Our day began quite early as our scheduled drive from Izmir to Pergamum was to take several hours. Our tour guide Djenk [His name is spelled “Cenk” but the starting “c” has a Turkish cedilla (It looks like a tail.) giving it the sound of “dj” or even “sch”, so I’ve tried to spell it in such a way that you can pronounce it the way we are hearing it.], while giving us the history of the area, ended up telling us about his mandatory military service and how he came to speak English so well. It was very entertaining. Gerry and I had spoken to him at dinner one night and learned that he was raised Muslim, but his dad was very open-minded, telling his children that he expected them to love God, but how that love came to expression was open to variation. Djenk was educated in a French catholic school where he learned about Christ; he attends a catholic church to this day. His willingness to be real with us only adds to our enjoyment of him as he informs us about his home country.
Upon reaching Pergamum, our goal was the Acropolis, the city’s high point, where it has been possible to excavate the ruins with less difficulty as there are no contemporary buildings. We accomplished the Acropolis in a cable car, giving us a great view of Pergamum’s location, the present-day city, and the beautiful surroundings. We hiked all the way to the top to gain proper perspective, then gradually worked our way back to the cable car, taking a good three hours to enjoy the site. First stop at the top was Trajan’s Temple,
evidence that the Roman emperor established the Imperial cult here in Pergamum as was the case across the Roman empire.
The theater, as center of ancient city social and political life, always has a prominent spot, but given the steepness of the Acropolis terrain and the fact that theaters were constructed into the geography, not upon it, Pergamum’s theater has a very steep incline, bringing about some pedestrian drama for us, but also a great view over the city. Jeff provided interesting facts and ideas as we sat, imagining ourselves ancient Pergamites, for a minute anyway.
In preparation for our hearing Christ’s words to the Pergamum church from Revelation 2/3, Jeff led us to a portion of the ruins to see a structure where it is very likely groups would gather to share a religious meal of meat sacrificed at the pagan temple. Part of our group re-enacted the meal with much bantering and a bit of silliness,
but we all caught Jeff’s passion for understanding the way idolatry easily slips into our daily practices.
After lunch, we had a long drive to Troas, which became much longer as we were somewhat mired behind a large truck for some time. The concern of our leaders that we would not get to the ancient Troas harbor site before dark was real, but I think God had a hand in all this, because we reached the seashore just in time for a glorious sunset. Had we been any earlier, we may have missed this blessed and beautiful sight. We now have a better understanding of pertinent Biblical events at Troas (jumping off spot for Paul’s first trip to bring the gospel to Europe, e.g.) as Jeff illuminated those passages from Acts. A short drive to our sea-side hotel ended our day. Wednesday we cross over into Greece — farewell to Turkey …. sigh.