Exhibition Lecture: Galen's Pergamon: Current Research on a Roman Metropolis and its Microregion

Felix Pirson

Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

This lecture will take place online; a Zoom link will be provided via email to registered participants.

Registration is required at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/galen-s-pergamon-current-research-on-a-roman-metropolis-its-microregion-registration-149218615897

This lecture is given in conjunction with ISAW's exhibition The Empire’s Physician: Prosperity, Plague, and Healing in Ancient Rome. The exhibition is made possible by generous support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and the Leon Levy Foundation. Additional support provided by Dr. Angelo D. Reppucci.

The work of the physician and philosopher Galenos (129-ca. 216 CE) is a fascinating source for the living conditions in the metropolis of Pergamon in Asia Minor during the Roman imperial age. As the son of a wealthy member of the urban elite with a rural estate in the vicinity of Pergamon, Galen was familiar from childhood with many facets of everyday life for his fellow citizens in the city and its environs.  This spectrum ranges from the dietary habits of the simple rural population to the injuries suffered by gladiators in the amphitheatre and the effects of the devastating Antonine plague, to rare information about the size of the population of his hometown. Galenos thus becomes a first-class witness for the study of the complex interactions of humans with their environment in the spatial context of an ancient micro-region, where urban culture and the use of the rural land entered into a fascinating yet vulnerable symbiosis. These are central themes of a new research project that has been carried out since 2019 by the German Archaeological Institute's Pergamon Excavation together with numerous international partners in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bergama/Pergamon on the west coast of Turkey. The lecture presents the current work and its initial results, and at the same time attempts to convey as vivid an impression as possible of Galen's contemporary environment, which we encounter at every turn in the city's amphitheatre and its cemeteries, in the sanctuary of Asclepius, or on the farms and villas in the surrounding countryside.

Felix Pirson (born 1968) studied Classical Archaeology, Ancient History and Art History at Bonn, Cologne, Munich and Cambridge (GB), where he received a MPhil in 1994. In 1996 he finished a PhD about rented apartments at Pompeii and Herculaneum (published 1999). He became Assistant Professor at the Institute of Classical Archaeology at Leipzig University, where he did his postdoctoral lecture qualification (“Habilitation”) in 2005 with a thesis about images of battle and fight in ancient art (published 2014). Since 2006 he has been the Director of DAI Istanbul branch and head of the Pergamon Excavation. In 2010 he was appointed as Honorary Professor for Classical Archaeology at Leipzig University. He was awarded with a guest-professorship at the École pratique des hautes études at Paris in 2014 and is a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (New York University). He is a member of the American, the Austrian, and the Turkish Institutes of Archaeology and serves on various boards. His main research topics are ancient cities (particularly Pergamon and Pompeii), human-environment interaction, and images of war and violence.

Pergamon amphitheatre excavation site

Image: The amphitheatre of Pergamon, where Galen started his professional career. Today its one focus of a new research project by the Pergamon-excavation of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI-Pergamongrabung, I. Yeneroglu).

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