The most dramatic of the remains of Pergamum are at the Acropolis. Take a smooth, 15-minute ride on the teleferik (gondola lift; TL 10 for round trip), which offers sweeping views on its way up the hill, or follow signs pointing the way to the 6-km (4-mile) road to the top, where you can park. The parking lot is across from the row of souvenir stands, which sell drinks and reasonably good picture books containing site maps. Buy your ticket at the gate. Broken but still mighty triple ramparts enclose the upper town, with its temples, palaces, private houses, and gymnasia (schools). In later Roman times, the town spread out and down to the plain, where the Byzantines subsequently settled for good.
After entering the site through the Royal Gate, there are several different paths. To start at the top, pick the path to the far right, which takes you past the partially restored Temple of Trajan, at the summit. This is the very picture of an ancient ruin, with burnished
white-marble pillars high above the valley of the Bergama Çayı (Selinus River). The vaulted foundations of the temple, later used as cisterns, are also impressive. On the terraces just below, you can see the scant remains of the Temple of Athena and the Altar of Zeus. Once among the grandest monuments in the Greek world, the Altar of Zeus was excavated by German archaeologists who sent Berlin's Pergamon Museum every stone they found, including the frieze, 400 feet long, that vividly depicts the battle of the gods against the giants. Now all that's left is the altar's flat stone foundation. There's much more to see of the Great Theater, carved into the steep slope west of the terrace that holds the Temple of Athena: It could seat some 10,000 spectators and retains its astounding acoustics.
Nearby are the ruins of the famous library, built by Eumenes II (197 BC–159 BC) and containing 200,000 scrolls. As the Pergamum library came to rival the great library in Alexandria, Egypt, the Egyptians banned the sale of papyrus to Pergamum, which responded by developing a new paper—parchment—made from animal skins instead of reeds. This charta pergamena was more expensive but could be used on both sides; because it was difficult to roll, it was cut into pieces and sewn together, much like today's books. The library of Pergamum was transported in 41 BC to Alexandria by Mark Antony as a gift for Cleopatra. It survived there until the 7th century AD, when it was destroyed by the fanatical Caliph Omar, who considered the books un-Islamic.
Farther down the hill, following signs to the lower agora, the excavated living quarters of Building Z hold well-restored 2nd-century AD mosaics.