the niches to the side. People entered the Temple through a flight of stairs, which was also accessible from another tunnel, still preserved today.

Temple Of Zeus Asklepion At The Asklepieion

Temple Of Zeus Asklepion At The Asklepieion

Visiting the Asklepieion: things you need to know

First of all, the Asklepieion is a must-see. You cannot visit Pergamon or Bergama without seeing this place too. The atmosphere is so tranquil that the serenity is almost tangible. This is a special place that deserves more than a rushed walk-through. Take your time and take in the beauty. And do see the Asklepieion in its context by combining your visit with the other sites.

You’ll need four different tickets if you want to get a complete picture. Click on the links below for current ticket prices and opening times of the locations.

Bergama is easy to reach by car and well signposted from the E87 highway. If you are relying on public transportation. You have several options, including a regular service from Kınık and Aliağa. Simply enter Bergama Akropol Asklepion as a destination on this page. Please, allow enough time to visit this area; two days is the absolute minimum.

Click here to see places to stay near the Asklepieion at Pergamon on a map

Read More About Bergama On Slow Travel Guide Take a tour around Bergama town in this post
Unnamed Remains Next To The Zeus Asklepios Temple

Unnamed Remains Next To The Zeus Asklepios Temple

✔️ Have you been to the Asklepieion at Pergamon? Then please head over to our Turkey Trip Planner to leave a review. Alternatively, if you plan on visiting, you can add the site to your bucket list.
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The Asklepieion Of Pergamon: Mystic & Sacred Treatment Center
The Asklepieion Of Pergamon: Mystic & Sacred Treatment Center
The Asklepieion Of Pergamon: Mystic & Sacred Treatment Center
The Asklepieion Of Pergamon: Mystic & Sacred Treatment Center
The Asklepieion Of Pergamon: Mystic & Sacred Treatment Center

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The Asklepieion of Pergamon: mystic & sacred treatment center