Like the other cities of Pamphylia, the foundation of the city of Perge has a history in the twilight, mixed with the myths. It is known to be colonized during the “migration of the Western tribes” (around 1200 B.C.), which started after the legendary “Troia wars”. It is also known that the settlers led by the legendary leader of the Akhaian settled here. This leader is mentioned as “Muksus” (or Muksas” in Hittite sources, and as “Mopsos” in Hellen sources. Along with Mopsos, the names of the legendary leaders like Kalkhas, Riksos, Lykos, doctor Makhaon and Minyas, etc. are also mentioned. Pamphylia and the surrounding region was called “Mopsopia” during the early days. However, that the name “Perge” is not in Greek but in Anatolian languages reveals the fact that there was settlement here before the colonization. It is understood that the first settlers in the region and in Perge were of the “Luwi” origin.
Also as in Ephesos in Western Anatolia, the cults of Artemis and Men were very much influential in Perge. Artemis was originally an Anatolian goddess (Kybele) and she was not completely Hellenized. These were so important that their influence persisted even after the adoption of Christianity as the official religion.
(The religious powers of Anassa-Kubaba-Kybele, the mother goddess of Anatolia, were assigned to Artemis and Athena in Hellen-Roman religions, and those of the moon god Men were assigned to Apollon.) It is interesting to encounter many “courses of sun”, in an unearthed inventory of the temple of Artemis.
Despite all the investigations, Perge’s temple of Artemis has not still been found, which was very famous in the ancient age. Perge was one of the cities who were under the control of the Lydian (*) king Kroisos only by means of tax payment, during the period 560-546 B.C. In 546 B.C., the Persian (*) seized the whole Anatolia, along with Perge Although Perge was forced numerous times to participate in the sea unions of Kimon (468), Thrasybulos (388) and Attika-Delos during the period of Persian-Greek wars, it kept on siding with the Persian, together with all cities in Pamphylia.
In 334 B.C., the populace of Perge contacted Alexander the Great when he was in Lykia and supported him in his campaign to the east. Alexander used Perge as a base Following the death of Alexander, Perge was given under the control of “one-eyed Antigonos”, upon the division of the empire among the generals of Alexander. After Antigonos was defeated at the battle of “lpsos” between the Hellenistic kingdoms (301 B.C.), the contention for the sovereignty over the city continued and the city changed hands continuously. In fact, the sovereignties of the said kingdoms could never be definite over the city.
The city had its independence sufficient to enable it to mint its own coins. Finally, the city was delivered to Pergamon by the peace treaty (Apameia 188 B.C.), which was made after the Pergamon-Roman alliance won the battle against Seleukos. On the other hand, the city preserved its independence owing to an agreement made between all the Pamphylia cities and the Roman general Manlius In the meantime, the Pergamon king Attalos had founded Attaleia (today’s Antalya) to meet its need for a harbour, and this city would soon become a serious commercial competitor for all the cities of Pamphylia. After the Pergamon kingdom was delivered to Rome in 133 B.C., Perge became a Roman city, but it maintained its partial independence.
During the early period of Christianity, St. Paulos, the founder of the church organization came from Cyprus to Perge, and continued his way after preaching here. St. Paulos also stayed in Perge, during his return During the years of “Pax Romana” (Roman peace, about 400 years between 1. century B.C. and 3. century A.D.) the city continued to develop with partial independence in its internal affairs, with the condition of paying tax to Rome. Thanks to the cult of Artemis, the city four times took on the title of “the guard of the temple”.
Like in all the cities in Pamphylia, Perge was involved in piracy during the period of 133-67 B.C However, it definitely became a Roman city after 67 B.C. We understand from the accusations of Cicero at senatus that quaestor Gaius Verres plundered Perge and especially Artemis temple and took the gold on the statue of Artemis (Diana), during the period of the Roman Republic. During the period of Roman civil war which started after J. Caesar was killed, Perge was punished along with the other cities of Pamphylia, because it took sides with Antonius, who would later be defeated.
Again in this period, the city hosted substantial activities of public works. The family of “Plancius” had significant contributions to these activities, who were native people of the city. The father and the son Plancius, but most importantly the daughter of the family called “Plancia Magna” (Plancia the Great), were introduced as the “founders of the city” and were exalted with inscriptions and monuments Among the important personalities raised by the city of Perge were the mathematician Apollonius and the philosopher Varus nicknamed stork.
After 3. century A.D. the economy and authority of Rome weakened, hence the city had to experience the attacks of the bandits from Isauraia for about one hundred and fifty years. During this period, Perge was made smaller by the construction of the new city walls, like the other cities. The influence of the cult of Artemis continued in Perge also in the period of Christianity. The populace of Perge took Virgin Mary for Artemis. The column bearing the relief of “Artemis Pergaia” in front of the church on the columned road in Perge provides evidence to this.