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Hierapolis

Hierapolis, meaning "Sacred City," was an ancient center for pagan cults until it was transformed into a Christian center.  In the first century it was part of the tri-city area of Laodicea, Colossae, and Hierapolis.  This connection between the cities lies behind Paul's reference to Hierapolis and Laodicea in his epistle to the Colossians (Col 4:13).   According to tradition, the Apostle Philip lived in Hierapolis with his daughters, and was martyred here in 80 AD Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus (2nd century AD) stated Philip was also buried here. During the Byzantine era the city had a large Jewish population.The church in Hierapolis, like those in neighboring Colossae and Laodicea, was probably established by Epaphras (Col. 4:12-13) working under the direction of Paul during his extended stay in Ephesus during his third missionary journey.

It was the likely the hot springs of Hierapolis in contrast to the cold mountain springs to the southwest that combined to bring application to the "luke warm" Laodiceans. (Rev 3:14-22)


The city was founded in 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, king of Pergamon. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, it reached the height of its development as a Roman thermal bath center.

Hierapolis has such extensive ruins which is suggested: the city walls, the octagonal Martyrium of St. Philip, the 2nd century theater, Temple of Apollo, basilica then the necropolis which covers 2 km. and contains some of the best examples of tomb styles ; it is one of the best-preserved cemeteries in all of Anatolia. The East Bath is in archaeology museum housing many of the remains from Hierapolis.

Dating back to the Calcholithic age, this was the site of a settlement of the earliest communities, and changed hands continuously, becoming the center of various civilizations in different time periods. The ancient city of Laodikeia is here, within the borders of Denizli, with its ruins awaiting for the sightseers. In addition to Triopolis which was known as the center of bishops, while Christianity spread. Hierapolis is another Ancient City, being a historical treasure, while it also offers a real wonder of nature in its vicinity. Named, as today "Pamukkale", this place is astonishingly beautiful, and unique in the world with its white travertine offering marvelous scenery.
The hot springs have been used since Roman times for their therapeutic powers. Both the thermal center with its motels and thermal pools, and the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, are situated on the plateau.


Hierapolis (Arabic Manbij or Mumbij) is an ancient city located in Turkey, in a fertile district about 16 miles southwest of the confluence of the Sajur and Euphrates. There is abundant water supply from large springs.

In 1879, after the Russo-Turkish War, a colony of Circassians from Vidin (Widdin) was planted in the ruins, and the result has been the constant discovery of antiquities, which find their way into the bazaars of Aleppo and Aintab. The place first appears in Greek as Bambyce, but Pliny (v. 23) tells us its Syrian name was Mabog (also Mabbog, Mabbogh). It was doubtless an ancient Commagenian sanctuary; but history records it first under the Seleucids, who made it the chief station on their main road between Antioch and Seleucia-on-Tigris; and as a centre of the worship of the Syrian Nature Goddess, Atargatis, it became known to the Greeks as the city of the sanctuary Ιεροπολις, and finally as the Holy City Ιεραπολις.

This worship was immortalized in the tract De Dea Syria (usually attributed to Lucian, a native of Commagene) has immortalized this worship, wherein are described the orgiastic luxury of the shrine and the tank of sacred fish, of which Aelian also relates marvels. According to the De Dea Syria, the worship was of a phallic character, votaries offering little male figures of wood and bronze. There were also huge phalli set up like obelisks before the temple, which were climbed once a year with certain ceremonies, and decorated.

For the rest the temple was of Ionic character with golden plated doors and roof, and much gilt decoration. Inside was a holy chamber into which only priests were allowed to enter. Here were statues of a goddess and a god in gold, but the first seems to have been the more richly decorated with gems and other ornaments. Between them stood a gilt xoanon, which seems to have been carried outside in sacred processions. Other rich furniture is described, and a mode of divination by movements of a xoanon of Apollo. A great bronze altar stood in front, set about with statues, and in the forecourt lived numerous sacred animals and birds (but not swine) used for sacrifice.

Hierapolis street: Some three hundred priests served the shrine and there were numerous minor ministrants. The lake was the centre of sacred festivities and it was customary for votaries to swim out and decorate an altar standing in the middle of the water. Self-mutilation and other orgies went on in the temple precinct, and there was an elaborate ritual on entering the city and first visiting the shrine under the conduct of local guides, which reminds one of the Mecca Pilgrimage.

The temple was sacked by Crassus on his way to meet the Parthians (53 BC); but in the 3rd century of the empire the city was the capital of the Euphratensian province and one of the great cities of Syria. Procopius called it the greatest in that part of the world. It was, however, ruinous when Julian collected his troops there ere marching to his defeat and death in Mesopotamia, and Khosrau I held it to ransom after the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I had failed to put it in a state of defence. Harun restored it at the end of the 8th century and it became a bone of contention between Byzantines, Arabs and Turks. The crusaders captured it from the Seljuks in the 12th century, but Saladin retook it (1175), and later it became the headquarters of Hulagu and his Mongols, who completed its ruin.

The remains are extensive, but almost wholly of late date, as is to be expected in the case of a city which survived into Moslem times. The walls are Arab, and no ruins of the great temple survive. The most noteworthy relic of antiquity is the sacred lake, on two sides of which can still be seen stepped quays and water-stairs. The first modern account of the site is in a short narrative appended by H Maundrell to his Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem Hewasat Mumbij in 1699.

The coinage of the city begins in the 4th century BC with an Aramaic series, showing the goddess, either as a bust with mural crown or as riding on a lion. She continues to supply the chief type even during imperial times, being generally shown seated with the tympanum in her hand. Other coins substitute the legend O~.s ~vpias ‘I€poiro?urii'v, within a wreath. It is interesting to note that from Bambyce (near which much silk was produced) were derived the bombycina vestis of the Romans and, through the crusaders, the bombazine of modern commerce.

It is one of the World Heritage Sites in Turkey together with Pamukkale.


Hierapolis was established by King Eumenes 2 and was given the name of "Hiera" in the honour of the wife of Telephos, the legendary establisher of the ancient Pergamum.

Hierapolis was visited frequently by the people from the nearest cities and Laodicea -the ancient site established before Hierapolis, for using the thermal springs known for its curing properties to various illnesses. From the 3 BC, as the fame of Hierapolis increased continually, migrations started from around and Hierapolis became an attractive and a favorable settlement, a rival city to Laodicea.

Hierapolis was given to the Roman Empire in 133 BC, in the will of Pergamon King, Attalos 2. The city was destroyed completely by an earthquake in 17AD, in the reign of Tiberious. The re-construction of Hierapolis was started in 60 AD, during the reign of Nero. Hierapolis reached its high and lived the most prosperous periods during the reign of Severus and his son Caracalla, around the years of 196AD and 215AD. A considerable development existed in the city, in art and culture. Many rich marble mines were founded and the marbles of Hierapolis were used in Hagia Sophia of Istanbul.

Hierapolis was governed by a Roman governor of Ephesus, in the Roman period. Sources stated that the city was also visited by Hadrian. With the division of the Roman Empire into two in 395 AD, the city was ruled by the Byzantine. Hierapolis became the capital of Phyrigia during the reign of Constantine.

The acceptance of Christianity created a new stage for the social and religious structure of Hierapolis' becoming a patriarchal center. Also, in 80 AD, St. Philip -one of the 12 Apostles, was thought to have been killed in Hierapolis. The city lost its prior importance from the early of the 6th century, continuing to the 11th century. The dreadful earthquake in 1354 meant the city was emptied, totally and has not settled properly since that date, even in Turkish-Ottoman periods. The city was covered by the uncontrolled waters and travertine. Today the thermal waters of Hierapolis reached to its former fame and became an interesting touristical center for foreigners.

Hierapolis was not reputed only for its thermal waters, but also for its various temples and social activities including the lively festivals and music concerts, favored by all. Therefore, tourism was one of the main incomes of Hierapolis, during that era. Textile was also developed gradually and became the principal source of the city's prosperity.