In the reign of Attalos (241-197 BC) and his successor eumenes II (197-159 BC) hard struggles were given to Galatians who spread fear to Pergamon and to the order important cities of Aegean region by attacking them continuously and force them to pay tax and by looting. But at the end Pergamon won the victory. In the mean time, by overcoming the seleucids and the Bithynians who nurtured enmity towards Pergamon, the Pergamon kingdom became spacious and gained power in Anatolia.
According to archaic belief, winning victory in a war was an obligation, but to impress gratitude fort he help and protection of the gods against to dangers of the war, they vowed to make offering and gave gifts.
The most magnificent and important offering monument known in the history is the Altar in Pergamon.
This monument had been built by king eumenes II to show how he has been grateful to gods and to eternalize the memory of victories which mentioned above and had been dedicated to head goddess of Pergamon, the Athena and to head god, the Zeus.
This Altar is in the South of Acropolis of Pergamon, down the temple of Athena, on the same axis with it and has been built on a terrace belonging to it.
It is supposed that building of the Altar has begun in 180 B.C. But with unexpected death of the king eumenes, the building of the Altar had to be finished with a sudden decision.
From the Roman author lucius ampelius who lived in 2nd century A.D. We learn that the Altar was accepted as one of the wonders of the aschaic world even after 400 years it had been completed. Ampelius in his book named “Liber memorialis” (E.I memories) writes that there was an exalted Altar which has 40 feet height with enormous statues made of marble which resembles the war of giants in Pergamon.
The architectural form of the Altar is nearly a aquare. It has 36.44 m. Width and 34.20 m. Depth. There is a high base with 5 steps. This splendid Altar with horseshoe form is made of a Kreris Bodrum.
The North, South and east sides of the second level podium and the anthasis, which goes to west direction, are divided with stairs and have high relieves all over the iner sides.
The height of the friezes, which contain relieves is 2.30 m. And the total linear measure is approximately 120.00 meters.
The war bettween gods and giants (gigantomakhis) in the Greek mythology was portrayed in these relieves, which are the most magnificent masterpieces of the Pergamon sculpture school and the sculpturing of the Hellenistic period.
The gods, which won the war, represents the Pergamon people and the giants, which lost, represents the Galatians.
Vivid bodies and passionate, ambitious, tempered and harsh looking faces (pathos) which are the most important features of the sculpturing of the Hellenistic period can be seen in the friezes.
As a building type and also in friezes the Altar of Zeus has been imitated in Priene and Magnesia of Menderes (now it is Soke), but these are smaller and simpler. Also it has been a sample to pacis (The Altar of peace), which was built in Rome by Augustus.
At the Altar of Zeus;
On the North friezes; Night Gods,
On the South friezes; day Gods and Titans,
On the east friezes; the Gods of olympus,
On the right side of the stairs; the dionysus group,
On the left side of the stairs; sea Gods take place at the Altar of Zeus,
The Byzantines who lived in Acropolis in 10th century A.D. Ruined the Altar, especially the marble friezes had been used by them as building stones in the defense walls which was built against to Arabian attacks.
After this event the Altar was buried into the darkness of the history for centuries.
A German engineer, carl humann who journeyed in Anatolia in the winter of, 1864-1865 came to Bergama. He was affected when he saw Acropolis he found out a frieze in one of his excursions by coincidence. When he was assigned to built a road in Anatolia in later years, he came to Pergamon again. This time he determined the block of friezes on the defense walls.
Excavations began in 1878. In 1880 he transported the frieze blocks, which he found to Germany somehow. Carl humann found out the entire parts of the whole Altar in the excavations, which continued until 1886.
The Altar, which has been rebuilt in 1930, is exhibiting in Berlin museum now. In our museum there are a horse-statue and a few architectural pieces, which may be belong to the Altar.