A city of Mysia, three miles N. of the River Caicus. Eumenes II (197-159 B.C.) built a beautiful city round an impregnable castle on “the pine-coned rock.” Attalus II bequeathed his kingdom to Rome 133 B.C. The library was its great boast; founded by Earaches and destroyed by Caliph Omar. The prepared sheepskins were called pergamena charta from whence our “parchment” is derived. The Nicephorium, or thank offering grove for victory over Antiochus, had an assemblage of temples of idols, Zeus, Athene, Apollo, Aesculapius, Dionysus, Aphrodite. Aesculapius the healing god (Tacitus, Ann. 3:63) was the prominent Pergamean idol (Martial); the Pergamenes on coins are called “the principal “temple care-takers” (neokoroi) of Asia,” and their ritual is made by Pausanias a standard. The grove of Aesculapius was recognized by the Roman senate under Tiberius as having right of sanctuary.
The serpent (Satan’s image) was sacred to him, charms and incantations were among medical agencies then, and Aesculapius was called “saviour.” How appropriately the address to the Pergamos church says, “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat (throne) is,” etc. Here Antipas, Jesus’ “faithful martyr,” was slain (Rev_2:12-16). “Thou hast them that hold the doctrine of Beldam who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before … Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols and to commit fornication”; this naturally would happen in such an idol-devoted city. The Nicolaitanes persuaded some to escape obloquy by yielding in the test of faithfulness, the eating of idol meats; even further, on the plea of Christian “liberty,” to join in fornication which was a regular concomitant of certain idols’ worship.
Jesus will compensate with “the hidden manna” (in contrast to the occult arts of Aesculapius) the Pergamene Christian who rejects the world’s dainties for Christ. Like the incorruptible manna preserved in the sanctuary, the spiritual feast Jesus offers, an incorruptible life of body and soul, is everlasting. The “white stone” is the glistering diamond, the Urim (“light”) in the high priest’s breast-plate; “none” but the high priest “knew the name” on it, probably Jehovah. As Phinehas was rewarded for his zeal against idol compliances and fornication (to which Balaam seduced Israel), with “an everlasting priesthood,” so the heavenly priesthood is the reward of those zealous against New Testament Balaamites.
One of the “seven churches” was planted here It was noted for its wickedness, inasmuch that our Lord says “Satan’s seat” was there. The church of Pergamos was rebuked for swerving from the truth and embracing the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes. Antipas, Christ’s “faithful martyr,” here sealed his testimony with his blood. This city stood on the banks of the river Caicus, about 20 miles from the sea. The library of Pergamos, which is said to have consisted of no less than 200,000 volumes, remained at Pergamnos after the kingdom of the Attali had lost its independence, until Antony removed it to Egypt, and presented it to queen Cleopatra. Under the Byzantine empire the greatness and prosperity of the city declined; but it still exists under the name Bergamo, and presents to the visitor numerous ruins and extensive remains of its ancient magnificence.
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Easton’s Bible Dictionary
Fausset’s Bible Dictionary