Pergamum (now Bergama) is located in the northern part of the Roman province of Asia Minor, along the Caicus River about ten miles from the Aegean Sea. From the third century BC until well into the fourth century AD, its kings controlled a major trade route from the East (Persia) to the Mediterranean world.

Following the city's conquest by Alexander the Great in 334 BC, its strategic location was recognized by Lysimachos, who turned it into a military base. From that point on, it became an increasingly significant Hellenistic city, rich in culture, spectacular in architecture, and powerful in its worship of pagan gods.

Its last king, Attalos lll, willed the city to the Roman Empire so that its glory would not be spoiled by war. This proved to be a wise move because the Romans respected its cultural glory and religious character, making Pergamum the capital of the province of Asia Minor for a period of time. The Romans also left their mark on the city when it became the first city in which the cult of the "divine" Caesars was established.