Hierapolis, Laodicea and Smyrna

Well yesterday we have had another busy busy day! We were staying in a hotel just down the road from the pools of Pamukkale (more of that anon). In our previous hotel we had been woken up at 5am each morning by the call to prayer. Last night I had uninterrupted sleep and assumed that everyone else had as well – sadly coming down to breakfast I found that quite a few had been woken by the call to prayer from the local mosque.

Our first stop today was to Hierapolis/ Pamukkale an ancient city with some amazing springs. Pamukkale are where the springs that run over the rocks causing their white nature. It was believed that Cleopatra enjoyed the waters.

Hierapolis was the town that encompassed the springs and baths of Pamukkale. It isn’t one of the 7 churches although it is mentioned in the bible (Col 3:14). It has a wonderful Roman amphitheatre (you can tell the difference between a Roman and Greek one as to whether it has a stage with a backdrop – Romans do and Greek don’t) that is in the process of being restored.

One of the most interesting things I didn’t know about was that Philip the Apostle is believed to have been martyred in Hierapolis. We know little about Philip (though he has a voice on a number of occasions in John’s Gospel) but it is believed that he had two daughters and one later source says that he was crucified upside down. The 5th century basilica is now a ruin and not much visited – quite a contrast to St Peter & St Paul’s memorials in Rome.

One of the things that you get in many of these places is how large the towns were and also how much excavation there is still to do – and how little in comparison is going on. On the way back I took a “short cut” as we had a defined meeting time and most of the rest of the party had gone swimming in the Roman baths. The cut across the unexplored grown was more difficult than I expected with many stones and fallen pillars in the ground. Thankfully I made it back to the meeting place in time for the others (most of whom had been more leisurely and had gone for a swim in the Roman baths).

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Then it was off to the nearby city of Laodicea. Again it was fascinating to see how large the city had been. In contrast to Hierapolis which was crowded with tourists – we appeared the only ones there. A local university is excavating the site and working on it and there was much to see – although obviously many things at an early stage. It has proven to be a good place to help students work on their skills in archaeology.

Laodicea is famous for the words “I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot or cold – I am about to spit [lit. puke] you out of my mouth”. It was thought for a longtime that this was because water came from Hierapolis and that the hot water from there was lukewarm. However, this was not the case. More probably the contrast is between the hot waters of Hierapolis and the cold water in the nearby mountains.

The other noticeable remark is about “You say I am rich….” Indeed Laodicea was the only town to refuse help after a major earthquake had destroyed several cities from Rome. They rebuilt out of their own wealth.

It was fascinating to see an ancient city being restored and much work being done – including some workmen working on huge slabs of marble to make replica pieces that could be fitted in amongst the original so that people can get an idea of the whole.

Finally we made the long trek down to Izmir (nearly 4 hours – I was planning to make the trip on our day off but it’s no longer necessary). The only part left of the original left is the Roman Agora (the commercial heart of the city). To get to it we had to go up a narrow street that cars were coming down. We ended up with a 10 minute standoff with a car that refused to back until finally he gave way!

Smyrna (modern day Izmir) was moved reputedly by Alexander the Great having a dream form the gods that it should be moved to its current location by Mt Pagos. Smyrna was one of the 7 churches and is the only church not to be rebuked! Indeed the issue for them appears to have been one of persecution. There have been occasions when this has literally been the case and people have had to “faithful even to the point of death”. The most famous martyr in Smyrna was the 2nd century Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who as a young man had learnt from the Apostle John. Who when he was asked to recant his faith declared

For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?

He was burnt to death.

In the 1920’s, Smyrna had a large Greek Orthodox population but in the Graeco-Turkish war many were massacred and those that weren’t left Turkey.

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One comment on “Hierapolis, Laodicea and Smyrna

  1. (@DenizliHotel)
    August 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    This place is amazing. I have been there three times and it still amazes me. There’s nothing like this in other countries, so Pamukkale is quite unique. There is also an ancient city called Hierapolis at the top of Pamukkale, which is also stunning. And 15 minutes from Pamukkale there’s a natural thermal hot spring in Karahayit, which is also nice to see. So If you guys have the opportunity, you should really visit Denizli (town) in Turkey. You will be stunned by the natural beauty of this city.

    A beautiful video of Pamukkale

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