Laodicea on the Lycus
Where is Laodicea?
Laodicea is located on the way to one of the most popular tourist destinations of Turkey; Pamukkale. Along with Hierapolis ancient city, Pamukkale travertines attract tourists from all over the world throughout the year. Laodicea is only 15 kilometers south of Pamukkale - Hierapolis which means it is before the world-famous cotton castle. The intersection of the ancient city is right before you see the white travertines of Pamukkale. If you have only two more hours to spend in the area of Pamukkale, we highly recommend you pay a visit to Laodicea. If you are driving to Pamukkale from Ephesus or Bodrum, you can easily visit Aphrodisias on the way and continue to Laodicea before you check in to your hotel. It is better to explore Pamukkale - Hierapolis in the morning and take a nice long walk through the necropolis, city gates, agora, and take the footpath up to the theater before seeing the pools of Cleopatra, Roman baths, and the white travertines. After a long drive to Pamukkale, you may not have the energy to explore the whole ancient city. But Laodicea is a smaller yet very important ancient city with breathtaking views of Denizli highlands and beautiful structures dating back from the Roman era.
History of Laodicea
Laodicea was established by Antiochus II Theos to honor his wife Laodice. There was a smaller city located on the hilltop named after Zeus. Small Hellenistic cities started to grow rapidly thanks to the Roman investments in the cities they took over from the Kingdom of Pergamon in western Anatolia. Laodicea was a free city minting its own coins during Roman times. When the city was under the control of the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus III The Great sent 2000 Jewish families to Laodicea. Antiochus lost the Anatolian and Middle Eastern campaign against the Romans and Laodicea was ruled by the biggest Roman Ally in Anatolia; the Pergamon Kingdom. Attalos dynasty handed over the Pergamon Kingdom to the Romans and Laodicea became a Roman city. The city sparkled during the Roman Era even if it is established in an Earthquake zone. Majestic structures like a theater, stadium, temples, fountains, and agoras were built to this important trading city of Roman Phrygia. The city was called Trimitaria among the Romans as the tunic made from the black wool of Laodicea was a very popular item sold in the markets. A special black sheep breed was fed by the Laodiceans and they made huge income from the wool of these sheep. Laodicea is also located on trading routes from the East to the west. This brought wealth to the city which can be seen in the monuments today even if most of them are in ruins. Laodicea lost importance after the Mongol invasions and new Turkish settlers preferred places easily accessible nearby the running waters.
Important Structures of Laodicea
The monumental fountain was built to honor Roman Emperor Caracalla's visit in 215. The fountain was renovated a few times during the Roman and Byzantium Era as the region is an earthquake zone. The water was brought with famous Roman terra cotta pipes. The marble carvings depict the Legendary Theseus slaying the Minotaur and the Abduction of Ganymede by Zeus. The fountain was converted to a baptism pool during Christianity.
During the reigns of Emperor Commodus and Caracalla, Laodicea received the 'Laodikeon Neokoron' title which means the guardians of the temple; a title given by the Emperors only. The cities with Neokoros titles had tax privileges and many more advantages. This temple structure suggests the importance of Laodicea during Roman times. Unfortunately, only the foundations of the temple remain today but the columns and the other parts are found on the structures rehabilitated on the Syrian street of Laodicea. Many temples were 'recycled' by the citizens of the Anatolian cities after Christianity.
The stadium of Laodicea was built in 79 AD. It is located in the southwest of the ancient city. The stadium is 350 meters long and 60 meters wide. It was built like an amphitheater and had 24 rows of seats. The annex Gymnasium was built by a proconsul and dedicated to Emperor Hadrian and his wife Sabina in the 2nd Century AD. The size of the Stadium is proof of the population of Laodicea. While the smaller theater of Laodicea has 15.000 capacity, the main theater of the city has 20.000 capacity.
Church of Laodicea
Laodicea became a seat of Christianity and a bishopric very early thanks to the big Jewish population. The Church of Laodicea was built during the Apostolic Age which finished with the death of the last five apostles of Jesus Christ. The church is one of the Seven Churches of Revelation and had very close ties with Colossae which is seen in the statement of Paul in In Colossians 4:16
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