Well its been an exhausting day today as we have tried to cover a huge amount of ground. Given that we didn’t get to Smyrna ( modern Izmir) on our first day we ended up just doing Pergamum (which was amazing! Indeed our guide said we can do it in 2 days but often he takes tour groups who want to do it in 1/2 hour!)
So, today we headed south from Pergamum at 8am (6am UK time) to take in a series of the 7 churches. What has to be remembered when visiting the churches is that some of them are still thriving towns and that others are small villages or have no one living there. Where there is still a thriving town then there are few remnants as the town is over the top of the original (think how few Roman remains there are n London) whilst where disaster or history has marched on and left them behind there is so much more to see.
So, our first stop was at Thyatira (modern day Akhisar). It was where Lydia in Acts was from and was in the old province of Lydia (it may well be the case that Lydia was merely the “woman from Lydia” to protect her name). There is very little left of the old Roman ruins – part of a 6th century building that may have been an administrative building and/or a church and some scattered remains.
There has always been a debate as to whether Lydia is also the Jezebel described in Revelation 2:20-23. It could fit her circumstances in that as a dealer and important business woman she may have tried to belong to trade guilds which had ritual meals and as a supplier of purple dye (the city was renowned throughout the empire) it would have been tempting to go with the flow. The issue was that going with the flow meant eating and taking part in pagan rituals. John’s warning was that you have to choose who you are following.
Then it was on to Sardis (about 35 miles away). Sardis was an important city at one point but the town is no longer in the same place as the original, due to landslides and war. That meant that there was more that has been able to be recovered. Originally it was known for its gold (it was the capital of the rich king Croesus, king of Lydia) production from the nearby mountains and for its cloth.
On the way to Sardis there were great earth tells that held the tombs of kings and noblemen of Sardis (about 80-135 are in existence) and make you think of the norse style tombs in the Lord of the Rings!
The area of Sardis is quite extensive although we only saw a small area of it – there were no takers to climb the Acropolis and with limited time I only made it halfway there – though the views were spectacular. The actual Acropolis is unusual in not being made of rock and has had significant damage due landslides.
We started at the Temple of Artemis (the fertility god) which was never completed due to lack of funds; then it was down the hill to see the reconstructed gymnasium and the synagogue next to it which had some lovely mosaics on its floor.
Then on to Philadelphia, now a small rural town. Huge difficulty getting our bus through the streets – at one point people were getting off their motorbike to help and a stall holder was removing his goods to allow us past! We went to the remains of a Byzantine church with a small fresco of St John on it. We were so obviously rare there as two children came riding round to practise their english on us and when we were leaving a group of cars were trying to pass and when they saw us some of them got out of their cars to have a picture taken with us (though I suspect it was because we have a Ghanaian girl with us!).
Then the final 2 hour drive to Pamukkale (near to Laodicea) which we will be visiting tomorrow (along with Izmir!!!).
Although an exhausting trip it has been a very worthwhile one so far. To date my only complaint is that I would have like more time in some of the places to see some of the other bits. It has been great to see some of the places and have them in my minds eye and to start delving into the subject more. It has been interesting to see the history of these places (several of which had been important at one time) and see what they are like now.
To see the pictures as larger then click on one and it will start a show: