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MASTERPIECES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: PERGAMUM MUSEUM
2002 / FEBRUARY

A few small photographs discovered between the yellowing pages of an old book recorded some of the eminent visitors to a small Aegean town. The handwritten captions beneath them read, 'Our great leader Kemal Atatürk amongst the ruins, Pergamum Healing Shrine, 13 April 1934', and 'Swedish Crown Prince Gustav Adolf's consort Princess Louise and their daughter Princess Ingrid amongst the monuments of Pergamum,14 October 1934'. Beside these figures could be seen another looking out from the photographs, the face of a man who dedicated his life to the city. This was Osman Bayatli who wrote over twenty books about Pergamum, and who as a teacher and museum curator accompanied these important guests around the magnificent ruins .
These occasions were memorable in themselves, but Osman Bayatli was additionally overjoyed because a new museum building was then being constructed outside the modern town of Bergama.

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MASTERPIECES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: PERGAMUM MUSEUM
2002 / FEBRUARY

He had played a major part in the establishment of Bergama Museum and was aware how significant this new building, which was to open on 30 October 1936, was for a city which had once been the most powerful and magnificent in this region of western Turkey. When Bayatli was posted as a teacher to Bergama in the early 1920s, the Asklepion, one of the three celebrated medical institutions of the ancient world, had not yet been excavated, but the ancient ruins on the acropolis were enough to bind him to the city for life. When notification of a new teaching post arrived he resigned so as to remain in Bergama and pursue his research into the history and culture of the ancient city. Although the Altar of Zeus, that superlative masterpiece of ancient Hellenistic sculpture, had been taken to Germany in the late 19th century and today graces the Pergamum Museum in Berlin, many other finds from that period still remained in a storage building in the Lower Agora that had been established by German archaeologists during the second phase of excavations between 1900 and 1913.

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MASTERPIECES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: PERGAMUM MUSEUM
2002 / FEBRUARY
According to Bayatli every stone and shard discovered at Pergamum was of incalculable value, since this city had been one of the most magnificent centres of learning and culture of its age. In particular the statuary of Pergamum exerted a lasting influence on Greek sculpture, characterised as it was by a masterful sense of movement and the expression of emotions such as exuberance, joy and grief. In 1924 Bayatli became director of the Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum, the first in Turkey built specifically for an ancient city to house finds from excavations there.
In 1927 a new journey of discovery into the unknown world of Pergamum began under Theodor Wiegand, director of the German Archaeological Institutes. Wiegand launched the first excavations of the precinct dedicated to the god of healing Asklepios that year, and the splendours that were revealed made it clear that a new museum was required to display the finds from this site.
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MASTERPIECES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: PERGAMUM MUSEUM
2002 / FEBRUARY

One of the most important was a naked statue of the Emperor Hadrian discovered in the library of the Asklepion, the finest statue of this emperor ever discovered. Another remarkable statue that was unearthed represented Nike, the goddess of victory, which had been an acroterion on the pediments of one of the monumental buildings. This statue created such a powerful impact, that before long it had become the symbol of the modern town of Bergama. Meanwhile the inscriptions belonging to the Asklepion gave valuable insight into the role of this therapeutic centre: 'The Asklepion is exempt from all kinds of taxes... For the god of death, and for the honour of all the gods, it is proclaimed that death is prohibited in the healing shrines, which are sacred places.' When Chief of Staff Marshal Fevzi Çakmak visited Pergamum in 1932 he was so impressed by what he saw, that he gave the go-ahead for the eagerly awaited new museum. Germany assisted in financing the project, and Harald Hanson, an architect on the excavation team, drew the plans,

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MASTERPIECES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: PERGAMUM MUSEUM
2002 / FEBRUARY
taking as his model the Altar of Zeus. In pursuit of a shared dream, both Turks and Germans worked enthusiastically. Later additions and alterations mean that the museum is somewhat changed in appearance today. It houses finds covering a broad timespan from the Bronze Age to the Byzantine period, including a statue of a young girl, bronze figurines found in houses dating from the Hellenistic period in the Lower Agora, and portrait busts of such famous figures as Socrates and Caracalla. Among the recent finds are a head and group of reliefs which have left earlier finds in the shade to become the museuser most celebrated exhibits. The head was found on the colonnaded sacred road of the Asklepion and is a masterpiece of the Pergamene school of sculpture. Dubbed the 'Wild Man', the head is thought probably to represent Marsyas, the Phrygian satyr tortured to death by Apollo. Whether or not this head was part of the famous friezes of the Altar of Zeus is a subject of heated debate.
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MASTERPIECES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: PERGAMUM MUSEUM
2002 / FEBRUARY

Reliefs discovered in the Marble Hall of the Small Gymnasium are the most recent finds added to the peerless museum collection. The striking scenes on their panels largely represent concepts like heroism, victory, power and nobility, symbolised by helmets with rays or stars, fighting cocks, armour, swords, and spears.
The Ethnographical Section of the museum, with its fascinating collection of artefacts relating to local folk culture, is also of great interest. And do not forget to look out for the photograph of Osman Bayatli, the man to whom Pergamum and its museum owe so much.

* Nermin Bayçin is an archaeologist

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