Bergama’s Asklepion

We visited the Asklepion on our last day in Bergama. The Asklepion was, in ancient Greek and Roman times, a healing sanctuary dedicated to the god Asclepius, and I have to say it sounds like it would be a pretty popular place if it was still operating today. It was primarily for patients suffering from psychological problems, which would be diagnosed through dream interpretation, and treatments included sunbathing, mud baths, massage, herbal medicine and dietary advice. It sounds more like a modern spa than a hospital, and anyone who was anyone wanted to visit. And the Asklepion in Bergama also produced some notable figures – in particular Galen, the famous doctor, surgeon and philosopher whose medical theories dominated Western medicine for more than a thousand years.

Entering the Asklepion, you proceed down what was once a columned street before entering the main part of the sanctuary. A few vendors stick it out through the winter, selling pine nuts, pine honey and the usual tourist nick-knacks [ie. junk]. Little remains of what it once was, but with a little imagination it’s not so hard to get an idea of how grand the complex must have been. Some columns remain, as do some of the small spring-fed pools – although they don’t look too appealing and I think most doctors would advise against swimming in them today. There’s a small amphitheatre, and parts of the underground corridors can still be explored.

The site is fenced, and on one side is a military facility – so you have to be careful where you’re pointing your camera. On the other side is farmland, though I’m not sure if it’s privately owned or public property. There were a lot of makeshift houses/shacks made of corrugated iron and tarpaulins and cardboard and other scraps, and people are obviously living there. They graze sheep and goats, and I’m not sure whether they’re just here for the winter and are nomadic during the summer, or whether it’s a permanent settlement. Mum took a million photos of the sheep and goats.

When archways were found, I was once more forced to recall my long-lost gymnastics days and pose accordingly. One of the downsides of traveling with my mother!

Damnit, if I have to pose, so does she!

It is, after all, only fair!





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