This very rare, separately issued map showcases the Acropolis of Pergamon, one of the greatest sites of Classical antiquity, and since the late 19th Century one of the Mediterranean’s most impressive archaeological sites. Pergamon is located near the city of Bergama, not far from Izmir, Turkey, about 26 km inland from the modern-day shores of the Aegean Sea.
The map, bearing text in 5 languages (French, Ottoman Turkish, Greek, English and German), focuses closes upon the ancient acropolis (orientated with the east at the top), which occupies the top of a plateau. The map is largely taken from plans made by German archaeologists in the 1880s, supplemented with more recent discoveries. The large compound is enclosed in walls, and features two major concentrations of buildings, located at the eastern and western ends of the plateau. Even 1,500 years after the Pergamon’s heyday, the city features many large and impressive edifices. Labelled in German directly on the map are various highlights, including the locations of the Theatre, the various walls, the Gymnasion, the Market and the location of the famous Great Altar. The key labels 39 additional sites by number.
While the map is not dated, it was, based on its style and content, clearly issued a short time before World War I, likely around 1910. The typography is of that time and, on the verso, below the title are a series of statistics relating to the region’s population and economy that accord to the pre-war period. Notably, it records that the modern town of Pergamon (today’s Bergama) had a population of 19,330, of which a little over 60% was made up by ethnic Turks, a little over 30% by ethnic Greeks, while the balance was made up of Jews and Armenians. This demographic make-up would change dramatically following the Turkish War of Independence (1919-22), when the vast majority of the region’s Greek and Armenian residents were expelled. Ottoman Turkish scrip, as employed on the present map, was to be replaced with Turkish written in Latin characters in 1927.
The map was compiled by Aristodème G. Sofiano, a conservator of antiquities. We have not been able to learn much about Sofiano, other than that he published a book on the ancient city some years later, Pergame Moderne et Antique avec plan-carte-gravures (Athens, 1930).
Pergamon rose to prominence during the Hellenistic Period when, from 281 to 133 BC, it served as the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon, a small state made fabulously wealthy by trade. Pergamon reached its height under Roman Imperial rule and was home to about 200,000 inhabitants, possessing the second largest library in the Classical world (after Alexandria) . It was also a major early centre of Christianity, and appears in the Book of Revelations as being one of the ‘Seven Churches of Asia’.
Pergamon suffered a sharp decline in the Middle Ages and the receding shoreline of the Aegean left it far inland. The city was eventually abandoned, and the grand edifices were permitted to become overgrown. While the location of the ancient city was never forgotten, Pergamon was totally neglected until the German engineer Karl Humann (1839 – 1896) visited the site in 1864-5.
Humann became completely enchanted by Pergamon and intervened to protect the marble ruins from the looting that had recently recommenced. He drummed up support in Berlin to have Pergamon properly excavated and protected, recieving financial support from Alexander Conze, the director of the Berlin Sculpture Museum. In 1878, after obtaining the official participation of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut and the appropriate permits from the Ottoman government, Humann began archaeological excavations at Pergamon. Not long after work commenced, he discovered the Great Pergamon Altar, an immense marble construction that was one of the most impressive works of Hellenistic art ever encountered. Further excavations were undertaken in 1880-1881 and 1883-1886. Many of the more fragile antiquities, including the Great Altar, were shipped to Germany. These artefacts later formed the basis of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
The present map is evidently very rare, we have no been able to locate even a reference to it, let alone the location of another example.