Pergamum: The Red Basilica and Ancient Archeological Treasures
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As a center of pagan worship, Pergamum was called a "place where Satan dwells" in the Book of Revelation. Its centerpiece, the massive Altar of Zeus, features a 370-foot long marble frieze depicting giants and gods locked in mortal combat – possibly the greatest narrative relief in the history of sculpture. Many scholars believe this altar is the "Throne of Satan" described in Revelation. If so, it was prophetically named – German archeologists made off with it and put it on display in Berlin in 1930, just in time to inspire the 20th century's most evil spirit.
Adolf Hitler used the altar as a model for the massive grandstand he spoke from at Nazi rallies in Nuremberg. The original had been a place where innocents were sacrificed in pagan ritual; the 20th-century version was the site of fiery speeches that ultimately led to the Holocaust.
Today, the altar has three iterations. The Nuremburg grandstand shows decades of neglect. The original is a prized Berlin museum attraction (Turkey continues to appeal, unsuccessfully, to have it returned). And in Pergamum, a remarkable recreation of the Altar of Zeus honors its true heritage and strange history.
Pay no attention to that man behind the statue
In its day, the cathedral-sized Red Basilica must have been awe-inspiring. To begin with, it's immense – 200 feet by 85 feet, with walls more than 60 feet high. And it was dominated by a huge cult statue, more than 30 feet tall, that surely astounded worshippers when it "spoke." But this Wizard-of-Oz-like effect can be explained – you can still see the secret hole where priests entered to hide inside and give the statue its voice.
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