PER'GAMUM (per'ga-mum). A city of Mysia in Asia Minor, about three miles N of the river Bakyrtchai (the ancient Caicus) and about twenty miles from the sea. It had a vast library of 200,000 volumes, which was moved by Antony to Egypt and presented to Cleopatra. In this town was first discovered the art of making parchment, which was called pergamena. The city was greatly addicted to idolatry, and its grove, which was one of the wonders of the place, was filled with statues and altars. Antipas met martyrdom here (Rev 2:13), and here was one of the seven churches of Asia (v. 12). The wealth of the Attalic princes had raised Pergamum to the rank of the first city in Asia as regards splendor. It was a sort of union of a pagan cathedral city, a university town, and a royal residence, embellished during a succession of years by kings who all had a passion for expenditure and ample means of gratifying it.

The acropolis of the city seems to have been well fortified as early as the fourth century B.C. Attalos I (241-197 B.C.) began to construct the magnificent buildings that were to earn the city a pristine place among ancient Greek centers. Eumenes II (197-159) erected the most magnificent structures of the acropolis. Systematic study of Pergamum began in 1878 after the German engineer Carl Human (now buried on the Pergamum acropolis) discovered the great altar of Zeus (believed by some to be Satan's seat, Rev 2:13), now in East Berlin. Major archaeological campaigns have been conducted there: 1878-86, 1900-1913, 1927-36, 1957-72, and 1975 to the present. Most of the structures on the acropolis have now been laid bare, as has the famous asclepion, or hospital complex, in the lower city of the Roman period. I. U. Rombock of the German Archaeological Institute has been directing restoration of the temple of Hadrian on the acropolis since 1976.  H.F.V. (From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)



A city of Mysia, three miles N. of the River Caicus. Eumenes II (197-159 B.c.) built a beautiful city round an impregnable castle on "the pine-coned rock." Attalus II bequeathed his kingdom to Rome 133 B.C. The library was its great boast; founded by Earaches and destroyed by Caliph Omar. The prepared sheepskins were called pergamena charta from whence our "parchment" is derived. The Nicephorium, or thank offering grove for victory over Antiochus, had an assemblage of temples of idols, Zeus, Athene, Apollo, Aesculapius, Dionysus, Aphrodite. Aesculapius the healing god (Tacitus, Ann. 3:63) was the prominent Pergamean idol (Martial); the Pergamenes on coins are called "the principal temple-care-takers (neokoroi) of Asia," and their ritual is made by Pausanias a standard. The grove of Aesculapius was recognized by the Roman senate under Tiberius as having right of sanctuary. The serpent (Satan's image) was sacred to him, charms and incantations were among medical agencies then, and Aesculapius was called "saviour." How appropriately the address to the Pergamos church says, "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat (throne) is," etc.

Here ANTIPAS (which see), Jesus' "faithful martyr," was slain (Rev 2:12-16). "Thou hast them that hold the doctrine of Beldam who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before ... Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols and to commit fornication"; this naturally would happen in such an idol-devoted city. The Nicolaitanes persuaded some to escape obloquy by yielding in the test of faithfulness, the eating of idol meats; even further, on the plea of Christian "liberty," to join in fornication which was a regular concomitant of certain idols' worship. Jesus will compensate with "the hidden manna" (in contrast to the occult arts of Aesculapius) the Pergamene Christian who rejects the world's dainties for Christ. Like the incorruptible manna preserved in the sanctuary, the spiritual feast Jesus offers, an incorruptible life of body and soul, is everlasting. The "white stone" is the glistering diamond, the Urim (light) in the high priest's breastplate; "none" but the high priest "knew the name" on it, probably Jehovah. As Phinehas was rewarded for his zeal against idol compliances and fornication (to which Balaam seduced Israel), with "an everlasting priesthood," so the heavenly priesthood is the reward of those zealous against New Testament Balaamites. Now Bergamo.  (from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)



(pur'-ga-mos), or (pur'-ga-mum) (he Pergamos, or to Pergamon): Pergamos, to which the ancient writers also gave the neuter form of the name, was a city of Mysia of the ancient Roman province of Asia, in the Caicus valley, 3 miles from the river, and about 15 miles from the sea. The Caicus was navigable for small native craft.

1. History: Two of the tributaries of the Caicus were the Selinus and the Kteios. The former of these rivers flowed through the city; the latter ran along its walls. On the hill between these two streams the first city stood, and there also stood the acropolis, the chief temples, and the theaters of the later city. The early people of the town were descendants of Greek colonists, and as early as 420 BC they struck coins of their own. Lysimachus, who possessed the town, deposited there 9,000 talents of gold. Upon his death, Philetaerus (283-263 BC) used this wealth to found the independent Greek dynasty of the Attalid kings. The first of this dynasty to bear the title of king was Attalus I (241-197 BC), a nephew of Philetaerus, and not only did he adorn the city with beautiful buildings until it became the most wonderful city of the East, but he added to his kingdom the countries of Mysia, Lydia, Caria, Pamphylia and Phrygia. Eumenes II (197-159 BC) was the most illustrious king of the dynasty, and during his reign the city reached its greatest height. Art and literature were encouraged, and in the city was a library of 200,000 volumes which later Antony gave to Cleopatra. The books were of parchment which was here first used; hence, the word "parchment," which is derived from the name of the town Pergamos. Of the structures which adorned the city, the most renowned was the altar of Zeus, which was 40 ft. in height, and also one of the wonders of the ancient world. When in 133 BC Attalus III, the last king of the dynasty, died, he gave his kingdom to the Roman government. His son, Aristonicus, however, attempted to seize it for himself, but in 129 he was defeated, and the Roman province of Asia was formed, and Pergamos was made its capital. The term Asia, as here employed, should not be confused with the continent of Asia, nor with Asia Minor. It applied simply to that part of Asia Minor which was then in the possession of the Romans, and formed into the province of which Pergamos was the capital. Upon the establishment of the province of Asia there began a new series of coins struck at Pergamos, which continued into the 3rd century AD. The magnificence of the city continued.

2. Religions: There were beautiful temples to the four great gods Zeus, Dionysus, Athena and Asklepios. To the temple of the latter, invalids from all parts of Asia flocked, and there, while they were sleeping in the court, the god revealed to the priests and physicians by means of dreams the remedies which were necessary to heal their maladies. Thus opportunities of deception were numerous. There was a school of medicine in connection with the temple. Pergamos was chiefly a religious center of the province. A title which it bore was "Thrice Neokoros," meaning that in the city 3 temples had been built to the Roman emperors, in which the emperors were worshipped as gods. Smyrna, a rival city, was a commercial center, and as it increased in wealth, it gradually became the political center. Later, when it became the capital, Pergamos remained the religious center. As in many of the towns of Asia Minor, there were at Pergamos many Jews, and in 130 BC the people of the city passed a decree in their favor. Many of the Jews were more or less assimilated with the Greeks, even to the extent of bearing Greek names.

3. Christianity: Christianity reached Pergamos early, for there one of the Seven Churches of the Book of Rev stood, and there, according to Rev 2:13, Antipas was marryred; he was the first Christian to be put to death by the Roman state. The same passage speaks of Pergamos as the place "where Satan's throne is," probably referring to the temples in which the Roman emperors were worshipped. During the Byzantine times Pergamos still continued as a religious center, for there a bishop lived. However, the town fell into the hands of the Seljuks in 1304, and in 1336 it was taken by Suleiman, the son of Orkhan, and became Turkish.

The modern name of the town, which is of considerable size, possessing 15 mosques, is Bergama, the Turkish corruption of the ancient name. One of its mosques is the early Byzantine church of St. Sophia. The modern town is built among the ruins of the ancient city, but is far less in extent. From 1879 to 1886 excavations among the ruins were conducted by Herr Humann at the expense of the German government. Among them are still to be seen the base of the altar of Zeus, the friezes of which are now in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin; the theater, the agora, the gymnasium and several temples. In ancient times the city was noted for its ointments, pottery and parchment; at present the chief articles of trade are cotton, wool, opium, valonia, and leather.  E. J. BANKS

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)



[PURR guh mos] (citadel)-the chief city of Mysia, near the Caicus River in northwest Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the site of one of the seven churches of Asia (Rev 1:11; 2:12-17; Pergamum, RSV, NIV, NEB, NASB). The city, situated opposite the island of Lesbos, was about 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the Aegean Sea.

In its early history Pergamos became a city-state, then a powerful nation after Attalus I (241-197 B.C.) defeated the Gauls (Galatians). It stood as a symbol of Greek superiority over the barbarians. Great buildings were erected and a library containing over 200,000 items was established. The Egyptians, concerned with this library which rivaled their own at ALEXANDRIA, refused to ship papyrus to Pergamos. As a result, a new form of writing material, Pergamena charta, or parchment, was developed.

In the days of Roman dominance throughout Asia Minor, Pergamos became the capital of the Roman province of Asia. In a gesture of friendship, Mark Antony gave Pergamos' library to Cleopatra; its volumes were moved to Alexandria.

Not only was Pergamos a government center with three imperial temples, but it was also the site of the temple of Asklepios (the Greco-Roman god of medicine and healing), and the medical center where the physician Galen worked (about A.D. 160). Here also was a temple to Athena and a temple to Zeus with an altar showing Zeus defeating snake-like giants. In the Book of Revelation, John spoke of Pergamos as the place "where Satan's throne is" (Rev 2:13). This could be a reference to the cult of EMPEROR WORSHIP, because Pergamos was a center where this form of loyalty was pledged to the emperor of the Roman Empire.  (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)