Tag Archives: Hierapolis

Denizli-Laodicea-Pamukkale (Hierapolis)


Size 25th largest city
Altitude 428 m / 1,404 ft
Industry Textiles, wine factories
Agriculture Grain (all kinds), sugar beet, cotton, tobacco, grapes
Animal husbandry Sheep, poultry, beekeeping
History Seljuk, Ottoman, Turkish Republic

Although Denizli is surrounded by many ancient cities which date back to very early times, the city itself is not very old. It was founded by Seljuk Turks.

Laodicea was once an important city in Anatolia, built on a natural trade route. In the Roman period it was the metropolis of Asia. It was a center of banking and exchange and a cloth weaving center, where the weavers used goats’ wool. The wool was a distinctive jet black, the color being the result of the minerals in the water the sheep and goats drank.

The city was founded by the Seleucid Dynasty in the 3C BC. It was named after the wife of its founder. For a period Laodicea belonged to the Kingdom of Pergamum. During the early Christian period it prospered and an important council was held there in the 4C AD in the name of Christianity. The city was abandoned after a severe earthquake in the 5C AD.

Today Laodicea houses remains of a stadium, a water tower (next to the stadium), a gymnasium and baths complex (east of the stadium), an odeon (further away from the stadium to the north), a nymphaeum, a few unidentified buildings (probably civic buildings), a large Hellenistic theater, a small Roman theater and some fragmentary remnants of the defense walls. Comprehensive excavations have not yet been done.

The water carried to Laodicea came from a hot spring, so that it was lukewarm by the time it reached the city. Evidently this was known by John for in Revelation he accuses the people of Laodicea of being only lukewarm Christians.

Laodicea, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

(Revelation 3:14-22)

(14) “Write this letter to the leader of the church in Laodicea:

“This message is from the one who stands firm, the faithful and true Witness (of all that is or was or evermore shall be), the primeval source of God’s creation:

(15) “I know you well—you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were one or the other! (16) But since you are merely lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth!

(17) “You say, “I’m rich, with everything I want; I don’t need a thing!” And you don’t realize that spiritually you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.

(18) “My advice to you is to buy pure gold from me, gold purified by fire—only then will you truly be rich. And to purchase from me white garments, clean and pure, so you won’t be naked and ashamed; and to get medicine from me to heal your eyes and to give you back your sight. (19) I continually discipline and punish everyone I love; so I must punish you, unless you turn from your indifference and become enthusiastic about the things of God.

(20) “Look! I have been standing at the door and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me. (21) I will let every one who conquers sit beside me on my throne, just as I took my place with my Father on his throne when I had conquered. (22) Let those who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

Pamukkale has always been a very popular settlement where the hot springs were believed to have healing powers, so the city became the center of a pagan cult in antiquity and a spa resort today.The city was on the borders of Caria, Lycia and Phrygia and had a mixed population. Citizens were usually involved in the wool industry and little has changed as it is still a textile center.

The Natural Aspect
The terraces were formed by running warm spring water, at a temperature of 35 °C / 102 °F containing calcium bicarbonate. When the water loses its carbon dioxide it leaves limestone deposits. These are of different colors and shapes in the form of terraces with pools, overhanging surfaces and fascinating stalactite formations. Pamukkale which means “cotton castle” in Turkish takes its name from these formations. According to scientists, if the water had always flowed at this rate, the terraces must have begun forming 14,000 years ago.

A little further away from Pamukkale, near Karahayit village is another thermal spring, Kirmizi Su (the Red Water) with warmer water but less carbon dioxide gas where the running water creates a reddish effect different than the white cotton terraces of Pamukkale.

History of Hierapolis
The ancient city of Hierapolis was founded by Pergamum, probably Eumenes II, in the 2C BC. Hierapolis is believed to derive its name from Hiera, the wife of Telephus, both being legendary ancestors of kings of Pergamum. Hierapolis was also interpreted by some as the “holy city”. All the surviving ruins of the city except the foundations of the Apollo Temple date back to the Imperial Roman period.

In 133 BC the city was bequeathed to the Romans along with the Kingdom of Pergamum by the will of Attalus III. It is also thought that a large population of Jewish people lived there who contributed to the expansion of the Christian belief. Hierapolis suffered from frequent large earthquakes and was restored many times, one of them being a complete rebuilding by Nero in the 1C AD.

The Site
Hierapolis is among the cities of the ancient world in which the grid-plan was applied. The Necropolis is the largest ancient cemetery in Anatolia with approximately 1,200 graves. Although in the cemetery there are free-standing sarcophagi and some round tumuli, the main attraction is provided by large tomb-enclosures housing three or more vessels and often flanked outside by sarcophagi, presumably placed there after the interior was full.

Hierapolis gives the impression of a large cemetery which, although the tombs have been visited by robbers, very large numbers of the structures and also the vessels are still in place; only the tomb gates (presumably of bronze or iron) and decorations have disappeared. Many of the tombs here were Christian and there is at least one large Christian basilica, for the Apostle Philip was martyred here in 1C AD and the faithful wished to be buried as close as possible to the holy dead. The gardens of the tombs in the necropolis were maintained by specifically established guilds. It was these guilds’ responsibility to put wreaths at the graves on special days.

The tomb of the Apostle Philip, the Martyrium was built in octagonal shape in the 5C, according to the legend on a spot where he was stoned to death. The Roman Bath after the necropolis was originally built in either the 2C or 3C AD. In the early Christian period, probably in the 5C it was converted into a Basilica. The Triple Arch is the northern gateway to the city and was built in the 1C AD by the proconsul of the Asian Province, Julius Frontinus in honor of the Roman Emperor Domitian. It was constructed out of the local travertine and flanked by two round towers. It also had an upper story which is no longer standing. The Colonnaded Street is 1,190 m / 1,300 yards long with 6-meter-long (20 ft) walks on either side separated from the street by columns.

The remains of a huge 2C AD Roman Bath serves today as a small archeological museum with local finds.

The Sacred Pool which coincidentally contains many ancient column pieces is located in the Pamukkale Motel and is not to be missed. This pool may well easily be the remains of the original pool of the antiquity near the Apollo Temple. As John Freely says, “There cannot be another hotel in the world that has a swimming pool like this.”

Somewhere under the surface of the high plateau on which the city was built there was a vent of poisonous gases, known to the people of those days as the Plutonium. It was a shrine of Pluto, the god of the dead and the underworld. Only a closed room and a paved courtyard survived to modern day. Geographer Strabo describes it well: “The Plutonium was a man-high, very deep opening under a gently sloping hill…the vapors were so thick that it was impossible to see the floor…but any living creature that enters will find death upon the instant. Bulls for example collapse and die. We let some little birds fly in, and they at once fell lifeless to the ground. The eunuchs of Cybele are resistant to the extent that they can approach close to the opening and indeed go in without having to hold their breath.

The Theater is a 2C AD building in Roman style with many reliefs depicting scenes representing the Emperor Septimus Severus and from the life of Dionysus. In the 3C AD it was thought to be restored during the reign of Septimus Severus. The seating capacity was 20,000. In the 4C the theater was restored again but this time with additional changes in the orchestra which offered the possibility of water displays.