(Col. 1:5-8; 4:12-13; Philemon 23)
A few miles north of Laodicea in
the Lycus Valley, the ruins of Hierapolis stand along the ancient roadway
connecting Laodicea to Philadelphia and Sardis to the northwest. The ruins
demonstrate it was a prosperous trade center built around hot springs that were
considered a source of healing power in the Roman period. In the southwestern
edge of the Phrygian territory, the city is perched 250 feet above on a natural
terrace overlooking the surrounding valley. The ancient city had all the drawing
points of a resort, with all the regional goods of the other regional cities:
wools, dying trades and textiles.
With hot thermal springs ever
present and cool mountain air to offer cold water constantly available, the
dying guilds no doubt made use of these natural features required in adding
color to cloth. The city also had an advantage in the bath complex, still seen
on the northwestern part of the city’s edge, near the northern necropolis.
Some scholars compare the hot water of Hierapolis, and the cold water of
Colossae to the lukewarm water of Laodicea as the background for the imagery of
Hierapolis was not a great city of
antiquity, but was likely a pagan cult center as demonstrated in the name, which
means “holy city”. A Hellenistic theatre demonstrates the city existed well
before the earthquake of 17 CE, when Augustus supplied some aid to restoring the
city. Inscriptions show there was a significant Jewish presence in the city.
Another damaging quake came in 60 CE, affecting the Lycus cities, and requiring
aid from Emperor Nero. The city may have been reached by Paul’s ministry
impact from Ephesus (Acts 19:10), but more likely came under the evangelistic
preaching of Epaphras (cp. Col. 4:12-13; see Laodicea and Colossae).
Stoic philosopher Epictetus stayed
in the city for some time, as did Papias. Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus (190 CE)
is quoted by Eusebius (Church History 3.31) as stating that the Apostle Philip
was buried in the city, though scholars debate whether the reference is to the
Apostle or the evangelist.
The site today includes two partially restored ancient baths (north and south of the city), an impressive colonnaded street, a Temple of Apollo and the Martyrium of St. Philip. The nearby hot springs at Pamukkale, or “cotton castle” (named because of the white calcified hot springs) are not to be missed!