The Temple of Trajan in Pergamon was built around 114CE and used to worship both Trajan and the next emperor, Hadrian. Statues of both emperors were discovered during restoration work by the German Archaeological Institute and are now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
Pergamon – Been There

Alone with ghosts in the ruins of Pergamon

Photo by Paul Williams

Pergamon – Been There Alone with ghosts in the ruins of Pergamon

Pergamon used to be a rich and powerful ancient Greek city, but now is a vast Hellenistic metropolis that exists now only in columns and shattered walls. The greatest of its treasures are storehoused far away at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Tara Isabella Burton
Tara Isabella Burton Travel Writer

I ride the cable-car – sleek and chrome, newly constructed – to the acropolis. Below me, the ruins sprawl and snake along the ridges. The ground is bare of everything but rock. In the distance, a few dark trees dot the unremittingness of cliff, slope, plain. As we reach the peak, I start to make out shapes: once-houses, once-temples, once-streets. On this wintry evening I am alone with ghosts. Even the few souvenir sellers do not bother hawking to me as I pass. The solitude is thrilling.

The wind whips wild around me; I turn a corner, around another column, and still there is nobody but me. The savage loneliness of this place – bereft of its past, bereft even of so many of its remnants, imprisoned in Berlin – is thrilling. Every step brings another column, another shattered cornerstone, stones so big close up that it is impossible to imagine them as one of so many in a temple’s wall.

I arrive at the old Temple of Trajan, where a Roman Emperor became a god, at the narrow corridor that leads out into the gargantuan splendor of the acropolis: narrow but impossibly tall, carved into the acropolis hill itself. I am alone among the lizards, among the black leaf-bare trees, among the ruins. The sky darkens. A storm is starting. A few puppies seek refuge under a half-vanished archway. It is time to say goodbye to ghosts.

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