THE GALLERY OF THE PERGE THEATRE

 

The Perge theatre gallery or "Prof. Dr. Jale İNAN Gallery" was opened on February, 12.1999. It measures 30x11 meters and is divided into two sections. The first section contains an audio-visual display of ancient theatres, in particular, the Perge theatre. The walls of this section are decorated with friezes of masks from the theatre and visuals of the theatre before and after excavation. The second section is "The Hall of the Perge Theatre", containing 17 statues. There are also two carved pillars on display, one bearing a frieze of Artemis Pergaea, showing a ritual sacrifice, and ten carved panels that show a battle between gods and giants. These sculptural pieces have been restored in the workshop of the Museum.


The statues which are being displayed in the hall, once decorated the stage building of the Perge theatre during at least 300 years of dramas, coarse Roman comedies and gladiator combats. At last they were overthrown an earthquake and spend the next 1600 years buried. Meanwhile, the land under which they were sleeping, changed hands between the Byzans, Seljuk and Ottoman Empires.
The statues remained buried for until an important archaeologist of the Republic of Turkey came and returned them to the world.
This exhibition is he beginning of a new era for these statues which have spent at least 1600 years broken and buried. This exhibition has also a special meaning for the Republic of Turkey because it documents one of the most important cultural pages of Anatolian history.


The stage design Perge theatre, interms of both architecture and sculpture, provide us with what may be the finest decorated Roman theatre in the Mediterranean world. The theatre is important because it reveals to degree of Roman influence on the city, particularly during the reign of Emperors Trajan and Hadrian in he first part of the 2nd century A.D. This continued under the Antonines and during the reign of the Emperor Septimus Severus at the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd centuries A.D.
As a part of the development of Perge, marble sculptures were carved to celebrate the reputation of the city and its gods. These statues reflected the influence of the artistic policy of the Roman Empire as well as the cult of the Mother Goddess who had been worshipped since the Neolithic period in Anatolia. She finds re-expression for examples as Artemis Pergaea on the pillars of the Perge theatre stage building and on the carved relief of the frieze of the sacrifice.


The particular qualities of the sculpture produced at Perge with unique blend of native and Emperial sculptural styles have been defined by Prof. Dr. Jale İNAN in the following passage:


"Many of the statues found in the course of excavation at Perge show that Perge had a distinctive style of sculpture when compared to the other cities of the province. This style of consists of a straight and definite outline, to be found particularly on portrait statues. The different features of the sculpture are clearly outlined and the transition into details is sudden. This can be seen especially in the transition from hair to skin and from neck to chin. The wrinkles on the forehead were made with clear strokes. The portraits of the Emperors and their families do not follow the official portraits, but instead have their own Pergaian style. This is evidence for a unique sculptural tradition, certainly for the 2nd A.D. in Perge"


After the monumental statue of Alexander the Great, the second most impressive and striking statue of the hall is the statue of seated Dionysos. Traces of red in the hair and yellow in the pelt covering the body suggest that it was a colourful statue. Prof. Dr. Jale İNAN has provided us with the following description of the statue "The high quality of this work of art is the particularly noteworthy, with its marvellous surface craftsmanship. The transition from the membrane like pelt to the softly shaped muscles in incredibly beautiful.
The baroque style of the statue is so strong that is hardly possible to distinguish it from its Hellenistic originals. Therefore we cannot go wrong in looking for the original in the Hellenistic period. Traces of drillwork in the hair in particular, helps us to date the statue to the period of late Antoninus (170-121). Dionysos, with his attributes, sacred animals and attendants, stood magnificently on the Porta-Ragia (the central-gate) of the Perge theatre.


With this marvellous statue and the podium frieze 54 m. long, on which the life story of Dionysos was depicted, the stage building can almost be regarded as a temple of Dionysos and statue as the cult statue of this temple.

 

 


PERGE AND ITS SCULPTURES

 


Present day Antalya and vicinity were known as Pamphylia in antiquity. The ancient city of Perge, the nearest archaeological site to the city of Antalya, is located 2 kms north of the Aksu subdistrict and 17 kms from Antalya on the Antalya-Alanya highway. Perge was founded approximately in the centre of Pamphylia plains, probably the most suitable location in the area. Although about 12 kms inland, Perge maintained an outlet to the Mediterranean sea via the Aksu River (the ancient Cestros), 4 kms to its east. The site chosen for the city not only provided protection against attacks from the sea, but also enabled the partial employment of ancient city planning. The city was first established on a 60 mt elevation with a flat top but with steep sides. The acropolis was situated on this hill on the north. To the southeast of the remains of the Acropolis, there is the İyilikbelen hill. To the southwest there is the Kocabelen hill on which the theatre leans. In the Hellenistic Period (300-200 BC) Perge developed between these three elevations; in the Roman Period (200-300 AD), however, the city grew beyond this nucleus.


The two main avenues with water canals running in the middle, from a T-shaped in front of the acropolis as well as the major liens of the city plan. The side streets opening perpendicularly on to these main avenues at equal intervals, show partial application of Hippodomian planning.


Writers such as Sclax (4thCentury BC ),Pliny (1stCentury BC), Strabo (1stCentury AD) and Ptolemaios (2ndCentury AD) refer to Perge as most important city of Pamphylia.


Located on the ancient route that started in Pergamon and ended in Side, Perge owed this importance especially to the Aksu (Cestros) River, one of the two major rivers that irrigate Pamphylian plains. The Cestros emerges from the Pisidia mountain in the north. Today it is known as the Kocaçay in the Taurus mountains and as the Aksu river in the Pamphylia plains. Although the river is no longer suited for transport, in antiquity it not only made the land fertile, but also played a very important role in providing transportation for Perge. The ancient writer Strabo records that Perge was 60 stadia (12 kms ) inland on the River Cestros, While Pomponius Mela writes that the river was very suitable for transportation. Moreover, in the acts of the Apostles in the Bible, St. Paul and his friends are reported to have sailed from Paphos in Cyprus to Perge. No doubt, such a journey could only have been realized via the Cestros River. The impact of this river on the city can be traced throughout the history of Perge on coins, on reliefs and statue of the river god Cestros, found at the monumental nymphaeum on the southern slope of the acropolis.


The fate of Perge, one of the oldest towns of the Pamphylia region, has been closely linked with the history of the area, because Pamphylia's strategically important location on the Mediterranean coast has constantly attracted the attention of neighbours.
According to the results of archaeological excavations and research conducted to this day, one can say the city of Perge definitely enjoyed three glorious periods in history. The first of these periods is the Hellenistic Period (3rd and 2nd centuries BC) represented by the magnificent city walls and towers which are still partially erect. Much like many other Anatolian Cities, the second glorious period of Perge corresponds with the Roman Period, that is the second and third centuries A.D. many monumental buildings such as the theatre, the stadium, the baths, the nymphaeums and the agora, most of which are erect to day, are works that depict that period. Perge's last period of influence concides with the Christian Period-the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. In this period, Perge became the seat of a metropolitan (archbishop) and many churches were constructed.


From the 19th century on, Perge has been a site for research and excavation for many travelers and researchers; consequently, there has been a lot published on Perge and region Yet the most serious work conducted at Perge is the excavations started in 1946 by Professor A. Müfit MANSEL, Professor Jale İNAN and continued in our day by Professor Haluk ABBASOĞLU on behalf of İstanbul University and the Turkish Historical Society (T.T.K). As a result of excavations, the city of Perge has regained its present well-organized appearance and thanks to the statues recovered there, the Antalya Museum has come to be an important statue Museum.
Located on one of the important trade routes of Antiquity, Perge maintained an active economy. The fact that Pergaeans brought the marble needed for the ornamentation of the city buildings, for statues and sarcophagi; from Proconnesos (today known as Marmara Island, near Istanbul) and from Dokimeion (today known as İscehisar, near Afyon) is an indication of the active trading capacity of the city. Perge's important position in the history of civilization and the history of art seems from the fact she had a notable school of sculpture during the Roman Period. The most notable characteristic of Pergaean sculpture-making is the linear and angular style. The shapes are definitely bordered and the transitions in details are severe. The wrinkles in the forehead are expressed in deep lines.