Pergamum Kingdom


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XIII. Pergamum Kingdom

Beginnings, Philetaerus

Pergamum Kingdom was built on the ashes of the Hellenistic Kingdoms in Asia Minor. It came into prominence after the death of Alexander the Great. During the split of Alexander's empire this part of Anatolia fell to Lysimachus, one of the successors (Diadochi) to Alexander. Lysimachus made a great fortune from his possessions in Asia Minor, which he left a great deal of it in the care of Philetaerus, one of his officers. As we remember, Seleucus I the Nicator invaded Asia Minor and he killed Lysimachus at the critical battle of Corrupedium in west Asia Minor in 281 BCE. So, Phileateurus now was in possession of the great city and wealth of Lysimachus. Philetaerus did not waste time to strengthen his position, and rebuilt his city Pergamum and reinforced its defense walls built earlier by Lysimachus. Due to a childhood injury, having have lost his manly powers, Philetaerus never got married and had no son, so decided to adopt his nephew Eumenes as his heir to the throne of his small kingdom that he was just building.

Eumenes I (263-241 BC)

Although Eumenes I (263-241 BCE), has never used the title of King, he is regarded as the first king in the line of Attalid dynasty who ruled the Pergamum Kingdom for five generations. The first thing in his mind was independence, as this part of Asia Minor was still controlled by the Seleucid dynasty. Eumenes I, defeated Antiochus I at the battle of Sardis in 262 BCE, and gained the status of independence. However, Seleucids wasn't the only trouble for his small kingdom, but the warrior-like Gauls a division of Celtic peoples from central Europe, crossed the Dardanelles ad settled in the Galatia region around Ankara to the east of Pergamum. From there they attacked the Pergamum Kingdom numerous times. Eumenes paid bribes to Gauls, and maintained a strong army, and built fortified cities of Attalia to the south and Philetaeria in the Troad region. He also built harbors of Elea and Pitane to maintain trading activities. In his time agriculture and industry developed and Pergamum Kingdom became even wealthier than earlier. He also established a constitution of democratic nature, but as a dynast he kept himself out of this democratic structure. Strategoi appointed by Eumenes I, conducted the government affairs successfully under the command of the King.

General view of Pergamum

Attalus I (241-197 BCE)

Eumenes I was succeeded by his nephew Attalus I., who was to rule the country for the next 44 years. Attalus was the first in line to use the royal title. One of the great accomplishments of Attalus I was to defeat the Gauls who have been trouble for the Kingdom for long. He had to deal with the Seleucids, he initially made successful campaigns against the Seleucid king Antiochus Hierax, and included temporarily a territory from western Asia Minor to north of Taurus mountains most of which he later lost to Seleucus III and Achaeus from 223 to 212 BCE. However, the agreement he made with Antiochus III the Great against Achaeus, secured Mysia and Aeolis for Attalus where Pergamum rule was consolidated and strengthened. He also established friendly relationships with his neighbors in Phrygia, Ionia, with the exception that of the hostility to Bithynia. Pergamenes honored their great king with the title "Soter" (saviour) and with monuments built in his name. Attalus' great skills in diplomacy brought Pergamum into close relationships with Rome, and Aeotolians. During the first Macedonian war, Attalus provided ships for the Romans and Aetolians. Following the war, Attalus gained Aegina, became the chief magistrate of the Aetolian confederacy. He was also included among the friends of Rome in the peace of Phoenice in 205 BCE. By that time, Philip V, the king of Macedonia was developing some other plans and turned his eyes to Pergamum and Rhodes in 204 BCE, a threat that Attalus was unable to encounter alone. So, he appealed to Rome for help that brought Rome back to Greece for the second Macedonian War (200-197 BCE) in which Attalus actively played a role with his fleet. Following the war, his diplomatic efforts resulted in the alliance of Rome, Sparta, Achaeans and Pergamum. Pergamum once more secured its position in Asia Minor through diplomatic ways. It is told that Attalus gained the support of Romans by providing for them a sacred stone from Pessinus which was famous for being the main cult center of Cybele, which was believed to represent Cybele or Kybele, the great mother goddess. Attalus was succeeded by his son Eumenes II who would do not less than his father for his kingdom.

Eumenes II (197-160 BCE)

During the reign of Eumenes II, Pergamum Kingdom reached its peak. When he succeeded to the throne as the eldest son of Attalus, he gained tremendous support from his family, mother and three brothers. Seleucid king Antiochus III was still a threat to Pergamum Kingdom and he showed that at every opportunity. Eumenes sought the solution - in the traditional way which his ancestors and he adopted - at Rome again. Eumenes in alliance with Romans swept the Seleucid army at the battle of Magnesia in 190 BCE, and following the peace treaty of Apameia in 188 BCE, Pergamum was given a large portion of the lands ruled by the Seleucids earlier. This series of events brought Pergamum in a short period of time, from a small city-state status to a large kingdom that ruled most of Asia Minor, from Propontis to Aegean coast and into central Anatolian plateau as far as into Konya. Eumenes also introduced new coins which marked the importance of Pergamum's economic role. On the other hand, Roman support for Pergamum, did not stop Prusias I, the king of Bithynia and Pharnaces I, the king of Pontus from attacking Pergamum at every opportunity, and these wars were ended by Roman intervention. Eumenes, again with the help of Romans defeated the Gauls once again in 184 BCE. Greeks to show their gratefulness to Eumenes, gave him the name "Eumenes the Soter" (Saviour). Eumenes through skilful diplomatic activities and good contacts with other neighboring states established Pergamum as the major political power in Asia Minor. In one case, he helped Antiochus Epiphanes to succeed his murdered brother in the Seleucid kingdom. Eumenes began to shape the political structure of the ancient world when he persuaded the Romans to annihilate the Macedonian monarchy in the third Macedonian War (170-168 BCE). However, Romans began questioning in their Senate, the strong influence of Eumenes in politics. This movement resulted in a sudden change in the politics of Romans. Romans let Bithyinian and Pontic kings attack Pergamum and freed the Gauls just defeated by Eumenes, and moreover they received his brother Attalus in the court and ousted Eumenes. Eumenes, worn out by a series of illnesses and labor, he died in 160 BCE. Eumenes was a successful king, not only in wars, but in building his capital Pergamum. He built numerous temples, public buildings and reinforced the city walls. In his time, artists enjoyed a quite support from their kings and beautified and endowed the city with the best examples of the Hellenistic arts. Eumenes was succeeded by his 60 year old brother Attalus II.

Attalus II (220-138 BCE)

Attalus II, was the second son of Attalus I and he was called Philaelphus ("brother-loving"). When his elder brother Eumenes became the king, he served in his army as general fighting against Antiochus III the Seleucid king, Prusias the king of Bithynia, Pharnaces I, the king of Pontus and troublesome Gauls. He has been an active diplomat as well, representing Pergamum in the Roman Senate. After his brother's death, as customary, he married his widow Stratonice and adopted her son Attalus. He continued the traditional politics and allied himself with Rome. He kept on playing an important role in the politics of the near east and Asia Minor. He restored Ariarathes to Cappadocia. He gave a support to Alexander Balas against Demetrius I in Syria. Bithynia under Prusia dynasty, the neighboring state of Pergamum has ever been a bad neighbor and Attalus's predecessors had to deal with that problem most of the time. The situation wasn't any different for Attalus II either. But he implemented some different tactics this time and supported Nicomedes II against Prusias II. Finally, with the help of Romans, he defeated the Bithyinian king. He also continued the large building program in Pergamum started by his brother. He built two prominent cities, one is Attalia (modern Antalya) on the Mediterranean coast and the other one is Philadelphia inland from the Aegean coast. He supported the artists to create fine examples of sculpture and architecture. He died at the age of 82 after reigning for 20 years. He was succeeded by his adopted son Attalus III.

Attalus III (170-133 BC)

Attalus III was the son of Eumenes II and called Philometor ("mother-loving) because of his unusual close relationship to his mother Stratonice. Attalus III has inherited almost nothing from his father and uncle in the skills and capabilities of politics and military. Probably encouraged by his uncle, he gave himself to science, and studied botany and pharmacology. He had little interest in public affairs and was disliked by the people for he had tested toxic on peoples and criminals. He was lie living in another world. However, one of the biggest changes took place in his time, when he bequeathed his kingdom to Rome. His untimely death in 133 BCE left many unanswered questions behind him. After his death, Asia Minor became Roman soil and incorporated as Asia province into Roman realm. The city Pergamum remained as the capital for Romans as well, until Ephesus replaced it in 29 BCE.

The Roman period in Anatolia will be the subject of our writing in the future....

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Travels around Asia Minor 1976-2002
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Last Update : December, 2011