Book Review: A History of Pergamum: Beyond Hellenistic Kingship


by Richard Evans

London / New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2012. Pp. xiv, 224. Illus., appends., notes, biblio., index. $130.00. ISBN: 1441124144

A Forgotten Great City of Classical Antiquity

Roman specialist Evans (Roman Conquests: Asia Minor, Syria and Armenia, etc.) brings together current  scholarship on the rise and decline of Pergamum, a city in northwestern Asia Minor, and the small but wealthy kingdom which developed around it.  Around 280 BC one Philetaerus, a eunuch, gained power in the city, and, allied with the Seleucids in the wars of the Successors (322-275 BC), turned it into the capital of a flourishing little kingdom.  Under the leadership of Philetaerus’ kin, the Attalid clan, Pergamum became the principal power in Anatolia, and a staunch ally of Rome.   In 133 BC KingEumenes III, last of the Attalids, willed Pergamum to Rome in 133 BC, and the kingdom became the core of the Province of Asia

The city itself, also known as Pergamon, continued to flourish for centuries, with a library second only to that of Alexandria and a population that by AD 150 was perhaps 200,000.  It city suffered numerous blows during the declining years of the Roman Empire, and passed once more into obscurity with the collapse of Byzantine power in Anatolia in the eleventh century. 

Evans uses the story of the Attalids and the rise of Pergam um to make some important observations about kingship in the Hellenistic era and also to illustrate the ways in which Rome acquired new territories and integrated them into their empire.  The book is extensively documented, well written, and far more readable than many scholarly works, so that it would prove enjoyable for anyone with even a casual interest in ancient history.

Note: A History of Pergamum is also available in paperback, $37.98, ISBN 978-1-4725-0999-4, and pdf, $32.99, ISBN 978-1-4411-1703-8.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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